Obtaining Merit Awards for their fourth year projects in Mechatronics Engineering in 2015, are from left: Scott Burton, Theo Weyers, Mr Wayne Osborne GMSA Training and Organisational Development Manager), Hein Swanepoel, Richard Kirton and Shaish Gopichand.
As manufacturing industries have become more and more dependent on computerised and robotic machinery, the need to align its skills base has also increased.
To this end, General Motors South Africa (GMSA) has been partnering with the local university, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), to ensure the required skills are developed for motor manufacturing in Port Elizabeth.
According to GMSA’s Training and Organisational Development Manager, Wayne Osborne, the eight year sponsorship of the Chair in Mechatronics at the NMMU is vital in enabling the institution to contribute meaningfully towards the manufacturing industry’s requirements.
Mechatronics combines a number of aspects of engineering, including mechanical and electrical engineering, robotics, programming and computer-aided design. NMMU is the only university in the Eastern Cape offering a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Mechatronics.
GMSA’s support for the Chair in Mechatronics also includes the opportunity for students to complete their in-service training at the company, participating in GMSA projects and acquiring critical on-the-job training and experience.
“We make extensive use of mechatronics engineering skills in our plants, which are highly mechanised and use robotic systems. The company has employed several graduates from the programme and will continue to do so in future.”
Osborne explained that GMSA and the current holder of the Chair, Professor Igor Gorlach, were instrumental in establishing the programme in NMMU’s Engineering Faculty in 2009 in a five-year contract with the University. The partnership was renewed from the beginning of 2014.
“It is encouraging to note the increase in student numbers over the years, especially the growing number of females who graduate in Mechatronics,” said Osborne.
To date more than 30 projects have been completed by Mechatronics students over the years. These projects aim to benefit GMSA through the development of unique and innovative solutions to industry problems, whilst students gain practical industry experience.