National Metrology Institute of South Africa on its Strategic and Annual Performance Plans

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Trade and Industry

15 April 2015
Chairperson: Mr M Kalako (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The National Metrology Institute of South Africa (NMISA) presented the Committee with its Strategic Plan 2015/16 – 2019/20 and Annual Performance Plan. NMISA played a key role in the establishment of measurement traceability and the international equivalence thereof, sitting at the interface between the national and international systems. The expanding global trade and pressure to eliminate technical barriers to trade created a constant demand for greater accountability and demonstrated competence in national metrology institutes (NMIs). NMISA also played a leading role in the development of metrology infrastructure in Africa, especially in support of South Africa’s immediate neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Essentially, NMISA kept and maintained the National Measurement Standards (NMS) and linked the national (and regional) measurement system to the international system. NMISA also conducted research for development of measurement standards, provided training for testing, calibration and measurement in research and supported small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) development by providing measurement interventions.

The recapitalisation and modernisation of NMISA and the proposed technical infrastructure support were highlighted as key priorities for the organisation. Highlighted priorities included the following:

Thematic Cross Cutter Project 1: Africa Food and Feed Reference Materials Programme

To enable food trade in support of food safety and in support of growth strategies and trade agreements by providing African food samples with known quantities of contaminants to calibrate measuring instruments. Some of the expected outputs were a Clear link to the NMS supporting the programme, published methods of analysis for food safety fit-for-purpose for Africa, the capability to analyse organic and bio-thin layers for packaging and the training of food analysts in SADC accredited labs and African NMIs.

Thematic Cross Cutter Project 2: Green Economy Measurement Tools

Develop accurate measurement for green energy and environmental compliance with a specific focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency, responsible natural resource exploitation, and environmental protection and IPAP priority sectors. Expected outputs were the reference measurement capability for gas, elements, radioactivity, power and energy measurements, and emission monitoring and thin layers.

Thematic Cross Cutter Project 3: Measurement in support of local manufacturing

To enable beneficiation and competitiveness, a suite of special measurements were needed by industry. Expected outputs were reference measurements and certified reference materials in support of manufacturing with a special focus on beneficiation of natural resources and metal fabrication and certified reference materials for advanced measurement techniques such as X-ray diffraction, Raman Spectroscopy and nuclear density measurements.

The projected budget and expenditure showed the current budget of R264 million was projected to increase to R323 million over the five years with DTI funding of the current R202 million expected to increase to R304 million.

The Committee focused on the importance of industrialisation and adding value to manufacturing to enable beneficiation. It was highlighted however, that to manufacture, measurement capability was needed and the manufacturing capability would diminish without a strong measurement capability. Investment in measurement infrastructure was critical and empowering the measurement infrastructure would ensure the development of the manufacturing components. NMISA’s aging infrastructure, the need for additional funding and the legislative mandate of the organisation were also discussed.

The Committee wanted to know what role NMISA played in ensuring compliance to the National Measurement Standards (NMS) and whether universities were producing graduates at a level that would sustain the organisation. There was some discussion on alternative energy grids and the funding the organisation would need to function optimally.

Meeting report

National Metrology Institute of South Africa (NIMSA) Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan

Mr Ndwakhulu Mukhufhi, Chief Executive Officer, NIMSA, said the Institute was a Section 3A Public Entity and its mandate was to provide for the use of measurement units of the International System of Units and certain other measurement units. It also provided South African industries and environmental, health and safety sectors with fit-for-purpose measurement standards and measurements. This was achieved by keeping and maintaining the national measurement standards and units to an acceptable international standard and by disseminating traceability to the South African industry. The organisational goals were as follows:

-Keep, maintain and develop the national measurement standards and provide for the use of the national measurement units;

-Ensure that the South African measurement system was internationally comparable, by participating in the activities of the International Committee for Weights and Measures as per the Mutual Recognition Arrangement (CIPM MRA) system;

-Modernise NMISA’s infrastructure and equipment through recapitalisation;

-Provide measurement knowledge and expertise as a key component of the technical infrastructure with regard to public policy objectives measurement compliance issues in terms of health, safety and the environment

-Provide an integrated human capital development programme for metrology;

-Provide essential support to South African public and private enterprises through dissemination of the national measurement standards, units and expertise; and 

-Adhere to the regulatory requirements of a 3A public entity and sound corporate governance

NMISA played a key role in the establishment of measurement traceability and the international equivalence thereof, sitting at the interface between the national and international systems. The expanding global trade and pressure to eliminate technical barriers to trade created a constant demand for greater accountability and demonstrated competence in national metrology institutes (NMIs). NMISA played a leading role in the development of metrology infrastructure in Africa, especially in support of South Africa’s immediate neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). A sound measurement structure was critical to the successful implementation of regional free trade agreements and elimination of technical barriers to trade. Essentially, NMISA kept and maintained the National Measurement Standards (NMS) and linked the national (and regional) measurement system to the international system. NMISA also conducted research for development of measurement standards, provided training for testing, calibration and measurement in research and supported small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) development by providing measurement interventions.

