6 Building Blocks of Industry 4.0 Education
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How and why should we be teaching students Industry 4.0?

In the fall of 2017, a white paper was published that changed the trajectory of technical education in the Midwest. “Teaching the Industrial Internet of Things: Preparing Students and Learners for Industry 4.0” recognized that the Fourth Industrial Revolution demands a response from education in equipping students for future careers in a world of constantly-progressing technologies.

The paper established six building blocks for Industry 4.0 education. Each of these building blocks is meant to be utilized at every level of education, from K-8 through high school and post-secondary education. Below is an overview of the six building blocks, extracted from the white paper.

Click here for the downloadable Building Blocks Infographic

Building Block 1 — Industrial Success Skills

Industry 4.0 is not a destination or end unto itself. Rather, it’s a systematic tool to continuously improve and drive waste out of their processes. For an individual to reach the workforce Industry 4.0-ready, they must have a basic understanding of the basic disciplines that underpin industrial success, including:

Building Block 2 — Industrial Equipment and Technology

Widely viewed as the world leader in CNC Controls and Automation for industry, FANUC has led the charge to an Industry 4.0 world. Mike Cicco serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of FANUC America. “It’s important that our people know how to write analytics to derive useful data,” Cicco suggested during his participation in our research, “but it’s equally important that that person has a deep knowledge of what manufacturing is in the first place.”

Cicco’s observation is astute. As industrial equipment collects more and more data about its own condition and performance, the need to discern usable and pertinent data from that which is not becomes vital. If the person performing analysis or creating algorithms does not understand the underlying industrial technology, their ability to perform such tasks will be severely deficient.

Building Block 2 is the understanding of the production and manufacturing equipment that underlie Industry 4.0.

Examples of such equipment and processes include Industrial Robotics, Machining, Extruding, Casting, Manual and Robotic Welding, Conveyors, Mechanical Drives, Mechanical Fabrication, Forging, Stamping, Forming, Molding and more.

Understanding basic manufacturing technology, such as AC/DC Electricity, Thermal Science, Pneumatics, Hydraulics, Fastening, Product Finishing, Materials and Metrology is also of great value.

Building Block 3 — Smart Sensors and Smart Devices

At the core of Industry 4.0 are Smart Sensors and Smart Devices. This technology gathers virtually infinite volumes of information about its own environment and then uses embedded intelligence to complete programmed functions before sharing the information with other systems and devices via computer networks and the Internet.

Smart sensors are an integral part of Industry 4.0 technology

Smart Sensors and Devices take a wide variety of forms and perform a wide variety of functions. Examples include vacuum sensors that detect the condition of vacuum pickup, ultrasonic height sensors, and current and pressure sensors.

Smart sensors can also measure and act on data pertaining to conditions such as temperature, proximity, the presence and levels of smoke and gas, fluid level, humidity, force, torque and acceleration.

In addition to his role as the president of Jeffersonville, Indiana’s skills-based, interactive technical learning provider Amatrol, Inc., Paul Perkins serves as Chair of the State of Indiana Workforce Innovation Council and on the National Governors Association of State Workforce Board Chairs.

Perkins’ company is a leader in delivering IIoT learning systems and he believes that a student’s knowledge must expand beyond a simple understanding of smart sensor and device types. “It’s really giving students the opportunity to experience working with each type of data, including analog data, discrete on/off data, position, torque, pressure and more so they understand how to embed data in the device and how to retrieve it,” says Perkins.

Building Block 4 — Control Systems

Industrial Equipment and Technology perform the work of manufacturing: machining, forming, extruding and molding materials into usable products. Smart Sensors and Devices monitor the process of doing so and provide direction and feedback to the process, and Control Systems oversee the processes. Functioning in real time to control the entire manufacturing process, these systems serve as the brain of each operation.

To be prepared for an Industry 4.0 world a student’s understanding of these systems is imperative and should include an aptitude in the following:

Building Block 5 — Connectivity and Networking

If Control Systems are the heart of Industry 4.0 then networks carry the lifeblood. Industrial networking isn’t anything new — Industry 3.0 was full of industrial computer networks. What changes in an Industry 4.0 world is the increasing use of Internet Protocol in the overall system or “Fieldbus”. As industrial equipment is increasingly internet connected a wide range of issues arise.

