JOHANNESBURG - An award-winning businessman has embraced the much-touted Fourth Industrial Revolution as a vehicle to help grow his already expanding global automation company.
The entrepreneur Quinton Uren, 53, from Nelson Mandela Bay, is founder and managing director of Jendamark Automation.
He was named Africa’s Industrialist of the Year during the All Africa Business Leaders Awards in Johannesburg in December.
He beat the likes of Nampak chief executive André de Ruyter, Likoebe Innovation Consultants founder Nneile Nkholise, and Thata uBeke Manufacturing chief executive Nana Sebelo, to claim the top spot.
The Port Elizabeth-based Jendamark Automation, which was established in 1992, exports manufacturing assembly solutions to 18 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America.
The company’s exports account for more than 90 percent of the group’s business.
Its powertrain and catalytic converter assembly systems incorporate Industry 4.0 elements such as augmented reality and predictive maintenance software.
In an interview with Business Report, Uren says the award means a lot to the company.
“It recognises what we have achieved over the last few years in the export market,” he says.
“We conceptualise, design and build software systems. We then export those assembly lines.”
Jendamark’s clients include car manufacturers Mercedes Benz, BMW, VW, Audi, Bentley, Chevrolet, Suzuki, Ford, Nisan, Toyota, General Motors and Land Rover.
Other industrial players such as Dana, Bosch, Eberspacher, and Faurecia are also Jendamark’s clients.
Uren stresses that investing in Industry 4.0 would help the government attract much-needed investment into the embattled local economy.
“Industry 4.0 and how it pertains to the South African environment is the next big thing for us,” he says.
“It’s not about automation but about developing software technologies that can help our various industries and country become more efficient, effective, and transformed.”
Despite his many achievements, Uren stresses that the journey to the top has not always been easy.
“As someone who was classified as ‘coloured’, I come from an underprivileged background. There were no silver spoons, just having the correct intent, hard work and taking advantage of the opportunities I got,” he says.
“Today, there are fewer barriers than before and with the technologies that are available to most, young people have amazing tools to succeed. I have hope and proof that it’s possible.”
He says the 66 percent black-owned company has now expanded into Europe’s economic powerhouse of Germany, with an office in Penzing, and others in Atlanta, Georgia, and in India.
“Our expansion plans is to take our automation company and transform it into a tech company,” Uren says of the company, which is a two-time winner of the Eastern Cape Exporter of the Year.
“That’s a growth opportunity for Jendamark, the reason being that we think Industry 4.0 has a huge potential for our local markets here,” he says.
“I believe that Industry 4.0 is a great leveller of the playing field. We are able to compete with other companies globally because of our Industry 4.0 offering.”
Uren is also passionate about social upliftment, saying: “I believe Africa’s real potential is in all the youth that we have around us. These people are brimming with ideas.”
He says I4R is an opportunity the country cannot afford to miss. “All the spheres of government must get behind these Industry 4.0 programmes.”
The entrepreneur strongly disagrees with the narrative that Industry 4.0 will take away jobs, arguing that Jendamark’s manually operated tech machines proves otherwise.
“We are now able to take people without the opportunities of training and education and put them in situations and Industry 4.0 will make sure that they will be able to do the job and make it available to everybody,” he says, adding that manually operated machines have their risks.
“The process has to be guided and this is where Industry 4.0 comes in and matches very nicely in our country with manual labour to be able to ensure world class global quality as well as being able to employ people and up skill them at the same time.”
Uren says he sees Jendamark as a beacon of what is possible in Africa and in the Eastern Cape specifically.
“We have an amazing talent pool and supplier base, which makes us more than a business. We are an industry.”