The first three industrial revolutions and their respective impact were recognised and interpreted in hindsight. Now, for the first time, establishing a new industrial revolution is seen as a purposeful endeavour. However, technological innovation essentially is – and has always been - continuous. So, the essence of Industry 4.0 might foremost be that it allows for a paradigm shift in thinking about technological abilities and their interrelations. Therefore, Industry 4.0 can hardly be captured in terms of strategy, purpose, guideline or directive. Rather, it allows industry and academia alike to purposefully take on challenges related to the efficiency with which technological and business processes are organised. For this purpose, the Industry 4.0 ‘toolbox’ almost bursts with an abundance of tools related to e.g. IoT, Big Data, Cyber-physical-systems, Digital Twins and many more. However, it is essential to recognise that such tools only add value in the hands of proficient engineers that use them to address the right challenges – with ample common sense. This is only possible if a company works towards actual and self-determined goals and then purposefully assimilates the appropriate (i.e. effective and efficient) elements from the Industry 4.0 armoury. After all, usually substantial investments and efforts are involved, while having significant repercussions on the company, its culture and on how it interacts with other companies. Consequently, actualising the envisaged benefits or added value might be a far bigger challenge than effectuating the technological highlights involved. Therefore, to outlive and to harness the fourth industrial revolution, engineers need to address the right challenges with the right mindset. Surely, the success of Industry 4.0 does not depend on bits and bytes, but on the common sense and creativity of the engineers that align smart tools and approaches with purposeful visions and objectives. This keynote therefore aims to challenge engineers to rely on their ability to fathom actual and relevant challenges and to address these with purposefully selected (or developed) tools and techniques, irrespective of the ‘Industry 4.0’ label they might or might not have.
26 Oct 2018
29th Annual Conference of the Southern African Institute for Industrial Engineering