South Africa’s manufacturing processes still need to be developed – especially in terms of resource efficiency – as the industry is still growing, says resource efficiency and cleaner production specialist the National Cleaner Production Centre of South Africa (NCPC-SA) director Ndibhuho Raphulu.
“Several manufacturing plants are using old technology to implement conventional manufacturing processes; this is expensive to change because of the state of the economy, which is currently not strong enough to accommodate the financial outlay needed to adopt new technology.”
However, Raphulu tells Engineering News that there is room for South Africa’s economy to become more sustainable – especially in terms of protecting jobs and creating employment, as well as creating environmental innovations and increasing productivity.
Raphulu notes that the capacity of South Africa’s manufacturing sector to become green is affected by a lack of skills, which hampers the country’s ability to implement green-economy activities and projects. To help mitigate this issue, the NCPC-SA is supporting the process by facilitating green skills development programmes on, for example, energy management, water resource efficiency and waste management.
“The cost of some of these technologies, in terms of technology transfer and the best available technology used by industry, is now becoming more affordable for the South African industry and is increasingly becoming part of business transition,” says Raphulu.
It is important for South Africa to adopt ways of achieving industrial resource efficiency and cleaner production methods, as it will enable the country to become more efficient and less wasteful, says Raphulu.
“Efficiency is about doing a lot with a little, as well as taking the little that we have and enhancing our ability to create value in those resources,” he tells Engineering News.
Raphulu adds that resource efficiency will enable the manufacturing industry to easily implement its three bottom-line responsibilities, which include social, economic and environmental responsibilities.
“It becomes easier to implement and achieve these goals in terms of quality and the traceability of products when you implement resource efficiency and cleaner production,” he explains.
NCPC-SA creates resource productivity improvements through special-purpose projects, such as the Industrial Energy Efficiency (IEE) project and the Industrial Symbiosis programme. The centre also runs a centre of excellence at research institution the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in Pretoria, where it develops specialised training on energy management systems, resource efficiency and cleaner production.
The purpose of the centre of excellence, established in 2002, is to build local capacity to promote and implement preventative environmental approaches, especially in terms of cleaner production. The centre does not deliver ready-made solutions; it rather trains and advises clients on how to find the best solutions for their specific problems.
It does this through services such as increasing awareness of in-plant cleaner production practices by demonstrating that the concept of cleaner production can be applied to any industrial sector, resulting in economic and environmental benefits for South Africa.
The IEE project was established in 2010 in response to the growing need for South African companies to improve their energy efficiency. Its ultimate goal was to demonstrate the positive impact of energy management as a means of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and the financial impact of in-plant energy management.
The Industrial Symbiosis programme started with a pilot programme in Gauteng, also in 2010, to help address the need for sustainable development and the sharing of best practice in efficient production. The project aims to demonstrate how industrial symbiosis can contribute towards sustainability by sharing best practice from different efficiently run projects.
Raphulu says the development of a green skills professional body is necessary for South Africa as it will enable the country to define the quality, value and principles of what it means to be a green skills or resource efficiency cleaner production expert.
“It will also help in quality assurance processes to know that the upskilled individuals will adhere to certain values and principles in the profession.”