The ABCs of I4.0: What Technicians Need to Know about Incoming Technologies

Mariano Carreras, International Training Manager, SMC International • August 15, 2019

New technologies are emerging that are, or soon will be, a part of a technician’s day-to-day routine in manufacturing plants. One sweeping trend is that most of the new technologies are related to data—the ”fuel” that is driving processes. With improved data, we can make better decisions, so technicians need to be aware of how and why data is gathered, how data flows and what to do with it. Adoption of new technologies will vary according to the type and size of industry, of course, and the cost of equipment and training, but here are some that will change the role of the technicians interacting with them.

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Special Interest Group Hosts Forward-Looking Conversations to Address the Future of Work

Tiffiney Gray, Project Manager, CORD • August 9, 2019

Technology advancements associated with Industry 4.0—including more sophisticated automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning—present both the need and the opportunity to reimagine and retool technician training to meet the knowledge and skill demands of a rapidly-changing workplace. With support from the NSF Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, the Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work project convened a Special Interest Group comprised of industry leaders and technician educators at HI-TEC in St. Louis, Missouri. The project facilitated discussions between industry representatives and ATE leaders with a variety of expertise (e.g., advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, information technology, cybersecurity, etc.) to determine ways to actively prepare for the impacts of emerging technologies on the future of work and on the skilled technical workforce. 

The group’s discussions also underscored the need to significantly broaden the skill set of the 20th-century technician to cultivate the advanced technician of the 21st century. Discussions centered around three cross-disciplinary trends (identified by participants in earlier convenings) that represent knowledge and skills to be integrated as essential elements of STEM associate degree programs alongside traditional technical skills: data knowledge and analysis, advanced digital literacy, and business knowledge and processes.

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Leadership 4.0: People Development in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Thomas Lichtenberger, President and CEO, Festo Didactic 
May 21, 2019

When thinking about manufacturing in America, what comes to mind? Big data processing, cloud-based systems, advanced robotics, and artificial intelligence? If not, they should. The significance of these technologies cannot be overstated. Take AI for example. When used for predictive maintenance AI’s greatest value to manufacturing comes from predictive maintenance, yielding $0.5 trillion to $0.7 trillion across the world’s businesses.1 So this Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, has ushered in an unprecedented technological revolution, and with it, paradigm shifts that affect us all. The complexities and infinite possibilities of Industry 4.0 can be wondrous, and overwhelming. For many automation companies, it’s presenting a management challenge in terms of ensuring individuals, teams, and the organizational structure as a whole can adjust accordingly when new technology and software is introduced. 

In this fast-moving innovative environment, what is to be expected and what will be required from Industry 4.0 leaders? How should we adapt in what has been defined by Oxford Leadership2 as a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) environment? Radical changes in the work environment present a call to action to rethink and revamp our collective approach to leadership and organizational change.

Leadership 4.03, a relatively new concept, was designed as a blueprint for workforce adaptability in the Industrial Internet of Things era. It aims to harness the talents of individuals in order to maximize technological advancements. Fifty years ago, the average lifespan for most large companies was 60 years, today it’s 15 years. Advancing people development and closing the skills gap is becoming more urgent since leadership can make or break a company’s ability to adapt and remain agile amidst rising global competition, frequent market changes, and volatility.

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Whose Responsibility is Information Security, Anyway? And How Do We Address This in Our Future Education Programs?

Dawn Montemayer, Virtual CSO, CyberRisk Solutions • April 5, 2019

When I first started in Information Security, securing the environment was thought to be the Chief Information Security Officer’s responsibility. This, of course, was in the brick and mortar times, with limited functions being done through the internet. There were firewalls at the perimeter to keep the bad guys out. All of this has changed over the last few decades (I know I’m dating myself here!). With the proliferation of mobile technology, online services, and pretty much every business operating in multiple locations across the globe, there is no longer a true perimeter. This has given us an opportunity to rethink Information Security and how its principles should be taught within the educational programs of tomorrow.

