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The Factory of the Year award, a global annual competition that has been running for over 25 years, is recognised as the toughest benchmarking test for companies in the production arena.

After thorough evaluation of the nominees for the Factory of the Year (FotY) award, the results are out:

  • FotY award went to manufacturer of exhaust systems Eberspächer South Africa for being a highly efficient manufacturer, with a balanced score across all dimensions assessed.
  • Four Excellence awards were given to participants, which performed exceptionally well in a specific dimension of the FotY competition, Columbus Stainless was recognised for Excellence in Large Scale Production with Nyamezela Metering acknowledged for Excellence in Small Scale Production.
  • The Excellence in Digitisation award was given to Atlantis Foundries and Nampak Ltd (Bevcan Rosslyn) won the award for Excellence in Resource Efficiency.

The competition has benchmarks and best practices from over 2,000 factories across all industries and over 30 countries.

Also read: Who made the Factory of the Year award shortlist?

This initiative was launched in 2018 in South Africa by A.T. Kearney in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Manufacturing Circle and Manufacturing Indaba.

Igor Hulak, Partner at A.T. Kearney, said the current dynamics of the globalising world presents a challenge for all manufacturing operations, and specifically within the South African manufacturing environment where a strong sector has immense downstream impact. 

“More than ever, companies have to find the right balance in their manufacturing footprint and global value chain design. To successfully sustain and grow production, achieving and maintaining world-class excellence requires every manufacturer to relentlessly and continually pursue efficiency improvements. But nowadays, that is not enough,” Hulak noted.

Understanding of 4th Industrial Revolution

Hulak also noted that the 4th Industrial Revolution is no longer a theoretical term and yet still to be somehow understood.

Also read: SA manufacturers – look to the next gen AI to improve competitiveness

He pointed out that: “As such the local manufacturing community can no longer shy away from the pace of adoption of the 4IR technologies on shop floors, which has been dramatically increasing over the past three years. 

“Though the South African sector in general has a relatively wide performance gap to close, we have been very pleased to see that the top awardees in this country can withstand direct comparison with world class performance and standards on the evaluated dimensions.”

He said the idea of identifying and rewarding world-class performance and providing all participants with a confidential evaluation of their competitive position free of charge is therefore more meaningful and beneficial than ever before.

“This is what Factory of the Year aims to do. Since its inception in 1992, hundreds of companies have participated and benefited from the independent, cross-industry feedback that comes with the benchmark. It has enabled them to analyse their strengths and weaknesses and initiate spot-on improvements which, from a local perspective, should become an enabler of greater operational excellence,” Hulak added.

The future manufacturing

Chief director of future industrial production technologies, the Department of Trade and Industry, Ilse Karg, commented: "FotY is much more than a competition, it is bringing about consciousness of future manufacturing in South Africa, trends and examples of Industry 4.0 solutions that work. Small Businesses and suppliers need to take note of the FotY award winning companies and the opportunities becoming available from market leaders."

Philippa Rodseth, executive director of the Manufacturing Circle said she was inspired by the range and quality of submissions, and to see how applicants compete with international counterparts according to the objective benchmarking process that has been established over several years by administering the competition across various countries.

“This competition is important for the manufacturing sector because it raises the profile of our industry, said Rodseth, adding that “it is important that the broader public has a better understanding of what different manufacturing businesses entail, from the likes of a foundry dealing with molten metals, to a high-tech facility managing the interface between people and artificial intelligence in a production process.”

Meanwhile, Theo Sibiya, MD of A.T. Kearney Africa noted that: “The Factory of the Year competition provides inspiration to manufacturers to raise their game and return the sector to its previous heights and beyond.”

In conclusion, Martin Sanne, executive manager at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research said: “All South African manufacturers stand to gain huge learnings from this competition as it is not only a bench marking of capability against the world or in South Africa but also against oneself.

“It was a pleasure to see the amazing capability of South African manufacturers and I am confident that manufacturing has a great future in South Africa as we have world class capability.”