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Engineers 4.0 ready for the revolution?

Álvaro Lleó: "Industry 4.0 is a reality and is bursting into our business ecosystem".

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Álvaro Lleó. PHOTO: Communication Service
27/05/19 10:58 Communication Service

We reproduce below the article published by Professor Álvaro Lleó in the magazine Nuestro Tiempo on Industry 4.0. Lleó is Professor of People Management at Tecnun-University of Navarra.

"That Industry 4.0 is a reality and that it is bursting into our business ecosystem is little disputed. It is enough to spend a little time searching Google to find more than four hundred million results on this phenomenon, to learn that the United States is going to invest around nine hundred billion dollars a year in the modernisation of its industries, or to find out about the thirty or so European initiatives that exist to finance digital transformations, such as the Spanish Government's Connected Industry 4.0 or the Basque Industry 4.0 promoted by the Basque Administration.

Although we do not yet have an unambiguous definition of this concept, the Spanish ministry specifies it by saying that "Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution that consists of the introduction of digital technologies in industry". There seems to be a certain consensus that Industry 4.0 is a broad framework that includes aspects such as data capture and analysis, autonomous robots, 3D printing, cloud computing and cybersecurity, among others. Along these lines, the consulting firm McKinsey summarises the technologies on which Industry 4.0 is built into four pillars: data generation, information analysis, human-machine interaction and, finally, the transition from the digital to the physical world.

As we clarify the content of this term, new questions arise for those of us in education: are we training tomorrow's engineers well, are our students able to work in 4.0 environments, will they be able to cope with the new problems that are appearing, will they be able to work in 4.0 environments and will they be able to deal with the new problems that are appearing in the future?

in today's industry and business? Focusing on this, we could ask ourselves: what competences should an engineer 4.0 develop, do our master's programmes take into account the needs that industries are demanding, what new knowledge, skills and abilities should we foster in the 21st century classroom? From the technical point of view, well-known aspects such as the definition and organisation of processes, programming or data transmission and processing technologies are gaining special importance. On the other hand, sensorisation, the design of graphic interfaces, artificial vision, augmented reality and the maintenance of electronic equipment are key in the new industrial environment. In addition, statistics is joined by the need to master data analytics technologies. And it seems to me that an essential field comes from the hand of information security.

But that's not all, because any change affects the people who have to implement it. Therefore, in addition to technical skills, we should also spend time thinking about what personal skills our students need to develop in order to become good 4.0 engineers. Adaptability to change and confidence in new technologies are two indispensable requirements to be able to immerse themselves in this growing reality.

No less important are all those qualities that have to do with personal relationships because, if we interconnect everything, the need for collaboration, multidisciplinarity and teamwork will become even more relevant. Finally, two other skills that are increasingly invoked are the ability to define new jobs and personal resilience because, if there is one thing we know about change, it is that it is uncertain and that we learn by trial and error.

It is not easy, but we cannot stand still. Technology is advancing, industry is progressing and, from the university, we have the challenge of training our students so that they can successfully enter this new reality. Those of us who are dedicated to teaching are faced with no small challenge: to rethink our educational offer in order to be able to affirm that we are training the 4.0 engineers that tomorrow needs".

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