There’s more to factory automation than robots and machines. There’s a profoundly human aspect to it, too – as the people who operate the machinery could tell you.
Cirvan Valentyn, who is based at the Dolphin Bay factory in Mossel Bay, was one of the workers chosen to learn to use our automation. His diligence, ability to learn, and communication skills made him the perfect candidate.
And while he was uncertain about the new technology at first, he quickly came to see the benefits of a safer, quicker, and cleaner working environment.
“I must admit, when I realised I was going to operate the system I was a bit scared because it was all new to me,” he said. “It was difficult at first because we didn’t know how the process worked and we didn’t know what to expect.
“When we challenged Cirvan and the team with these new processes, we started seeing a whole new side to them.”
“I was used to doing everything by hand, and now it’s just a case of clicking a few buttons!”
Cirvan adapted quickly, making notes diligently as he worked his way through the training. It didn’t take him long to get the hang of it – or to see the benefits of the automated factory process.
“We used to fill the export drums ourselves, and it would take about several hours of hard physical work,” he said. “Now, with the new process, it’s much quicker. We also used to decant the big drums by hand, and that would take at least a day or two. We had to be extremely careful, all the time, to avoid spillage. Now, with the automated process, it’s so much easier.”
Cirvan was able to share his newly gained expertise with the Sabie team when we completed the automation of our factory there. “Dolphin Bay sent me to up to Mpumalanga to show the guys there how we do it, and to help them learn how to use the system,” he said.
His story is a great example of the human benefits of Dolphin Bay’s automation process. Having started his career as a factory labourer, he is now skilled at operating the next-generation tech and instructing others how to use it.
For the Dolphin Bay leadership team, skills development is a central part of the automation process. All the factory workers still have crucial roles, and there have been no retrenchments or wage cuts. In fact, employees like Cirvan have enjoyed the benefits of learning vital new skills.
And while the machines do the work in the background, there’s an opportunity to reflect on the human side of it. “There’s a lesson here,” said Bertus. “People are capable of so much more than one might think. Sometimes when people are employed as manual labour, one doesn’t recognise their hidden potential. Some might say that automation will be too complex for a manual worker to grasp, but that is not always the case. When we challenged Cirvan and the team with these new processes, we started seeing a whole new side to them.
“Cirvan is a very good example of what the future holds, and especially the future of our company,” Bertus concluded. “When we introduced the automation process, we were very impressed with Cirvan and the team – not only how quickly they grasped the concepts, but the way they embraced the new manufacturing process and are now managing it.”