IIoT Workforce Transition
Industry 4.0: Transform or Risk Extinction – Article 1 of 4
Amongst the multitude of things brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, two are certain: tremendous changes and the pressure to embrace them. With the rapid rise of technology transforming the way businesses are functioning, embracing Industry 4.0’s requirements seem inevitable. Within the manufacturing industry, this call to adapt is rushed by the fear of losing market place to competitors who might be able to offer more innovative products and services sooner. But what are these requirements, adaptations and changes brought by Industry 4.0? In this series of articles, we’ll explore 4 of them, starting with:
The increasing arrival of machines in the workplace concerns those who might associate this with unemployment. That’s not unreasonable. Humans have been -and will continue to be- substituted by machines that can perform certain tasks more efficiently and cheaper (despite the initial investment), apart from not being able to join unions, go on maternity leaves, or demand rights. You get the picture. But while it is true that technology has contributed to the loss of 800,000 jobs from 2001 to 2015, it has also helped create 3.5 million new ones during that same period, according to a Deloitte study1 in the UK.
So perhaps a more progressive approach to this digital transition is not to be scorned at. Assuming an optimistic view on the matter, the necessity for new roles is highlighted -Roles that will focus on our un-substitutable (so far) human abilities, such as sympathy, creativity, and the ability to think critically. MP Matt Hancock’s statement summarises this confident approach well: “We should automate work and humanise jobs. Let’s give the mundane to the machines and the purpose back to people” (Deloitte2). For the sake of embracing Industry 4.0 with hopeful excitement, let us call the rise of machines in the workplace an implementation of digital support.
The Skill Gap
But this digital support doesn’t come without its challenges. The workforce problem regarding the advent of Industry 4.0 doesn’t seem to be an increase in unemployment because humans are discarded as irrelevant by the advent of machines. Just the opposite: there is now an increase in demand for human workers, but specific ones, with skills and qualifications that are still hard to find.
Although this skill gap is not unique to the Manufacturing industry, it seems to be particularly problematic in this context, where unemployment is lower than overall civilian unemployment rates in the US, for example, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics1. And this might be explained by the fact that the people currently looking for jobs lack the technical and soft skills that are required by the open positions. To put it bluntly, manufacturers increasingly need more workers who can code machines to perform tasks, and fewer workers who can perform the tasks themselves.
An interesting IBM(1) publication points out to where Millennials stand in all this, since they compose a large share of the unemployment statistics. Having grown up in a digital world, surrounded by iPhones and tablets, has led them to technology-related jobs. But only recently have they started to learn that cyber security is not only crucial for the protection of their privacy, but also a possible career path. Young generations who were recently told that they should spend less time in front of the computer, are now being encouraged to embrace their technology savviness and use it as a way forward professionally.
This is by no means an indication that current workers are worthless if they can’t code or aren’t engineers. The current manufacturing workforce has different kinds of knowledge and skills that should be further developed and shared, and in the process, optimized. And this is only natural. Within a digital transformation process, no one is spared from constantly upskilling and re-skilling, regardless of age, experience, or job title. Future digital workers won’t be spared from this process either, as technological developments have the potential to go on forever – and we simply must keep up.
Current workers and future digital workers are already overlapping in the workforce. This requires an effort to adapt in all levels. Group dynamics are changing and will continue to develop, as roles we don’t yet know exist will soon become the norm. “In the coming years, perhaps sooner than later, almost all work will likely involve people working alongside technology or robots they are not currently working with today” Deloitte (3). Coping with this transition and adjusting business models requires cross-departmental training and collaboration. This doesn’t happen easily or quickly, but is achievable and necessary. Companies don’t tend to benefit from too much compartmentalization, and this is becoming always clearer.
Elliot Forsyth, VP of Business Operations at Michigan Manufacturing Technology Centre, emphasizes that our universal tendency to compartmentalize functions, especially in large companies, ends up segregating systems and creating different approaches to problems. This often results in negative outcomes. “A common strategy across the enterprise is need. From a technology standpoint, [systems] are already intertwined anyways, as big data and technology in general become more profound”, he concludes. Common strategies might improve, for example, current security solutions that are not aligned and don’t benefit the company as a whole, such as currently we see in problematic IT -OT connections.
Although adapting to Industry 4.0 seems like a drastic and urgent call to action, we must remember that it requires gradual changes, investment, and time. Preparing for it now, to adopt a long-term digital strategy, is the reasonable thing to do. When it comes to the shifts in the workforce, it’s also good to remember that ultimately, even though speaking of Industry 4.0 brings machines and robots to mind, it is humans we’re still speaking about. Therefore communication and collaboration are the key approaches. The lesson seems to be, once again, that technology expands boundaries, instead of creating walls.
Written by Paula Magal, Copywriter at Qatalyst Global and Technology Journalist for seQure World Magazine.
Join this conversation at ManuSec USA, the the 3rd edition of the Summit dedicated to Cyber Security for Critical Manufacturing, in Chicago this October 9th-10th 2018. Register today to save 50% on our last 10 passes remaining. Just use code MY10 upon registration.
Thank you, Elliot Forsyth, for your interview quoted in this article. Elliot will be at ManuSec USA along with other industry leaders discussing the industry’s critical challenges and debating best security practice guidelines.