Original Research

Industry 4.0 skills: A perspective of the South African manufacturing industry

Whisper Maisiri, Liezl van Dyk
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 19 | a1416 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v19i0.1416 | © 2021 Whisper Maisiri, Liezl van Dyk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 June 2020 | Published: 26 January 2021

About the author(s)

Whisper Maisiri, School of Industrial Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Liezl van Dyk, School of Industrial Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

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Orientation: Industry 4.0 (I4.0) is causing significant changes in the manufacturing industry, and its adoption is unavoidable for competitiveness and productivity.

Research purpose: This study investigated I4.0 skills using the views of professionals in the manufacturing industry and experts in digital transformation practising in South Africa.

Motivation for the study: I4.0 was coined originally for the manufacturing industry, and skills availability significantly influences its successful adoption. Furthermore, I4.0 is relatively new in the South African manufacturing industry, and there is still limited empirical research on the subject.

Research approach/design and method: A qualitative descriptive research design was used, and participants were enrolled using purposeful sampling via email, telephone and LinkedIn. Twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted face-to-face or telephonically, and thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.

Main findings: This study found that I4.0 demands higher skills than in conventional manufacturing, and companies should take the lead in facilitating upskilling and reskilling of their employees to preserve jobs. Experiential training could enhance I4.0 skills development in the manufacturing industry.

Practical/managerial implications: Agile changes in I4.0 require constant re-alignment of employees’ skills in the manufacturing industry. This requires companies to make the human resource (HR) management function an integral part of business strategy.

Contribution/value-add: The study can help HR practitioners and manufacturing professionals in strategising and innovate technology to manage the evolving I4.0 skills requirements and preserve jobs. The study also asserts a foundation for further investigation of I4.0 skills competencies’ development in the South African manufacturing industry.


Industry 4.0; industrial revolution; manufacturing industry; skills sets; competencies; experiential training; human resource management; South Africa


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