on July 12th, 2021

Almost a decade ago, the opening ceremony at the London 2012 Olympic Games showed the world a recreation of Britain’s industrial revolution in spectacular fashion. As cameras panned over the Olympic Stadium and factories sprouted out of thin air, the rapid evolution of the industry was illustrated to 900 million people.  

The mesmerizing feat in many ways was an astute display to show how quickly and effectively the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) will evolve. Occurring amidst an extreme technological advancement, Industry 4.0 is likely to be bigger, better, and bolder than any revolution before.

What Is Industry 4.0?

Simply put, Industry 4.0 is seeing the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) controlling physical aspects of industry. Essentially the world will be digitized and industry operations and the like can be controlled through technology.

Man working on robotic arm for manufacturing

From a student’s perspective, Industrial engineering curriculum in Industry 4.0 in a South African context presents how technologies play a role in bettering processes.

Cyber-physical systems, connected to the world through software, sensors, machines, and communication technologies can monitor physical processes. Doing so creates a virtual copy of the world, where decentralized decisions can be made.

This digital copy of the world is interactive and runs side-by-side with human development, it acts on decision-making and offers boundless real-time information that could even predict failures.

Industry 4.0 at its core reduces downtime and predictions, it allows the industry to run smoothly and effortlessly.

So Where Do Engineers Fit In?

The short answer is everywhere. From creating machine components to perfecting signals and systems for Industry 4.0, engineers are the most valued workforce that has aided the build-up to the latest Industrial Revolution for years.

According to An Overview of Industry 4.0: Definition, Components and Government Initiatives, there’s three main components where engineers play a substantial role including:

Horizontal integration: Here corporations cooperate and also compete with each other to drive efficient production systems. While firms could compete to get the biggest contracts, the value of their research and new developments should be shared within the engineering field.

Vertical integration: Basically, engineers should drive a highly flexible production line where hierarchal subsystems within that line are achieved.

Engineering integration: Here the previous two components are in place and there is a complete system that is recognized everywhere.

For the driving success of Industry 4.0, knowledge need to be shared for efficiency as well as growth. For specific industries like manufacturing, Industry 4.0 will play a crucial role in creating self-organizing and dynamic control within an organization.  

This future scenario will see an industry that is characterized by a new level of controlling, organizing, productivity and flexibility. This autonomy will encapsulate what Industry 4.0 is all about, interconnectedness.

Industry 4.0 From a Global Engineering Perspective

While Industry 4.0 is already taking effect, the problem for many engineers will be the readiness of the world to have systems in place globally. Multinational corporations or engineering think tanks have to look at the shortfalls of the new revolution.

India is a burgeoning country, and the paper Developing an Industry 4.0 Readiness Model for Indian Engineering Industries looks at certain challenges under a microscope.

Industry readiness is all about how organizations will utilize 4.0 technologies and be able to instantly adapt to several changes. Location and the type of industry have specific challenges, as do socio-economic factors.

In India, enough or a strong internet connection could halt the process, so first, there would need to be a complete overhaul that addresses connectivity to ensure Industry 4.0 is implemented without hiccups.

For Indian engineering industries, the huge initial investment is a challenge, and while it is estimated that Industry 4.0 will have enormous benefits for the sub-continent, first government, trade unions, and a lively workforce will also need to be aboard.

Engineering is a big business in India and accounts for a total of 27% of all factories in the country. On top of that, an estimated 63% of foreign collaborations are within the Indian engineering industry. The same industry is also the largest exporter. There’s also a key difference between heavy and light engineering sectors in India, and heavy engineering makes up an estimated 80% of engineering practices.

With this, India is trying to achieve a high global position in the world, which currently sits at 1.2%. For the country to achieve this, Industry 4.0 in engineering is crucial.

Physical infrastructure to house Industry 4.0 technology, high energy costs, high-interest rates, and even un-funded tax benefits all halt the evolution of Industry 4.0 in India.

While these challenges exist, however, engineers are working on solutions through education.

Education First, Then the Industry

Ensuring a successful transition into Industry 4.0 across the world will require highly skilled consultants and employees to make joint optimization of human and technical systems a success.

EIT student on computer with Moodle login displaying

Traditional engineering education needs need to change. The paper The Relationship between Industry 4.0 and Education estimates that 35% of skills and competencies have changed, and traditional formal education is not meeting the requirements to provide a workforce that can thrive in the paradigms of Industry 4.0. The paper states clearly that students can’t prepare for the future with linear knowledge-based education.

Prioritizing skills development and competencies in critical thinking and alternative problem solving will be the differences that ensure future engineers will be able to work in, know, and rise above Industry 4.0.

The Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) offers groundbreaking education in the field of industrial automation and our 100% online courses are ready for you to study from anywhere in the world.

EIT’s programs are designed by an international body of industry experts, ensuring you graduate with cutting-edge skills that are valued by employers around the world. Our program content will remain current with rapidly changing technology and industry developments.

Start Your Industry 4.0 Journey

Dr. Akhlaqur Rahman is presenting a free webinar on July 29 on the future of manufacturing that is supported by innovative Industry 4.0 technologies.

As more manufacturing industries adopt such an advanced automated mode of technology, engineers working in this sector will need to understand the systems and processes that will lead to more 'digitization' in the manufacturing space.

Join the free webinar here.

References

Sackey, Samuel & Bester, Andre. (2016). Industrial engineering curriculum in Industry 4.0 in a South African context. South African Journal of Industrial Engineering. 27. 10.7166/27-4-1579.

Tay, Shu & Te Chuan, Lee & Aziati, A. & Ahmad, Ahmad Nur Aizat. (2018). An Overview of Industry 4.0: Definition, Components, and Government Initiatives. Journal of Advanced Research in Dynamical and Control Systems. 10. 14.

Sony, Michael & Aithal, Sreeramana. (2020). Developing an Industry 4.0 Readiness Model for Indian Engineering Industries. International Journal of Management, Technology, and Social Sciences. 5. 142-153. 10.47992/IJMTS.2581.6012.0110.

Beke, Eva. (2020). The Relationship and Interaction Between Industry 4.0 and Education. Műszaki Tudományos Közlemények. 13. 36-39. 10.33894/mtk-2020.13.03.

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