Industry 4.0 technologies are connected via wireless and smart devices

Cisco claims the spot as the worldwide leader in IT and Networking and Brian Tantzen is the General Manager of the company’s Connected Industry and Manufacturing Business Unit. Also leading the formation of Cisco’s Industries Product Group which drives engineering and cloud applications for Cisco’s industry and IoT products and solutions across multiple vertical markets, Tantzen participated in our research.

“The big opportunity for the future are the people who can do both [Operational and Information Technology],” says Tantzen. “Cisco is providing factory networking, security and training for the move from proprietary systems to IP-based systems and working to bridge these two worlds together.”

As these two systems converge students will require greater understanding of the computer networks that carry the data produced by smart devices and control systems. This understanding must include learning multiple technologies, including Network Servers, Distributed Servers, Routers, Switches, Gateway Devices, Ethernet, Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus, Wireless Communication, Linking Technologies and Multi-User Applications.

Perhaps an industrial company’s most significant anxiety at the advent of Industry 4.0 is the idea of connecting all of its manufacturing intellectual property to the internet. The very intrinsic value of many such companies lies in the processes and systems used in manufacturing their products and the risk that this property could be stolen is of grave concern.

Concerning also is the risk of a supply or manufacturing system interruption resulting from the introduction of a virus or ransomware into an industrial company’s computer network. As Tantzen puts it, “Network Security is one of the barriers to implementing Industry 4.0 technology. There is a growing wave of attacks in factories and catastrophic risk they could be facing as a result. Factories were intentionally built to be air gapped and now we’re connecting them.”

For these reasons a student’s appreciation for and working knowledge of network security tools and appliances is imperative.

Building Block 6 — Inform-Actionable© Data

It’s a made-up word but it fits perfectly. More data was created in the last two years than was created in the last 5,000 years of human existence. For many industrial companies one challenge of Industry 3.0 was a lack of data. As companies embarked on continuous improvement projects many lacked the necessary information to perform analysis, draw conclusions and take action.

Understanding Informactionable data allows for more efficient processes in an Industry 4.0 environment

With the presence of smart sensor and smart device technology, and the resulting nearly infinite abundance of data, the problem in Industry 4.0 will quickly become not the absence of data but way too much of it.

Individuals possessing the skills and knowledge necessary to analyze data and prescribe corresponding action will be of absolute necessity in the era of Industry 4.0.

As FANUC’s Cicco noted, “[In a connected environment] the amount of data pouring out of a piece of industrial equipment at any given time requires new analytics on an ongoing basis. Some data is important to some and other data is important to others. Finding people who can sift through the data is really important.”

In addition to analyzing data, a student’s ability to write the analytics, the computerized analysis of industrial information and data, will be highly valued. Not that every individual moving to an industrial employer will need to possess this skill, but, as Cisco’s Tantzen shared with us, there will be a considerable role for data scientists with an aptitude for statistics, regression analysis, lightweight programming and familiarization with SQL, SSAS and R.

Finally, students will require a working knowledge of cloud-based production control and an understanding of how production data, gathered using Industry 4.0 technology, is utilized to manage an entire industrial enterprise.

Of all the building blocks, Block 6 is perhaps the most challenging to align with a student’s educational needs. As Operational Technology and Information Technology continue their convergence the point at which one leaves off and the other begins will become increasingly blurry and eventually overlap. Thus the need to ensure that, at each level of education and in each educational program, the importance of inform-actionable© data and the processes by which it is gathered and acted upon is communicated and understood.


Let’s put this into practice

Now that we’ve broken down Industry 4.0 into basic building blocks, it makes it a lot easier to implement a training program or course that takes learners through each step. That’s exactly what we do at LAB Midwest: we work directly with schools and businesses to provide the consultation, equipment, curriculum and training so you can teach your learners Industry 4.0.

Fill out the form if you’re ready to talk about how this could look like in your program.

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