Sparks Electrical News March 2019





Sparks: What are the greatest changes you have seen over the years? RW: Disruptive technology has beenby far the biggest influence in the lighting industry; companies that have not embraced the changes have unfortunately fallen away. Offering lighting solutions rather than just products has allowed lighting to become a design element in the built environment rather than just a functional element. The transition fromelectric to electronic has completely changed the lighting field. Lighting controls have become multi-faceted and LED has allowed luminaire designers to control light with far greater accuracy and also to reduce the size of fittings. RW: I think our greatest accomplishment is being able to adapt and embrace change in our industry, not to be arrogant and to listen and learn from lighting designers, architects and electrical engineers. In doing so we have been able to grow our staff from the initial two in the early days to over 275 being directly involved in RLS. Regent has been involved in so many large projects throughout the years, including Canal Walk Shopping Centre, Monte Casino, Emperors Place, Gold Reef City, Madinat Dubai, the Creek Yacht Club Dubai, and more recently Nelson Mandela Square, Mall of Africa, V&A Waterfront and The MARC. RW: Working in a family business, my father, Neville Wahl, mentored me initially with regards to business ethics and instilling the correct values, treating suppliers with the same respect as our customers, making decisions that are long term orientated and always investing in innovation. Robert Alexander, being my partner in the early days, understood the consulting field and opened up many opportunities to develop luminaires for specific projects. His professional experience allowed me to learn and grow as a young person starting out in a new market. I still work closely with Robert and his advice and ideas are greatly appreciated. Sparks: What major projects have you worked on and what is your greatest accomplishment? Sparks: Who has been your inspiration or have you had a mentor who has influenced your career? Sparks: What, to your mind, is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry at this time? RW: The biggest challenge facing the industry today must be the financial position of many of the major construction companies. This makes providing credit more difficult as the credit insurers have become extremely risk averse. The other would have to be market sentiment and the reduction in capital expenditure by government as this impacts the downstream suppliers like ourselves.

Sparks: What do you enjoy most about your job? RW: One of the things I enjoy most about Regent is developing product that acts as an import substitution for international and local clients. Challenging our design team and pushing the boundaries has allowed us to develop some world class products. Witnessing staff grow as individuals and seeing many graduate with different qualifications gives me an immense sense of pride. Visiting different parts of South Africa and Africa and actually seeing the impact our lighting has on all the projects we work on makes all the efforts worth it.


Randal Wahl

RANDAL WAHL, Managing Director at Regent Lighting Solutions (RLS) has overseen the growth of the company from one with a desire to de- velop lighting for domestic homes in the early 1990s into a multi-disci- plinary lighting company with world-class design and manufacturing ca- pabilities. His passions include lighting, developing his staff, and his family. Sparks: Where were you educated? RW: I attended Krugersdorp High School and then Witwatersrand Technikon to study Marketing Management. Sparks: How long have you been involved in the electrical industry? RW: I have been involved in the lighting industry since 1992, so 27 years. I started out not knowing much about the industry but believed that an opportunity existed in the family manufacturing business to build a division that offered more value added product than casting components. Sparks: When and where did you start your career? RW: I started at Wahl Irrigation which had begun manufacturing two lanterns, our Classic and Capri, a few years prior. They traded as Wahl Irrigation and started selling these two fittings through the specialised lighting retail network in South Africa.



‘triangle of training’, we have a small number of engineers at the apex, and a large number of artisans at the bottom. We need to invert this triangle, and produce a far greater number of engineers capable of supporting au- tomation in future,” she says. Efforts are now underway to fast-track this process, developing new curricula for automation engineers and introduc- ing new learning models to upskill employees. Launching the new Intsimbi Future Production Technologies Initiative (IFPTI) NTIP’s Centre of Excellence in Cape Town earlier this year, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said the government was committed to building capacity in response to the impact and opportunities that the 4 th Industrial Revolution will bring about. While funding models and curriculum development are still under dis- cussion, van Coller is optimistic that the new initiative will drive the change the sector needs. “We’re very excited about this, and its potential. It will bring new opportunities for upskilling – gone are the days of being too old, or living too far from a university. This model allows for free, flexible, home-based learning using online tools, along with some facilitator-led learning. Stakeholders are also looking at the necessary infrastructures for participants in rural areas with limited internet access. It presents the hope that we can develop our own advanced automation skills pipeline and stop relying on imported skills,” she says.

automation engineering skills pipeline, to allow South African industry to prepare for Industry 4.0: “Automation engineering is not yet recognised as a separate field in South Africa. We need to step up our focus on automa- tion engineering if South Africa is to achieve its ambitions of becoming a manufacturing giant in Africa.” “We are living in the most exciting time of our lives,” says Chris Leong, Executive Vice President, Global Marketing at Schneider Electric. “A digit- ised world where everything can be connected – products to people, prod- ucts to products, product to cloud or what we like to call IoT. Schneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of energy management and automation in homes, buildings, data centres, infrastructure and industries. One of the most important roles we can play is enabling our customers, with our portfolio of partners, to leverage the full potential of IoT to make their businesses safer, more reliable, connected, efficient and sustainable. With EcoStruxure, our IoT-enabled, plug-and-play, open, interoperable ar- chitecture and platform, we can bring this to life to deliver true business value for our customers,” she says. Annemarie van Coller, President of the Society for Automation, Instru- mentation, Measurement and Control (SAIMC), says that while automa- tion presents massive economic growth opportunities, it does threaten the current environment’s workforce structure. “If you look at the current


MARCH 2019

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