An industrial revolution is in the making, significantly transforming how manufacturing is done. Industry 4.0 or industrial internet of things (IIoT) is changing everything.
The phrase Industry 4.0 signifies the combination of many inventions and innovations in digital technology, aiming to transform the manufacturing industries. These systems consist of sophisticated robotics and artificial intelligence, advanced sensors, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, data modeling and analytics.
This shift has created an opportunity for the industrial and manufacturing sector to become a new market for Information Technology and Security Systems Solutions. Digital communication and the connectivity of such systems require efficiency, but they also cause significant risks. The industrial and manufacturing environments require an extremely secure network system. It’s not enough to only build and deliver products; the reliability and safety of this infrastructure are also critical.
Where did it all begin?
The 1st industrial revolution began towards the end of the 18th century with the mechanization, with the invention of the steam engine. The 2nd industrial revolution took place in the early 20th century with the launch of the first production lines to assist the large-scale production of Henry Ford automotive plants.
The 3rd industrial revolution dated to the mid-20th century when electronics began their application in numeric controlled machines i.e. Programmable Logic Controls. This event became possible by taking advantage of information technology systems that forever changed how we plan, monitor and automate manufacturing. We ended up with Numerically Controlled Machines (CNC Machines), Material Resource Planning software (MRP Software), Computer Aided Design (CAD), and many more automated systems and robots. It was at this time that the digitalization of the workplace started taking shape.
And today the 4th industrial revolution refers to Cyber-Physical Systems that are fully integrated and connected to computers, networking devices, physical and cloud networks. This is guaranteeing to change the way in which individuals, small companies, and big enterprises conduct business and interact with one another. Similar to the impact the internet had on the way people access information and communicate with each other. Today, advanced manufacturing systems combine the philosophy of lean production with automation and IT technology. According to a study, 80% of companies are aiming to digitize their entire product supply chain by 2020. It is also significant to mention that now China's manufacturing robotics sector has exploded substantially to turn into one of the key worldwide markets i.e. their yearly assembly volume level elevated progressively from 15000 parts in 2010 to 57000 in 2014
Where are all the jobs?
The manufacturing sector is in the initial phases of obtaining a consistent system which has all-round connectivity and visibility. So there isn’t a noticeable change in the hiring patterns and skill needs. Nevertheless, leading equipment manufacturers are beginning to include built-in device-to-device connectivity and communication. They have discovered that through providing online connectivity (in addition to intelligence around production process states) they can reduce their product's cost of manufacturing, which will help their customers obtain more of their products.
For me, Industry 4.0 means more communication and better collaboration. Everything's going to be connected to the internet, resulting in an Internet of Services.
Who’s leading the pack?
KUKA Systems makes fully automated industrial robots for automated manufacturing plants. FlexFellow, Kuka's 'production systems of tomorrow' is a versatile, flexible, energy-saving and user-friendly robot that can be trained (programmed) to perform a variety of activities. To stay reasonably competitive in the future, organizations such as Kuka ought to encounter difficulties such as the globalization of market segments and rising product variety with ever-decreasing manufacturing runs. Consequently, these businesses require flexible and versatile options for manufacturing and assembly operations.
Image Source: KUKA
Making the most of the benefits of Industry 4.0 will demand significant cooperation throughout global business boundaries, particularly with regards to having the machines to all speak the same language. If an unfinished product arrives at an assembly machine that's unable to read its RFID chip due to different programming, the assembly process will come to a stop, costing time and money for the business. Therefore, figuring out common platforms and languages to allow for machines to communicate seamlessly remains as one of the top issues for the worldwide adoption of cyber-physical systems.
Windows 10 IoT is the most functional operating system Microsoft has created up to now with innovations in network and system communication. Windows 10 IoT offers a straightforward and unified software that has been designed on the concept of "One Core, One Platform" and is backed by Universal App and Universal Drivers. Designed for cloud connectivity, Windows 10 IoT allows connected systems to be smarter and easier to connect with Microsoft Azure, accompanied by information transmission and data analysis.
How will this affect Manufacturing?
Manufacturing depends on tools such as jigs, fixtures, and gauges to keep up product quality and manufacturing efficiency. With 3D printing technology, you can build more complicated jigs, in less time and design more fixtures on the manufacturing floor.
Manufacturing plants in North America are under pressure due to outsourcing to low-wage countries, and our need for constantly new and customized products and cutting-edge technologies will continue to grow, making it tough to sustain a superior business determined by conventional manufacturing lines. Personalized products are merely too expensive to manufacture. Industry 4.0 is the answer to these challenges.
How can we prepare for this future?
Digital capabilities are essential to moving forward with Industry 4.0. Building them needs time to work and concentrate; a step-by-step approach is crucial. However, you must proceed with passion, so that you never lose the first adapter benefit to rivals.
6 Steps to Securing a Successful Career in Industries of the Future:
1. Learn everything about Industry 4.0 and map out a Career Plan and Job Search Strategy. Evaluate your knowledge now, versus where you need to be. Set clear goals for closing the gap. Prioritize the activities and new skills that will bring the most value to your employer and make sure they are aligned with your overall strategy. Commit to this approach and share your goals with your company’s leadership team, and ensure that commitment is evident to people throughout the company.
2. Start with a small project and measure everything (before/after analysis). Use the small projects to establish proof of concept and demonstrate your new skills and the value you bring to the company. Don't assume all project will be successful, they won't, but all experienced will help you discover the strategies that actually work in your field. With early successes, you can even obtain buy-in from the company's leaders, and decision makers, and secure funding for larger IoT projects. For those first projects, define a narrow project scope, but include the end-to-end concept of Industry 4.
3. Identify your new skills, clarify and differentiate your new personal brand. Building on the lessons learned in your small projects, make a list of skills you need to achieve your goals, and develop a step-by-step plan for learning those skills. Include technological enablers, such as an agile and highly functional IT infrastructure with well-designed user interfaces; that can propel your career forward. Also, include strategies for developing and building the right team around you and attracting more decision makers.
4. Become an expert in analyzing data. Success with Industry 4.0 is contingent on your skills in unlocking data and using analytic tools in creative and efficient ways. Establish cross-functional analytics skills, tied closely to the strategic priorities of the whole enterprise. Develop the means of combining data from different parts of the business and apply those techniques to areas that differentiate you from your competitors. Learn to get value out of data through intelligent systems design, using real-time analytics to develop solutions and continually improve your processes.
5. Transform into an IoT Expert. Seizing the complete potential of Industry 4.0 will require significant changes to your career direction and work focus. Set the standards with clear leadership, commitment, and a grand vision. Foster a digital culture: everyone around you will need to be willing to experiment, learn new ways of operating, and adjust everyday processes accordingly.
6. Adopt an ecosystem perspective. Develop complete solutions and include them in your unique value proposition. Use your network to identify new opportunities and new IoT projects if you cannot develop new opportunities on your own. If you find it tough to share your newly attained skills with others, and prefer working alone to collaboration, look for ways to bridge your capabilities and work on building a team so that you can profit from being part of the team, though you won’t fully control them.
About The Contributing Author:
Nader Mowlaee is an Electronics Engineer and Engineering Recruiter whose goal is to help Engineers create a successful career. Feel free to reach out to him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.