There are significant infrastructural challenges facing manufacturing organisations in South Africa, as well as Africa, Middle East and Asia (AMEA) impacting potential and productivity. They are inhibiting the sector’s ability to bolster flagging economies and growth.

Infrastructure is one of the most challenging, particularly in Africa, with poor road and transport facilities combined with erratic power provision making it difficult for companies to do business effectively.

Without stable power, or the infrastructure to transport goods or alternative power solutions, companies are unable to manage production, deal with unexpected downtime and pay the hefty price for both expenses and loss of income.

Louis Botha, country manager for Aggreko, South Africa looks at some of the ways in which manufacturing organisations can manage unstable grid conditions, power outages and disruptions without compromising on ongoing operations.

In South Africa, manufacturing performance over the past year has been significantly affected by power instability. Earlier in 2024, Stats South Africa released data that showed how the sector had seen an increase of 0,7% year-on-year, while production contracted by 1,7% month-on-month as of December 2023.

The Academy of Science South Africa (ASSAf) has also underscored the urgency of the energy problem both in Africa and the rest of the world. It is, says the organisation, a real energy crisis that is having ‘detrimental effects on the economy’. From poor infrastructure to legacy challenges to political instability, energy is becoming a scarce commodity that requires strategic clarity to mitigate in both the long and the short term.

However, despite the complexities and the potentially dire outlook of the energy landscape in the region and across the world, there is innovation. Solutions designed to provide energy stability are evolving rapidly, providing manufacturing organisations with scalable and customisable energy portfolios capable of giving them the stability they need to function more efficiently, despite complexity.

Companies can opt to move away from centralised energy systems towards decentralised networks that allow them to control their energy supplies without extensive upfront investments or lengthy payback periods.

Energy-as-a-Service model, for example, has become a reliable and capable alternative to traditional forms of energy management. Companies can create an energy portfolio based on their business needs and their existing budgets. Right now, costs are tight so with a trusted energy portfolio companies can bolster production and improve service delivery without having to undertake hefty expenditures.

This model allows for large industrial energy consumers to manage their on-site power generation which gives them deeper control over their energy portfolio and requirements as well as more granular visibility into their CO2 emissions and energy security.

Achieving balance within the Energy-as-a-Service model is achieved through the use of modular solutions that can be scaled up or down on demand. This allows for optimal resource usage as well as better price management – companies can opt into flexible pricing agreements that aren’t fixed, have minimum usage requirements or that require long-term contracts.

Modular means agile and this is precisely what manufacturing organisations in the AMEA region need – agility. The ability to pivot usage and costs to meet unexpected disruption or uncertainty is invaluable, and exactly what companies can expect from a modular solution that offers control over on-site energy management as well as the option to use different types of power generation technology.