Written by Joanna Hughes

Sixty-five percent of children entering elementary school today will grow up to work in positions that don’t even exist today, according to the World Economic Forum. Spurring this transformation? Industry 4.0. Characterized by digitization and smart technology, this fourth industrial revolution is changing how we work with the need for a highly skilled workforce emerging as a top priority. And while keeping up presents unprecedented obstacles for organizations, equally unprecedented opportunities exist for those with the right leadership in place. Here’s a closer look at Industry 4.0, why it matters, what skills are needed for the workers of tomorrow, and how a degree in manufacturing automation and digital transformation can position aspiring business leaders to successfully navigate this evolving new reality.

What is Industry 4.0?

The manufacturing sector has undergone many transformations over the years. The first industrial revolution saw a shift to mechanization through water and steam power while the second ushered in the era of mass production with the introduction of the moving assembly line. Then there was the third industrial revolution, also known as the digital revolution, resulting from the inventions of semiconductors, computers, and the internet. 

Industry 4.0 is the natural next step, one that involves the “blurring [of] the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres,” according to Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and author of the 2016 book The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Perhaps Bernard Marr summed it up best for Forbes: “Industry 4.0 optimizes the  computerization of Industry 3.0.” 

In other words, while computers were initially disruptive because they introduced an entirely new technology, their vastly enhanced connectedness has changed the game again with the introduction of many different technologies, including cyber-physical systems (CPS), the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, cloud computing, and cognitive computing. 

Why Industry 4.0 matters

Through everything from autonomous equipment and vehicles to additive manufacturing (3D printing), Industry 4.0 has vast potential across many aspects of business, including:

  • Identifying opportunities

  • Increasing productivity

  • Optimizing logistics and supply chains

  • Improving business continuity

  • Better working conditions

  • Customization

  • Agility

Not all companies will reap the benefits of Industry 4.0. According to  MarkLogic, outcomes will rely on eight value drivers including resource/process, asset utilization, labor productivity, reducing inventory, quality, supply/demand match, time to market, and service/aftersales.

The number one value driver for all companies, meanwhile? Workers. “Companies are also grappling with how to upskill their current workforce to take on new work responsibilities made possible by Internet 4.0 and to recruit new employees with the right skills,” insists Marr.

Industry 4.0's impact on the workforce 

Indeed, the impact of Industry 4.0 on the workforce has profound potential. And while many people fear automation as a risk to employees, others see it as an avenue to job creation as it will free up employees from administrative tasks thereby allowing them to focus their efforts on better things. These positions will center around critical thinking and innovation. 

Stefanini’s Industry 4.0: A Complete Guide proposes, “Projections for the future labor market reveal the survival of companies and professionals depends on their ability to innovate and evolve. In the future, job requirements will focus on qualification, creativity, resilience, and the ability to work as a team.” Which brings us back to leadership. Hays Germany CIO Steve Weston insists leaders must be “responsive to the changes digital transformation brings to the workforce.” 

Indeed, leading global consultancy firm McKinsey & Company reveals the route to industry 4.0 is not easy and can be derailed by no clear vision, technical infrastructures which hinder or complicate progress, and no executive leadership of transformation projects. It highlights six points companies and business leaders need to adopt to make industry 4.0 a success -- the ability to: scale IT infrastructures; reach consensus in terms of data and analytics; change business management processes; connect from production to management (Manufacturing Execution System (MES)); analyse performance with KPIs; and co-operate in terms of business ecosystems. So, a lot to learn for business leaders of Industry 4.0!

Are you ready for Industry 4.0?

Indeed, while much remains unknown about Industry 4.0, at least one thing is for certain: the leaders of tomorrow will need unique knowledge and skills to navigate the path to business success. Enter the Executive Master in Manufacturing Automation & Digital Transformation (EMMA) at ESCP Europe in partnership with Comau, a worldwide leader in advanced industrial automation products and systems. 

This flexible, 12-month, part-time, English language program is designed to meet the needs of today’s global busy executives with at least eight years of professional work experience. Offering 260 classroom hours in two different countries (the UK and Italy) and 80 hours of distance learning, the EMMA comprises five, week-long modules with two core components -- Management and Technology -- for each. Early bird discounts and scholarships are available for all EMMA applicants. 

Participants in EMMA also have the opportunity to work on a real-life company project focused on their own company’s projects or other international projects. The programme offers a hands-on practical approach, facilitated by a combination of world-renowned faculty and industry practitioners. 

Giovanni Scarso-Borioli, Academic Director at ESCP Europe - London, says, “In a world where the CEOs of some of the largest global organizations are technology gurus themselves, there is increasing market demand both for managers to develop technological know-how, as well for engineers to grow their management and leadership skills. This is why we have created the Executive Master in Manufacturing Automation and Digital Transformation in partnership with Comau, which embraces our school vision.”

Industry 4.0 is here and with it comes massive change and promise -- for businesses helmed by people with the right knowledge and skills, that is. If you’re looking to become a more flexible thinker and effective leader in Industry 4.0, the Executive Master in Manufacturing Automation & Digital Transformation (EMMA) from ESCP Europe offers a unique opportunity for executives to advance their skills and be prepared for the fourth industrial revolution. 

Article written in association with ESCP Europe.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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