S01E04 EV’s, I4.0 vs 4IR, data governance & digital twins | Ralph Gillessen & Martin Sanne

Posted On: January 19, 2022

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S01E04 EV’s, I4.0 vs 4IR, data governance & digital twins | Ralph Gillessen & Martin Sanne

We discuss:

  • the opportunities that e-mobility has to offer
  • the complete life cycle of electric vehicles
  • Industry 4.0 vs 4IR
  • digital transformation
  • and much more…



“My legacy has to be, to be remembered as a person and more importantly a person who put human beings first.” – Ralph Gillessen

Operating in over 30 countries, Expleo is a trusted partner for end-to-end, integrated engineering, quality services and management consulting for digital transformation. They help businesses harness unrelenting technological change to successfully deliver innovations that will help them gain a competitive advantage and improve the everyday lives of people around the globe.

We were honoured to be joined by both the Chairman of the Executive Board of Expleo Group, Mr Ralph Gillessen, as well as the Managing Director of Expleo Group South Africa, Mr Martin Sanne.  Ralph is responsible for Silver Atena, a member of Expleo, ranked among the german Top 100 most innovative Mittelstand companies.

Learn more about Expleo:


05:25 – What is going to have the biggest impact on the automotive industry from an e-mobility perspective?

  • Autonomous driving is going to be a big step and there will be many levels of autonomy.
  • There are already driver assist systems which are incredibly useful especially with the growing rate of autonomous vehicles.
  • When looking at mobility concepts and the current investments made by car manufacturers, more is being directed towards the electric vehicle than into autonomous vehicles because of faster returns.
  • It is easier to monetise electric vehicles and hybrid cars than autonomous vehicles.

07:45 – What does the complete life cycle of electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells look like from a South African point of view?

  • It is important to understand parity especially diesel to petrol parity and electric vehicles are to achieve parity from a life cycle cost point of view.
  • Electric vehicles are still expensive now because there is less volume.
  • It is important to look at the usage of the electric vehicle (light vehicle vs heavy vehicle, like trucks).
  • The parity of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will be sooner if it’s in a heavy vehicle.
  • When looking at the total life cycle of these vehicles in service and maintenance, electric vehicles will be much more efficient and cost efficient.
  • Electric vehicles are very eco-friendly as there is no need to change the oil every 10,000km, as there is no clutch that wears out.
  • Electric vehicles have allowed energy recovery with the electric motor.
  • Battery electric and hydrogen electric are going to be more efficient.
  • Batteries do also have limited life time but there are programs on how to recycle the battery.
  • The material used to manufacture the battery is lithium which is recyclable.
  • Batteries have a long life and Martin has experienced this in Johannesburg where they have what is called, second life batteries that come from the U.S and get deployed into a factory as backup power supply and then they have another 5 to 10 years of life left in them.
  • With the power issue we have in Africa, we have a big market for second life batteries.
  • Power generation is a key driver of the environment.
  • In South Africa we have most of our power generated from coal.

11:30 – Although EV and hydrogen cell vehicles are clean, one must consider the full life cycle of vehicles especially considering the generation of electricity and hydrogen extraction. How do they compare against one another?

  • That part of the model does not make sense, when we look at burning coal to make electricity to charge a battery.
  • When you look at the total energy program of South Africa, more and more renewable energy is being deployed.
  • South Africa will be deploying about 2-3 gigawatts of renewable energy every year in the future.
  • The best solution is to take a renewable and then charging a battery directly – that is the most efficient model. This model however depends on how many battery-powered electric vehicles are out there.
  • What we have observed from all around the world as a limiting factor is charging infrastructure that would be convenient for the user.
  • There are still many challenges that make electric vehicle not convenient in comparison to a petrol or diesel vehicle.
  • Although there are many positives with electric vehicles, like zero carbon emissions and it being green environmentally, we still need to consider the infrastructure.
  • We also need to consider hydrogen infrastructure and some of the questions we still need to answer include, do we need hydrogen pipe lines installed in the countries.
  • The long planning cycles and implementation cycles are setbacks for the success of the electric and the hydrogen vehicle.
  • We also need the calculation of how much energy demand there really is and how much is the vehicle being driven every day.

18:30 – Who is Expleo and what does the company do?

  • The name of the company is a Latin word which means to complete/fulfill.
  • Expleo was formed approximately 3/4 years ago from the merger of two companies, namely AS Systems and SQS – both European companies with global foot print.
  • The two companies have quality background with AS coming from an engineering services point of view and SQS from the software side, and that is the link to digital transformation.
  • Expleo is the company to call when you need to complete the process to a quality status. In a nutshell that is what Expleo is.
  • As we (Jendamark) evolve from a typical machine builder company and we start to build these software products, we’ve realised that we help our customers build components and parts. We follow a very clear process to maintain the quality but we somehow do not do that with our own software.
  • As we digitise more and more, maintaining and ensuring the quality of the software product is becoming more and more important.

21:30 – We have certainly evolved with the term Industry 4.0 or 4IR and digital transformation in the last 10 years what are your thoughts on the next 10 years?