To respond to the dynamics of an ever-changing environment, every person in the organization must understand their role in building and maintaining a secure environment. This means that at the core of information security, security awareness must be a living, breathing program in which the business and IT stakeholders can feed information back into the process in a meaningful way, thus creating a feedback loop. The feedback coming in should describe specific information on how controls can be implemented or enhanced in a more efficient way for the business unit’s specific area. Stakeholders need to address the level of risk present while maintaining or increasing the level of security in place.

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The Digital Transformation of Industries

Remarks by Mehran Gul, Lead for Digital Transformation Initiative
World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland

The following article by Madeline Patton provides an overview of a presentation by Mehran Gul to ATE Community Leaders on December 12, 2018.

At the inaugural meeting of the Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work project, Ann-Claire Anderson, principal investigator of the Advanced Technological Education project funded by the National Science Foundation, noted that “technicians are at the center of technological disruption,” but have so far not been the focus of the many scientists and consultancies looking at workplace changes.

To provide a global context for the ATE Leadership Caucus and the project’s ten-member industry advisory board, Mehran Gul, lead of the Digital Transformation Initiative at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, gave a 30-minute presentation about the digital transformation of industries. He also answered questions from the audience for 30 minutes afterward.

Historic Predictions vs. Reality

Gul began by sharing headlines from the past 100 years that predicted dire job impacts from machines. Given that those predictions did not match the realities that unfolded, he is skeptical about current predictions of automation eliminating jobs. Instead he expects “augmentation of human capabilities rather than substitution.” Referring to data on total employment growth since 1939 as evidence of “unequivocally upward progress,” he said the number of people employed and productivity have increased with the introduction of more sophisticated machinery in workplaces.

Sharing a new twist on the necessity being the mother of innovation adage, Gul said, “Invention is the mother of necessity. The more that we develop technologically, the more that creates needs that create more jobs that create more needs that create more jobs.” He observed that it’s easy to think about jobs that will be eliminated but difficult to think about what new jobs will be created by new technologies. It’s harder still to predict where the jobs will be. Historic data, however, indicate there will be more jobs from technological innovations.

“If you look at the past half century or so jobs have not become obsolete as a result of technology. And if you really think about it, the entire point of technological progress is to eliminate jobs that we find uncomfortable or undesirable for most people, and to really elevate humanity to do things that we actually like to do,” he said.

The “reallocation” of people to different parts of the economy in response to technological changes can be quite positive. For instance, he noted, in 1900 48% of the U.S. population worked in agriculture. Now just 2% of the U.S. population works in agriculture but produces more food than in 1900.

As an example of the unpredictable nature of automation’s impact he reminded the audience that ATMs were expected to replace bank tellers when they were introduced in the 1980s. The cash dispensing machines did drive down operating costs, and also contributed to banks’ expansion in more places. Fewer tellers staff each location, but there are thousands more tellers than before; their jobs involve forging relationships with customers and doing less routine tasks. Rather than the workforce shrinking, “people got redeployed in jobs they actually wanted to do,” he said.

Computer advances mean that routine jobs can be automated and fit into algorithms. But jobs that require manual dexterity, creativity, strategizing, and abstract thinking have not. So far the jobs of plumbers, hairdressers, and cooks have continued while the jobs of payroll clerks and law clerks have not. And while machines carry out routine tasks very quickly, they are not yet capable of non-routine tasks that require interpersonal interactions, adaptability, and common sense. For example robots currently install windshields on new cars in controlled factory environments, but it still takes a human to replace a broken windshield out in the world. So far computers are not as good as humans at operating in changing environments and doing unpredictable tasks like cleaning up shards of glass around the frame for it seal properly.

The reality that humans know more than they can describe and program into a computer, which is known as Polanyi’s Paradox, is a big issue in artificial intelligence. If scientists can overcome this paradox, and figure out how to teach computers tacit knowledge, Gul predicts a wider swath of jobs will be automated.

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