Skills and knowledge in an Industry 4.0 future
Managing changing work
It isn’t clear what the scope of relevant knowledge and skills will be to implement Industry 4.0. What is clear is that capabilities will need to be upgraded, supplemented, and expanded as the transition occurs.
Organisations which have undertaken significant changes or transformations know that people make the difference. Realising the benefits of Industry 4.0 will depend on effectively managing and developing people, and thinking about:
The roles of humans and machines
Workers’ attitudes and expectations
Using existing knowledge
People factors and skill sets
The good news is that existing skill sets aren’t redundant, they can be built upon.
Building smart manufacturing on existing skill sets
In 2015 Carbon Revolution opened its new factory in the Geelong Technology Precinct employing many of its staff from companies such as Ford Australia, Alcoa and Qantas, which are all pulling out of Geelong.
The factory is the first in the world to supply mass-produced carbon fibre wheels as standard equipment for a major automaker. The cutting-edge one-piece carbon fibre wheels are fitted as standard equipment on Ford’s Shelby Mustang GT350R and are available for Ferrari’s 488 Pista.
Carbon Revolution’s advanced data driven processes
“The manufacturing process for the carbon fibre wheels begins with the creation of a preformed internal carbon structure, composed of precisely manufactured carbon strands arrayed into woven fabrics. This is then placed into a mold with an RFID chip embedded into its structure, so each wheel can be tracked through a quality assurance system. The structure is then infused with resin and cured at high temperatures.
As the wheel cures, 61 individual checks and more than 246,000 data points are logged before it’s released from the machine. To guarantee quality parts, the cured wheels are analysed using a 3D computerized tomography imaging process in which more than 18,000 X-ray images are taken.”
It is expected as technology advances and more automated processes reduce prices, carbon fibre wheels will be fitted to more of the 60 million new cars produced each year. Carbon Revolution plans to take advantage of this opportunity and grow by increasing its automation, maintaining its Australian headquarters as a development hub, and offering a dynamic career path to motivate employees to grow with them.
The roles of humans and machines in Industry 4.0 workplaces
The more predictable and physical any task is like processing financial transactions or freight, or where automation would provide superior performance over a human, the more feasible it is to automate the task.
Industrial environments mechanise, organise, and automate processes already. Humans are still needed and will be needed in future. The less expertise and decision-making in a role the more likely it is to change or disappear. Inevitably, Industry 4.0 will produce more work looking after machines and produce data which creates more analytical, planning, and decision-making work.
Overall, there will be better use of human effort. Through improvements in the interfaces used to control machines and with workers focused on using their expertise, creativity, and people skills. Skills which are difficult to automate.
Workers’ attitudes and expectations in a digitalising world
An attractive workplace is going to be one developing or demonstrating a culture that can adapt and provide employees of all ages with development opportunities relevant to a more automated and digitalised workplace.
When recruiting there is a need to consider workers’ career aspirations and work experience expectations as in future, skilled employees will do work that intelligent machines cannot do. With universities now teaching Industry 4.0 concepts and skills, new graduates will soon be entering businesses with different expectations of life working in production environments.
From leadership through management to staff roles, knowledge work will increase or change. During the transition re-organising work will need attention, including re-thinking training and career paths.
Using existing knowledge to tackle Industry 4.0 challenges
Consultation with high performing Australian businesses which have adopted new technology to improve productivity indicates that most are unsure about how to use internet and advanced technologies to improve productivity.
Recognising that current approaches to productivity improvement aren’t redundant is important. Business process improvement practices are a sound foundation to work from.
Processes which are already well optimised are good candidates to consider for further productivity improvement using digitalisation or automation. It is critical to assess the level of optimisation of processes and if a they are a good fit for a technology solution. Applying technology without having a strong underlying process could simply automate wastage. Other considerations are costs to benefits, the maturity of the technology solution, and the effect on the end-to-end production process.
Utilising Industry 4.0 technology effectively will depend on the business problems individual businesses face. Showing that different approaches are valid for their individual business circumstances, Australian businesses are automating everything from gaps in their processes to whole factories.
People and skill sets for Industry 4.0
Specialists with the right combination of skills will be needed to get on the pathway to Industry 4.0. Manufacturers and expert management consultants interviewed in eleven countries see outsourcing as the way to manage this. Leveraging your existing skill base and supplementing it with external expertise to ensure you have the classical engineering expertise, process improvement expertise, computing, and data science skills to support digital transformation.
Skills which will increase in importance as knowledge work becomes more prevalent are those where intelligent machines might facilitate, but cannot perform the task:
Managing and developing people
Complex problem solving and decision-making
Process improvement expertise
Managing and maintaining digital systems and networks
Business leaders, managers, and workers in the current workforce will all need to face, guide, or work through the implications of a digitalised workplace:
Retaining critical corporate memory
Reframing organisation culture
Aligning workforce skills and values with the new paradigm
Providing skill development for employees
Accessibility and security of information
Monitoring technologies, surveillance, and worker independence
Human interaction and engagement in a highly networked and automated environment
The skills and culture which you need to look for when recruiting during the transition to Industry 4.0 need some thought. Soft skills like solution-driven and action-oriented were among the criteria when Dulux sought staff for their greenfield Merrifield plant which has end-to-end digital control. Their promise to applicants included stability and career growth with a supportive team culture, quality, safety, innovation and inspiration.
In his book, The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization, Jacob Morgan looks at the conventions around how we work today and how the employee role will evolve. It is easy to observe that technology is a facilitator or driver of most of the new work behaviours and opportunities he presents.
Source: Chess Media Group
Chart a steady course to leverage Industry 4.0
The transition to Industry 4.0 will take time. When it comes to the profile of the job market, it is likely to be a decade before significant impacts will be felt.
Yes, job roles will disappear. However, as robotics and other cyber-physical technologies, sensing and actuation, greater connectivity through the supply chain, and increasing quantities of data are processed through powerful analytics new opportunities to improve and remodel how businesses provide value will be generated.
Making the transition will involve knowledge, skills, and workplace culture challenges for businesses. New and existing skill sets will be used to reap the rewards using technology as the means of solving real business problems and making businesses more efficient and productive.
Practical Pathways to Industry 4.0. The obstacles to digital transformation and how manufacturers can overcome them. Siemens Financial Services, February 2018 (https://www.siemens.com/customer-magazine/en/home/industry/creating-a-practical-pathway-to-industry-4-0.html )
ICT in manufacturing. High performance company industry consultations outcomes. Nico Adams, Peter King, Peter Kambouris. November 2015 CSIRO
Industry 4.0 Higher Apprenticeships Project is Underway https://www.aigroup.com.au/policy-and-research/industrynewsletter/industry-extras/industry-4.0-higher-apprenticeships-project/
Carbon fibre wheels roll off production line. Thursday, 8 October 2015 https://www.engineersaustralia.org.au/portal/news/carbon-fibre-wheels-roll-production-line
Carbon Revolution inks Ferrari deal, mulls $100m IPO. Mar 7 2018 at 11:00 PM. Updated Mar 8 2018 at 7:22 AM. http://www.afr.com/news/carbon-revolution-inks-ferrari-deal-mulls-100m-ipo-20180306-h0x48r
Carbon Revolution http://aamc.org.au/portfolio-items/carbon-revolution/