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This year, the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa’s Annual Summit acknowledged the importance of embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution and creating South Africa’s future workforce.
This year, the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa’s Annual Summit acknowledged the importance of embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution and creating South Africa’s future workforce.

Embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution tops the agenda at the CGCSA Summit 2018


Nov 26th 2018, 16:37

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which includes developments in previously disjointed fields, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets over the next five years, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape” (World Economic Forum, 2016). 

This year, the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa’s Annual Summit acknowledged the importance of embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution and creating South Africa’s future workforce.

The event which took place on the 14th of November in Johannesburg, saw both local and international speakers share their experiences and views on Design & Innovation as a competitive factor in emerging markets, The Impact of Digital on Manufacturing & Retail, Changing Dynamics in African Retail and Creating SA’s Future – Revitalisation of Informal Economies.

Enter the 4th Industrial Revolution - Impacting Digitalisation

Increasing technological advances mean that more people than ever before are connected across the globe in ways that previous generations would scarcely have believed was possible. Digitalisation has also had a multi-layered Impact in business and has caused disruption principally from advancement in energy revolution, robotic automation + AI, Internet of Things (IoT), big data & cloud, quantum computing, material sciences, nano and social media.

The 4th Industrial Revolution has had a marked impact on business as new patterns of consumer behaviour are forcing companies to adapt the way they design, market, and deliver products and services. Access to global digital platforms for research, development, marketing, sales, and distribution, can oust well-established incumbents faster than ever before, and it has forced companies to re-examine the way they do business as business leaders need to understand their changing environment, challenge the assumptions of their operating teams, and relentlessly and continuously innovate.

What Will Digitalisation Do on the Retail End?

Tobias Becker, Global Head of Government Relations and Director Africa - ABB Ltd gave a keynote on ‘Unpacking the 4th Industrial Revolution as a competitive Factor in emerging Markets’. He stated that the perceived threat for most physical retailers is online trade – and it’s about Amazon… but a lot can be learned and adopted, such as:

Fully automatic warehouse support, inventory management, transport and logistics optimisation and a nice and friendly customer experience including payments, refunding, discounting and customer support.

“One advantage Amazon has is scale, but this can be tackled,” says Becker.

Where Amazon has the one unique advantage is data. How can retailers tackle the “data advantage”?

“As a physical retailer you can, of course, add online shopping and learn from the best – and perhaps you should, but you can also use the advantage of physical shopping. Create the right customer experience. You control the environment,” Becker says.

Use ubiquitous sensors and AI, collect big data and apply analytics, beyond a customer loyalty card. Cameras and electronic shopping carts, dynamic shelves. Identify the shopper and micro-modify the environment – you control it! Learn about this customer and use AI to predict behaviour. Ask, what is it people like about Amazon and emulate it by using digital.

You can also apply AI to some of the unwanted side effects such as crowding, theft, wrong replacing of products.

The Future of Work in the 21st Century

With the advent of digitalisation, we see how it is impacting work by shifting the human-led, manual work to an automated, collaborative and machine-led dynamic. There has also been a significant shift from a subjective, limited transparency of productivity to a more granular measurability with full transparency of throughput and the more obvious factor of physical to digital.

"The notion of work itself will change, leading to a whole new social contract, and a redefinition of the employer-employee relationship", says Becker.

The defining tenet of future workplaces will be flexibility.

Akhona Damane of Digital Advantage delved into the future of work in the 21st Century in the face of the 4IR as we see current trends leaning strongly towards a greener economy, flexible re-selling and a culture of innovation and co-creation (sharing economy).

"The 4IR brings unique opportunities for the consumer goods industry", says Damane. "These opportunities include knowledge about ICT, the ability to work with data, technical know-how, as well as personal skills."

"To improve your work-force you need to change direction of your learning, talk to your millenials, keep an eye on international trends, look for innovators and be prepared to fail," says Mr. Alan Hosking, CEO at Osgard.

Impact on Design, Manufacturing and Communication

The 4th Industrial Revolution has had a positive impact on product design and processes, product distribution as well as on consumption, use and re-use/recycling.

We are seeing a rise in global awareness of food waste and strategic initiatives for plastic in a circular economy with the goal of eliminating plastic waste at source and innovative designs using natures principles in degradable bioplastic such as biomimicry, and biofabrication are making these goals attainable.

Key strategic initiatives were highlighted for the industry:

1. Zero Plastics to Landfill 2030
2. Growth through Exports and Import Replacement
3. Innovation and Skills Development
4. Industry support through Public-Private Partnerships

The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa calls to food manufacturers, distributors and retailers to commit to a landmark voluntary agreement to prevent and reduce food waste in South Africa.

“The recovery of quality edible surplus food is a hunger solution, but it can also be a solution to help end poverty if we use surplus food as a catalyst for social change", says Food Forward SA's MD Andy du Plessis.

Opportunities of the 4th Industrial Revolution

- Potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world.
- Technology has made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives.
- Technological innovation will also lead to efficiency and productivity which will open new markets and drive economic growth.


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