Mr Mukhufhi gave an overview of the International System of Units and the equivalent NMS, which included traceability and the accuracy and uncertainty of measurement, and NMISA’s management structure. The Metrology Strategy to meet the needs of South Africa aimed to maintain the NMS and to link the South African and African measurement system internationally. The strategy also aimed to develop new NMS and a reference analysis needed for the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) and new technologies. The technical divisions had varying ratios of basic maintenance of the NMS and research and development activities. NMISA had adopted the balanced scorecard approach to set and measure performance targets. This scorecard addressed the key components of a generic scorecard namely, international agreements and participation, technical infrastructure support, stakeholder /customer (technical) perspective, organisational development (learning and growth), financial and business process perspective. The recapitalisation and modernisation of NMISA and the proposed technical infrastructure support were highlighted as key priorities for the organisation. Highlighted priorities included the following:

Thematic Cross Cutter Project 1: Africa Food and Feed Reference Materials Programme

To enable food trade in support of food safety and in support of growth strategies and trade agreements by providing African food samples with known quantities of contaminants to calibrate measuring instruments. Some of the expected outputs were a Clear link to the NMS supporting the programme, published methods of analysis for food safety fit-for-purpose for Africa, the capability to analyse organic and bio-thin layers for packaging and the training of food analysts in SADC accredited labs and African NMIs.

Thematic Cross Cutter Project 2: Green Economy Measurement Tools

Develop accurate measurement for green energy and environmental compliance with a specific focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency, responsible natural resource exploitation, and environmental protection and IPAP priority sectors. Expected outputs were the reference measurement capability for gas, elements, radioactivity, power and energy measurements, and emission monitoring and thin layers.

Thematic Cross Cutter Project 3: Measurement in support of local manufacturing

To enable beneficiation and competitiveness, a suite of special measurements were needed by industry. Expected outputs were reference measurements and certified reference materials in support of manufacturing with a special focus on beneficiation of natural resources and metal fabrication and certified reference materials for advanced measurement techniques such as X-ray diffraction, Raman Spectroscopy and nuclear density measurements.

Mr Mukhufhi said NMISA, in light of the organisation’s importance, was grossly underfunded. He gave an overview of the projected budget and expenditure and showed the current budget of R214 million was projected to increase to R323 million over the five years with DTI funding of the current R202 million expected to increase to R304 million.

Discussion

Mr A Williams (ANC) welcomed the presentation and said the South African economy needed to industrialise and without these measurements it would be impossible. If South Africa did not have these accurate internationally recognised measurements, it would be very difficult to manufacture and beneficiate materials. Measurements were taken for granted and he asked how much money NMISA needed to be kept relevant and whether the R304 million budget and the projected budgets were sufficient to continue to subsequent financial years.

Mr Mukhufhi said it was very difficult to, as a scientist, give a ballpark figure on how much money NMISA needed, but it was clear that the current funding was not sufficient for the institution to perform at its optimal level. The funding had been historically lowered to just below the bare minimum. After an assessment with the team, it was concluded that staring next year, increasing the budget of NMISA by 150% would not solve the problem. A progressive development and re-establishing the capabilities the institution had and should have needed to be done. The challenges and situational analyses in the Strategic Plan noted the availability of skills and resources as a big issue and measurement standards were not limited to equipment and machinery. Development needed to happen with a much longer term outlook and it generally took about five years to develop a Metrologist that could compete and participate at an international level. The current ongoing feasibility study was an in-depth study that would not only look at the building, but also at the requirements of the nation as a whole, at the required skills and at the required measurements and then NMISA would be able to clearly define the amount required. A benchmark was done against other international institutions performing at levels NMISA aspired to and South Africa required and it showed that NMISA was lagging about 40% to 50% behind in funding comparatively. Technologies changed and NMISA had not been able to look at nanotechnology measurements and nanomanufacturing. Moving forward, the focus should be on additive manufacturing and 3D printing that would eliminate some of the need for huge infrastructure going forward.

Mr B Mkongi (ANC) asked how frequently measurements were reviewed, because the accuracy of measurements is very important in determining cost and prices and he asked what the implications were if NMISA did not have the capacity to review measurements. He asked how far South Africa was in its own initiatives in this regard, especially as measurements were instrumental in adding value to manufactured products. He referred to the NMISA’s aging infrastructure and he asked how far discussions were on what needed to be done to ensure the role NMISA played in creating a better life for all South Africans. He wanted to know if universities were producing the graduates needed and if those graduates were being retained.

