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Addressing the Impact of Fourth Industrial Revolution on South African Manufacturing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

John Mugambwa Serumaga-Zake () and John Andrew van der Poll ()
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John Mugambwa Serumaga-Zake: Digital Transformation and Innovation, Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL), University of South Africa (Unisa), Midrand 1682, South Africa
John Andrew van der Poll: Digital Transformation and Innovation, Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL), University of South Africa (Unisa), Midrand 1682, South Africa

Sustainability, 2021, vol. 13, issue 21, 1-31

Abstract: The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) may fundamentally alter, not only the way people work but also, how Small and Medium (SME) manufacturing businesses operate. In the manufacturing sector, the 4IR may change the design; manufacturing; operations; services, products, and production systems; connectivity; and the interaction among parts, machines, and people. While the 4IR technologies may have many benefits, owing to innovation and technological progress, the manufacturing SMEs require their challenges to be addressed before they may benefit from 4IR technologies. To the best of the knowledge of the researchers, there is no conceptual 4IR manufacturing framework, specifically for a developing economy, which is necessary for addressing these challenges and the opportunities promised by the new industry. This research, therefore, intends to fill this gap by developing a conceptual 4IR framework to assist South African manufacturing SMEs in addressing some of these challenges. Following a comprehensive literature review, components of the 4IR and challenges in the manufacturing industry are elucidated, aimed at defining a set of qualitative propositions as our instrument to develop a conceptual framework for embedding 4IR technologies and opportunities in the manufacturing industry. Further aspects of the framework enable businesses to gain a competitive advantage and sustainable business performance. Future work in this area will validate the framework among stakeholders in the manufacturing industry within the context of a developing economy.

Keywords: competitive advantage; conceptual framework; developing economy; fourth industrial revolution (4IR); manufacturing; small and medium enterprises (SMEs); sustainability (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O13 Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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