  • The process is going to be long and one cannot package it into 10 years.
  • We must differentiate between Industry 4.0 and what we in South African call the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • The term ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ was coined by the World Economic Forum.
  • When we look at Industry 4.0 in isolation, they have achieved a lot because what they were able to do is look at standards, common platforms, robotics in industry, robotics collaboration, human machine interaction and safety.

24:09 – What is the difference between Industry 4.0 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

  • Industry 4.0 is an industry initiative where industry has said that we need to set some standards and we are not going to stop the digital transformation.
  • Everything will be software controlled and there will be AI coming in and being translated into production systems, logistics and autonomous vehicles.
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution ultimately talks about the point of singularity.
  • The point of singularity is where the combined intelligence of all computers and machines exceeds the combined intelligence of all humans and the point where machine and human become one.
  • Looking at how we all carry a smartphone everyday we are now at the point where the computer is part of you and as a result we are now very close to the point of singularity.
  • The next step is when we start wearing an x-ray skeleton or we don’t need to have cars anymore because we have a machine to get us transported and it can autonomously think for itself and it is in control of itself.

26:22 – From a South African perspective what are some of the risks and opportunities we need to look out for in both Industry 4.0 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

  • There are always risks and opportunities, but Martin says he sees the opportunities more.
  • We have also asked questions around the risks of having a mobile phone.
  • How has the mobile phone affected the education of our children?
  • How has it slowed down certain things that children should be learning? Because they are not outside anymore they are on their smartphone the whole time.
  • When we look at the benefits of having a mobile phone, there are many advantages that outweigh the disadvantages.
  • Some of them are: accessibility of information, navigation systems, security, the ability to record things, access to social media and connectivity.
  • What the singularity has done is that the change in the next 10 years is going to more than the last 30 years.
  • It took the world 3000 years to go from abacus to the iPad, and that amount of change that happened we will experience in the next 10 years.
  • It was 50 generations that experienced that change over the 3000 years and in the next 10 years one generation will experience the same amount all at one go.
  • What we have seen in the past 10 years is the potential to unlock data but the responsibility on our side is how we control it.
  • There must be dialogue and conversations on how the data collected can be used for the majority of people and not just a few.

35:45 – Digital transformation (I4.0) in developing countries is different vs that of other countries. How does Expleo, being a multinational company with an expansive customer base, handle the different scenarios?

  • It depends on the aspect that it is looked at. In the working environment, we have observed more homogenous working trend across the globe.
  • The fact that we all use computers to work shows that we have all aligned globally.
  • From a working environment point of view, digital transformation is bringing the world closer.
  • It has also enabled localisation, which means that you have globalised and then localised certain activities.
  • We can now replicate things done in another country simpler if we have digitalised.
  • There will be cultural differences and as a result there are different applications.
  • The recent trends include things like Bitcoin and new currencies.
  • What one can see is that with block chain as it rolls out more and more, it actually has a huge energy consumer.
  • There will be local differences.
  • When you look at the different economies and do a baselining, you must accept and even respect that there are different starting positions when it comes to the economy itself.
  • When you look at the people within the economy, they have the same starting position.
  • The misconception is that we need to follow all the understood digital steps to achieve digital transformation but, we can skip a lot of steps and head into a completely different direction even with a less legacy.
  • When you interact with young professionals from all over the world who have the same understanding about technology and how they can contribute, you see that they are very similar.
  • The context might be different, but the people are the exactly same and that must be used as an advantage to build on.
  • The advantage lies with the similarity in people.

41:30 – What does the term PLM actually mean?

  • PLM is nothing new, the term is Product Lifecycle Management.
  • PLM has become so interesting because we are now handling it digitally from requirement definition to end of life.
  • When you have digitally recorded the life cycle of the product, there are many opportunities to be explored with the data.
  • At the end of the cycle of the product, we can look at the origin of the product to look at the materials used and figure out methods on how to recycle the remaining materials.
  • What can also be done in the origin stage is to create the digital twin of the product.
  • For example, if we take a vehicle which will have a life cycle of 10/20 years, when it comes in for a service we can find out what was done to the vehicle during its 20 year life.
  • From all the accidents it might have had and all the people who might have repaired it.
  • This can be mapped out onto any product digitally.

44:26 – How do we manage the quality of our software?

  • Everyone understands quality.
  • Quality is a given requirement but how do we breakdown quality to all the processes to deliver a quality product or a quality experience and understand how much is it worth.
  • It is important to have test strategies in quality management.
  • What Expleo does is that it helps with how to engineer quality into existing processes.
  • All of us understand the consequences of poor quality.
  • We also understand the impact of quality on productivity and quantity. Quality is also very important for risk in businesses.

49:30 – What do you want your legacy to be?

  • Martin said that your legacy lives on in the people that you have interacted with and from a career perspective, his legacy is digital transformation.
  • Ralph said that his legacy would be in him as a person, and more importantly a person who always put the human being first and nothing else.