Opinion Piece: Industry 4.0 and the changing job landscape
The world as we know it is on the brink of a revolution, driven by emerging technologies that are set to fundamentally alter our lives in unprecedented and unanticipated ways. This shift to Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, hinges off the increasing pervasiveness of digitisation.
As machines become more ‘intelligent’ and capable of learning, they are able to perform more and more tasks that were previously not possible. While this opens up many possibilities, it also means that the job landscape will become a very different place. As machines take over many mundane, repetitive tasks, some humans who previously performed these tasks will become redundant. Organisations in general, and HR departments in particular, will need to re-examine the way resources are deployed, and potentially invest in new skills for jobs that currently do not exist.
Automation will make certain jobs redundant
While machines will never entirely replace humans in the workforce, there are certain jobs that will become redundant thanks to Industry 4.0. This has been the case for each industrial revolution, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution is no exception. As Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics advance, low-level jobs will inevitably be taken over by ‘machines’, which are capable of performing these tasks faster and with fewer errors.
Automation not only makes certain tasks faster, it also makes them more cost effective, particularly those in manufacturing. Take for example, the vehicle manufacturing industry, which has, with every Industrial Revolution become increasingly automated. Today, machines are responsible for the vast majority of the manufacture of the vehicles on our roads, which has made cars more affordable and more advanced, as well as safer and more standardised.
Unfortunately, while automation makes mundane, repetitive tasks easier, quicker and cheaper to perform, it also means that the people who previously did these jobs will be out of work. The potential for Industry 4.0 is also practically limitless, and it is impossible to accurately predict the changes that will come about. Organisations are now faced with the challenge of redeploying resources, and potentially acquiring new skills to cater for jobs that do not currently exist and cannot even be imagined at present.
New skills for a new workforce
While jobs will inevitably be lost to machines, others are also created in certain industries where products need to be customised. For example, in the car manufacturing industry, machines are designed to mass produce standardised components and cars. Labour is still needed for custom features and special touches outside of the standard vehicle features. In addition, humans will still typically be required to operate the machines as well as maintain and repair them. This means that new technology introduces new opportunities, which will in turn create new jobs. The challenge for organisations is to acquire the skills required to fulfil these new roles, and Temporary Employment Services (TES) can offer a solution.
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Utilising a TES provider can assist organisations with access to a large pool of potential workers with a broad range of skills and experience to meet varying requirements. TES provider’s continuously work to upskill employees to ensure that they can continue to provide effective service, no matter how challenging the employment landscape becomes. This means that workers acquired in such a fashion will be empowered to work far more effectively and with the required synergy and pace to achieve business requirements and technological demands.
From a local perspective
The world is clearly gearing up for Industry 4.0, and while a number of businesses in South Africa will follow suit, many will lag further behind this trend. The cost of mechanisation and socio-economic demands in South Africa mean that businesses may limit their mechanisation efforts, in turn minimising the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the country.
In terms of socio-economic pressures, government has a significant role to play in the limiting of mechanisation. For instance, job creation plays a major role in the allocation of tenders. Therefore companies seek to be seen as job creators, rather than to be in the news for large retrenchments.
Businesses who want to remain competitive where tenders are concerned, will elect not to mechanise and are therefore under pressure to increase the productivity of their labour force in order to remain competitive with the businesses that have mechanised. A TES provider may help tremendously in this regard to ensure organisations have access to the productive workforce they need in order to remain competitive.
A proactive approach is essential
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is imminent, and this means that everything is poised for change. Businesses are going to have to adapt, or risk becoming redundant. Taking a proactive approach to this changing business environment will serve organisations well in ensuring they are able to keep pace with change.
From a worker’s perspective, a proactive approach will also stand them in good stead. While certain jobs will be taken over by machines, there will also be a place for humans. However, the working environment is going to become far more demanding and it is going to require far more flexible workers who are well trained and are able to cope with the changing nature of this new, uncertain business world.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.