Mr Mukhufhi replied that the measurements were continuously reviewed by always participating in the international environment. NMISA would be reviewing and upgrading at least 15 of the national measurement annually which entailed international comparisons by participating in international consultative committees. For the first time in many years, two South Africans had been appointed to the International Committee for Weights and Measures as per the Mutual Recognition Arrangement (CIPM MRA) system. The Act instructed NMISA to have a technical advisory forum and a consultative forum that advised the board. These forums would advise on new technologies and products for NMISA to provide measurements on. NMISA also encourage industries to inform the institution of upcoming products in order to provide measurement requirements. In areas where testing capabilities in the country did not exist as yet, NMISA would conduct the testing for industry until the capability was developed. Otherwise, NMISA would then have to work with partners to ensure empowerment of entrepreneurs through enterprise development processes. To manufacture, measurement capability was needed and the manufacturing capability would diminish without a strong measurement capability. Investment in measurement infrastructure was critical and this was evident by the way the United States government prioritised the funding strategically for their entity, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and other developed countries. Empowering the measurement infrastructure would ensure the development of the manufacturing components. One of the challenges of commercialisation was the non-existent infrastructure that created a chasm between research and manufacturing. Universities were not producing graduates at a level that would keep NMISA competitive. Engagements with universities focused on the need to produce scientists that were at a level to be trained as metrologists. The University of Johannesburg (UJ) had been approached to develop a metrology curriculum which would be the first of its kind in South Africa. The University of Cape Town currently ran a course on the uncertainty of measurement which was statistical analyses required to ensure accurate measurements. These initiatives were not nearly enough for the long term and NMISA also started its own programme internally and partnerships with international entities to support the training of metrologists in specialised areas.

Prof C Msimang (IFP) said the presentation was truly eye opening. He asked whether NMISA knew whether people complied with the measurement standards or not and whether the institution had any power to take action against non-compliance. He wanted to know if there were locally aligned technologies that could be used as an alternative energy grid like bio-fuel or green energy. He asked what the timeline was for the infrastructure feasibility study and when NMISA planned to start building. He also wanted to know if there was anything within the Act that governed the mandate of NMISA that inhibited the function of the institution.

Mr Mukhufhi replied that NMISA looked at the realisation of scientific standards, the maintenance of those standards that were fit for purpose for industries and determination to industry, ensuring that those that needed to comply understood the compliance requirements. The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) did their part in term of voluntary standards and the NRCS with compulsory specifications. The Legal Metrology Act paved the way for more regulatory compulsory specifications that were regulated and inspected. Competency, quality and safety needed to be ensured by the sufficient funding of this quality infrastructure. NMISA’s mandate did not the function of ensuring or enforcing compliance and remained independent of the regulatory processes. This separation of roles was important to ensure validity, because it would be difficult to remain unbiased to set the standards and ensure compliance and NMISA’s measurements would be considered requisite in a court dispute. There were technologies that were available and perhaps solar technology was the best possible alternative. Africa as a continent received more sun than anywhere in the world and the sun was the greatest natural resource to be researched and utilised for sustainability. Research funding at university level should be geared towards solar technology. Other technologies involving wind and waste that were touted as the best was premised on consumption based economy, because South Africa did not generate the same amount of waste the United States generated. The feasibility study would be delivered by the end of 2015 and focus would be on the second stage of National Treasury approval, which was basically securing the required funding, during the first two quarters of the following financial year. After which the process of procuring the partner for developing the institution would start, which really looked into developing the internal capability of managing the infrastructure. Currently, South Africa did not have the capability of maintaining infrastructural temperatures at variances of +/- 10C. The Council for Industrial Research (CSIR) did have some of that capability, but their requirements were not as stringent as NMISA’s.

Ms Jodi Scholtz, Group Chief Operations Officer, DTI, said in terms of the Legal Metrology Act, the NRCS did have a number of instruments at its disposal to ensure compliance to quality and health and safety standards to the extent of being able to prosecute offenders. These were administered at the ports of entry and also at manufacturing facilities through inspectors that went out to assess compliance. 

Mr Williams asked for confirmation that NMISA could set up measurement equipment, but not manufacturing measurement equipment. If it was indeed the case, he asked if it did not effectively stall the capability to manufacture in those areas or was it just a case of lack of funding.

Mr Mukhufhi replied that manufacturing needed accurate measuring capability and NMISA could set up accurate measuring equipment, but at this stage accurate measurement infrastructure was needed to be able to support manufacturing downstream. Some of the setting up of measuring equipment had become commercial in nature where 40% of the budget spent on procurement of capital equipment this year, was spent on metrology institutes of another country. Cutting edge technologies would allow South Africa, after developing the technology, to hand it over to the local economy to manufacture and exploit gaps in the market globally. NMISA had done well in manufacturing wool fiber matter and commercialising it and the reports showed that both the US and Australia were buying this equipment, because it gave the producer at the primary base the power to determine the quality before it was taken to the market.

Mr Mkongi noted that sizes differed from country to country.

Mr Mukhufhi replied that size comparisons were easily searched on the internet, because size was measured on an internationally agreed standard and some countries used inches rather than centimeters. These internationally agreed standards brought the different measurement units to a common agreement.

The Chairperson thanked everyone for their input.

The meeting was adjourned.

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