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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) successfully launched the Product Lifecycle Management Competency Centre (PLMCC) Project via Microsoft Teams on Tuesday, 15 June 2021. PLMCC Project is an initiative supported by the French Government under the Ministry of Education, the Directorate of European and International Relations and Cooperation [DREIC], the French Education International [FEI], and Dassault Systèmes to create a centre that will offer product design, product lifecycle management, and system engineering training to lecturers, students, technicians, technologists, engineers, and industrial designers.

The virtual launch was divided into two sessions, with the first session being an engagement with the DUT management and the second session being an engagement with Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. The programme director for both sessions was DUT’s Director of Technology, Transfer and Innovation (TTI), Professor Keolebogile Motaung.

Welcoming the esteemed guests was the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation, and Engagement, Prof Sibusiso Moyo, who also relayed the importance of the PLMCC Project at DUT. She first recognized the DUT Executive team; the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Prof Nokuthula Sibiya, the Executive Dean: Engineering and the Built Environment, Prof Bhekisipho Twala, Midlands Campus Director, Dr Joe Molete, and all the other Directors and Executive Deans present, not leaving behind the representatives from the various TVETs. She conveyed a special welcome to the DUT partners from France who physically attended the launch at DUT, Mr Frederic Douphy, the Africa Business Development Executive at Dassault Systèmes, and Mr Laurent Marche, the Technical Expert on PLMCC Project in South Africa.

“The PLMCC Project at DUT is long overdue because it was introduced to DUT in 2019, but we obviously from my office and other colleagues came into the picture in 2020. This project is important for many reasons that I will mention. We know that as a university DUT has over 30 000 students and just over 650 academics within the university and we are located in KwaZulu-Natal. For our French colleagues, this is important as KwaZulu-Natal is well known for a number of things but we also host the bigger manufacturing sector. Manufacturing is one of the key focus areas for the province and government as well as the city together. We know there’s a number of car industries and we want to be part of the university that contributes to boosting the local economy within KwaZulu-Natal,” said Prof Moyo.

Prof Moyo said DUT is also a UNESCO Vocational Centre, which means that it has a role to play to support technical-vocational skills training in partnership with the TVET sector through a number of programmes it offers on the Higher Certificate programme and also through co-designed programmes with industry partners like Dassault Systèmes. She said Dassault Systèmes is responsible for the 3D experience platform that will be introduced. Furthermore, she said the University believes being a host of this programme and being able to train staff in this area, will give them an advantage as the University, leading to partnerships with the motor industry, the manufacturing sector as a whole.

“So that we can provide training, for not only the TVET sector but industry partners, KZN youth and graduates, who will learn a skill in manufacturing to give them an advantage of entering the economy as active participants, so that they can contribute to designing and making parts. The French team where they are for this launch is the Accounting and Informatics Centre where we launched the Luban Workshop. Part of that launch is trying to make sure that we have facilities like the 3D printers, the Internet of Things, the relevant equipment that our students can use to help them design and create those products. For us, this 3D experience platform through the PLMCC Project helps us to make sure that the students can actually do the theoretical part but also see what they are designing so that they can use the 3D printers to print what they want. The project will help practitioners to simulate the entire lifecycle product using advanced tools, from conception right through to design and manufacturing,” said Prof Moyo.

She said it is an important project for engineering students, where they can be given an opportunity to design and see the product of their design. She said the students from the Faculty of Arts and Design and Faculty of Health Sciences will also benefit from the 3D design and printing facilities at the University.

Giving background on DUT and its academic programmes, DVC: Teaching and Learning, Prof Nokuthula Sibiya said some of the objectives of ENVISION2030 are to deliver exciting and innovative curricula, to create a distinctive education, and develop adaptive graduates.

“In short, the ENVISION2030 seeks to improve lives and livelihoods. In order to have these objectives realized, DUT offers over 80 accredited academic programmes that range from undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications, delivered in five campuses in Durban and two campuses in Midlands. Our individually recognized postgraduate courses have produced award-winning students for over a century. DUT has also received international recognition, as we were ranked as one of the top five universities in South Africa and among the best in Africa by the Times Higher Education. Being counted amongst the finest universities in the world is a great honour for DUT since innovative curricula and research are one of the enabling strategic objectives of the University’s ENVISION2030 strategy of improving lives and livelihoods. We are committed to offering student-centered education,” said Prof Sibiya.

Technical Expert on PLMCC Project in South Africa, Mr Laurent Marche said the project is a partnership between France and the South African government. He said in South Africa there are two centres as the other is in Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Marche said the aim is to make DUT a learning centre for all, students, lecturers, and industry partners. He said the project is a platform for meaningful collaborations between students, lecturers, industry partners and will also include the TVET sector.

Mr Frederic Douphy, the Africa Business Development Executive at Dassault Systèmes held a presentation on the 3DExperience Platform and support for DUT. He expressed his excitement about being in Durban for the first time and thanked the DUT team that worked hard to ensure that the launch becomes a success. Douphy said the 3DExperience Platform ensures that people work together and share information in collaborative ways. He said the goal is to provide the right technology to better equip with necessary skills for the future workforce made up of students from universities and TVET colleges.

Speaking on behalf of the SETAs was Mr Tom Mkhwanazi, CEO of the Wholesale and Retail SETA. He shared his support of the project and said that there is an opportunity for SETAs to play a role as it is their mandate to support TVET Colleges. “We would like to see TVET Colleges being responsive and agile and moving with the times. Because without these initiatives we are training students for unemployment. We need to either train them to become entrepreneurs or give them the skills so that they are employable by the industry,” he said.

“In the Wholesale and Retail SETA, we see opportunities in terms of product innovation because as a sector we are at the end of the value chain. From where we are sitting if you capacitate lectures and ensure that the young entrepreneurs get skilled during the process this can then contribute to the value creation thus enhancing the design skills and technology within the sector. We will be happy to be part of this programme because we know that South Africa like many other countries due of Covid-19 we have leaped to the 4IR and we have no other option but to move to that direction,” said Mkhwanazi.

Mkhwanazi also shared that the Wholesale and Retail SETA is running an International Leadership Development Programme and he sees an opportunity for collaboration in terms of supporting the sector with access to opportunities for training in technology and business ownership. “The Wholesale and Retail Chair being here at DUT is another opportunity to enhance the research agenda and software like the SOLIDWORKS and 3Dexperience, we see these playing a huge role in logistics, warehousing, and the production of automobile parts – which are sold by our sector,” he said.

The Executive Dean: Accounting and Informatics, Prof Oludayo Olugbara, and the Executive Dean: Engineering and the Built Environment, Prof Bhekisipho Twala also expressed their messages of support to the project and committed to ensuring that the project is a success. Attending the launch on behalf of Dr Sipho Nzimande, Head of KZN Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET): TVETs, Ms Zandile Khumalo also conveyed her message of support to the project, expressing it would be of great benefit to the TVET sector.

In closing TTI Director, Prof Motaung thanked the guests, especially the French partners for attending and for their contribution in making the launch a success.

The launch was followed by site visits to the Luban Workshop at DUT and the Tools Centre at the Coastal TVET College – Durban Campus.

Pictured: From left – Laurent Marche [PLMCC], Peter Cleophas [W&R SETA], Kunal Hansraj [MECAD], SA Zwane [Coastal TVET College], Tom Mkhwanazi [W&R SETA], Frédéric Douphy [Dassault Systèmes], and Thulani Ndlela [Coastal TVET College] during a site visit at the Tools Centre in the Coastal TVET College.

Simangele Zuma

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