A new year, a new start

Welcome to 2019. And what an exciting time to be alive it is, especially in our industry as we witness it evolve virtually (please excuse the pun) right in front of our eyes at an alarming rate. Well, that might depend on the way you look at the glass of water – is it half full, or is it half empty? There are definitely opportunities everywhere you look – but are you willing to do the necessary hard work to bring them about?

There is barely a hint of negativity in this issue of Metalworking News. Right from the cover story through to the last page, the industry as a whole is abound with positive sentiment. You just need to read the impressions brought home by fellow South African’s that visited EuroBLECH 2018 and you’ll see what I mean.

Shopping for a gift this past festive season for my friend’s toddler in the children’s section of a well-known bookstore chain – and by gift I mean one of those picture books that is designed to capture a toddler’s imagination – something caught my eye. It was a whole section that was dedicated to the writing of computer programmes, aimed at pre-schoolers and early learners. Not just one or two tiles, but many. It got me thinking: “What will my children be doing once they finish school?” That really is, anyone’s guess.

I finished school 19 years ago and although there were countless opportunities available to me then, things are somewhat the same, but also immeasurably different and daunting for the class of 2018. They have so many more industries to choose from nowadays that one can barely keep up. But we have to keep up otherwise we will simply get left behind. The same goes for the manufacturing industry, and this has never been as important as with the relentless onslaught of Industry 4.0 and other innovations such as those made available through machine learning and artificial intelligence.

However, let’s go back to the basics for a moment, and an area of our industry we hear spoken about all to often – apprenticeships and skills shortages. What’s happened here? Where has it gone wrong? Why aren’t there more initiatives to encourage this tried and tested business model? We don’t have these answers, but perhaps it’s up to all of us to bring about change. Manufacturing, after all, will always exist.

One company, Ikusasa, is taking this bull by the horns and has launched a CNC training centre to train employees in G-Code programming, CNC setting and CNC machine operating. The training centre includes a 10 and a 12-seater training room and a 3-axis CNC milling machine and a 2-axis CNC lathe that are located alongside the lecture rooms.

As my Father the editor of this publication, Bruce, writes: “Today, computer numerical control (CNC) machines are found almost everywhere, from small job shops in rural communities to large multinational companies in large urban areas. Truly, there is hardly a facet of manufacturing that is not in some way touched by what these innovative machine tools can do. Everyone involved in the manufacturing environment should be well aware of what is possible with these sophisticated machine tools.”

CNC machines aren’t going anywhere – they are simply evolving. More often than not we now call many of them robots. Continuously educating and upskilling ourselves, and those around us, is key, and we should never stop learning and equipping ourselves with knowledge. Anyone involved in the manufacturing industry knows the importance of the machines that fabricate the products, but the investment in skills is none so more important than now. We see it time and time again in the industry, when an employer is prepared to invest in an employee, that employee develops a natural hunger to excel and perform for the company. What more can you ask for?

Nowhere more so than in this issue will you read about the very real impact technological innovation is having on the manufacturing industry, and while autonomous factories are certainly the future, there is still a long way to go before the industry reaches this stage. In the meantime, there is plenty of work to be done the good old-fashioned way to adequately prepare us for this future.

Damon Crawford
Online Editor