In conversation with... Rob MacKenzie, new MD at Endress + Hauser discusses with Hans van de Groenendaal trends in the process and control sector. Rob MacKenzie, a graduate of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a professional engineer, recently joined Endress+Hauser as MD. His past experience includes Siemens and AEG. He is a member of the SAIEE, the Industrial Instrumentation Group (IIG) and is the vicechairman of the Profibus User Group in South Africa. Process industry on a “fast forward” track “The process industry will continue to grow as it is closely linked to resources such as mining, power generation, oil and gas, water, waste water and sewage. Although the economy is going through a glitch, which I believe is short term - the demand continues to grow strongly, not just in the talked-about markets like China but in other developing economies. It is already happing in India and I believe that it is going to happen here in Africa. The resources available to people in Africa are just not there, or have been neglected for years and the demand for these resources will continue to grow and grow. People want to have the same access to basic amenities such as clean running water, electricity, healthcare and education as the people in the rest of the world”. "In South Africa, there seems to have been stagnation in growth in the resource sector. We are facing power outages due to lack of adequate planning, Concerns are being raised in the media on a continual basis about water pollution, and sewage works not being able to cope with future demands - to mention a few. What has happened? “We have two worlds in South Africa. There is the private world which has continued to grow at a phenomenal rate but if we look at the government world, there has been little or no growth. I firmly believe that we are at the crossroads. Government has realised that they are in big trouble. We now see Eskom spending on new power stations, Johannesburg Water on major supply upgrade projects and I am sure there are others to follow.” Rob's optimistic view raises the important question of skills and the availability of skilled manpower. Over the past decade we have seen a huge brainpower drain, with seemingly little done to stem the outflow. Many believe that the reasons are as a result of the political climate in South Africa but Rob has a different view. He believes that the world-wide shortage 15 “As a family-owned company we have a value system that focuses on people. I experienced it the minute I stepped into Klaus Endress’ office in Switzerland to be interviewed for my position as MD for South Africa. He talked to me about my family, my values and my goals for my family. The importance to him was his perception of me as a human being, not as chief executive of a company. Obviously we also talked about business but if you break it down, our people are more important than financial results. Ironically that focus reflects well on our bottom line. “ The other skills problem Rob sees for the future is the shift in the interest of students. To become an engineer is not so cool. The focus is on subjects like business studies and IT and the glamour that people associate with these careers, the internet and the global village. “We as engineers have a job to do to create a renewed interest in becoming an engineer and the opportunities that engineering offers young graduates. “Our mainstream business in South Africa is the mining industry. Mining is going through a dynamic innovation process that presents companies like ours with interesting opportunities. In our group of companies we have innovator meetings as well as a constant flow of technical people from our manufacturing plants to share their expertise with us but also to learn from what we do in South Africa and to study local industry developments.” “Looking at the future, we are optimistic. For the past few years we have expanded into turnkey solutions involving a comprehensive range of consultative services which include design studies, analysis of system requirements, application assistance and finally project management, implementation and handover of the operating plant. This initiative started in South Africa but is now being expanded to our companies in other parts of the world. In fact my predecessor, Tony Jacobsen, now at our head office in Switzerland is spearheading this new development. It is great to be involved in the innovation that is Endress + Hauser, and that is integral to South Africa." Contact Rob MacKenzie, Endress + Hauser, Tel 011 262-8000, email@example.com EngineerIT - April 2008 “We have a job to create renewed interest in engineering and the opportunities it offers” Rob MacKenzie of skilled people has created such a demand in other growing economies of the world that it has become easy to sell one's skills else where. “People with discomfort about South Africa’s political future found it easy to emigrate.” “Skilled manpower is going to remain our biggest challenge. Companies have to become innovative in developing local skills. We have our own internal training programme. We can accommodate 5 -7 people a year in our internship programme. We train more people than our annual requirements, so in fact we contribute a small number of skilled people to the local market. Poaching of skilled staff is becoming a new phenomenon in South Africa. Instead of taking the trouble to have an in-house training programme, some companies poach skills from their competitors by paying higher salaries. We have suffered from this recently but from a long-term perspective this is not a solution that can be sustained, and our internship program continues to add staff”.