Innovative thinking disrupts business-as-usual in the engineering industry
24 July 2019 | Web Article Number: ME201915583
JG Afrika, a leading firm of engineers and environmental scientists, has embarked on a drive to position the company at the forefront of changes underway in the engineering industry.
Chris Wise (pictured), a Technical Director who is leading this innovation drive, said that disruptive innovation has displaced established companies, significantly reshaped traditional industries and created opportunities for completely new markets for products and services.
“The global engineering sector is facing major disruption, driven by, among other innovations, 3D printing, drones, alternative energy sources, sustainable materials, as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning. JG Afrika has retained a competitive edge and remained relevant over the years through an ability to find innovative solutions to complex challenges. This drive to revolutionise the way in which we innovate will ensure that we remain the vanguards of the industry,” Wise said.
His team comprises “Innovation Facilitators” who have been tasked with collecting new ideas from staff. Key to this process is creating an environment that enables creative thinking to thrive.
Jefrey Pilusa, a JG Afrika Associate and Innovation Facilitator said that voluntary brainstorming sessions and “think tanks” had been set up to promote the transfer of knowledge between technical disciplines and, just as importantly, to incorporate diverse views from various departments.
“Ideas range from ‘low-hanging fruits’ that can be implemented swiftly and with minimal effort through to more ambitious programmes and projects with a significantly larger impact that will be realised over the medium- to long-term. The areas of innovation being targeted include those that will improve efficiencies and broaden professional services. This is in addition to embracing disruptive technologies to find ways of harnessing them to the benefit of our clients,” Pilusa said.
Tim Davidson, a Technical Director of JG Afrika and the firm’s renewable energy expert, said energy was a sound example of a JG Afrika market segment that continues to undergo change.
“Decentralised electricity generation is a growing global trend that is challenging traditional centralised generation models. South Africa is gradually following suit, with more businesses exploring self-generation to mitigate their exposure to load shedding and decrease their carbon footprint.
“Currently constrained by policy uncertainty and regulatory-related issues, these technologies still have a larger role to play in alleviating pressure on the national grid into the future. It is without doubt that the rate of growth of renewable energy, as a power producing source, will continue to accelerate in years to come,” Davidson said.
He has participated in the delivery of the !Khi Solar One, KaXu Solar One, De Aar and Droogfontein solar farms, as well as Noblesfontein wind farms under the very successful Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.
JG Afrika has also played a leading role in assisting companies, municipalities, schools and universities to build resilience to water restrictions.
The company also designed and is implementing innovative means of reusing campus greywater in “fit-for-purpose” applications at Stellenbosch University.
One of the largest installations of its kind in Africa, the system will significantly improve campus water supply resilience once all phases have been completed. The network will flush more than 1 300 toilets that are used by about 25 000 university students to meet between 20% and 30% of campus water supply and supplement campus irrigation.
Richard Emery, a JG Afrika Executive Associate, said that other potential “quick wins” include innovative integrated waste-management solutions to assist industries derive sustainable value from their residue streams to achieve a more circular economy.
He was part of the large team of companies that delivered Africa’s first large-scale waste-to-energy plant.
Wise said that these innovative solutions were also in response to global climate change.
“This is a challenge of global proportions that requires ‘disruptive’ innovation to solve, over-and-above the role that engineers are currently playing in building resilience into existing infrastructure systems and designing and developing new robust systems. It is a challenge that will continue to be the greatest catalyst for innovation for those forward-thinking companies that are willing to harness it,” Wise said.