Have you ever seen a bewildered robot? Well, thanks to Eskom’s rolling blackouts, we now know. Whenever the utility shuts off power to SA’s vehicle assembly plants, back-up power supplies kick in almost instantaneously. But that fraction of a second delay is enough to render useless hundreds of manufacturing robots on welding lines, in paint shops and wherever else they are required to provide the consistent, world-class quality that humans can’t. With no memory of where they were a moment before, they halt mid-action. A robotic arm will occasionally twitch, reach out without knowing why, then freeze. It can take up to two hours to recalibrate robots. They have to start all over again which, in some plants, means a quarter of a day’s vehicle production is lost in a flash. So it’s no surprise to hear Michael Sacke, CEO of truck and bakkie producer Isuzu Motors SA, suggest that while there is considerable merit in the government’s long-term development plan for the SA motor industry, ...

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