The best way to deal with Industry4.0? Focus on your human capital

  • Nations, education systems have to change way of thinking, of educating
  • Mastering the complexity in digitalization will be our most common challenge

Some data points from the FMM-MIER Business Conditions Survey covering 1H2019 that show Malaysian manufacturers are responding to Industry4.0.

It has been two months since I was given the responsibility to be conference chairperson of MTCE 2019 (MTDC Technology Conference and Exhibition) which is the anchor event of the Malaysian Technology & Development Corporation.

The immersive role over the two day conference and exhibition gave me a better insight into the challenges that not just Malaysian but international organizations face in gearing up to remain relevant and competitive in a world where technology is driving relentless change at a pace many of us struggle to keep up with.

I heard from a Siemens thought leader about how the industrial powerhouse was facing up to the challenges and opportunities thrown up by i4.0 or Industry4.0, which is specific to the manufacturing world.

And clearly he shows that the evolution from Industry1.0 to the current Industry4.0 has resulted in a higher degree of complexity in the manufacturing and production world.

And I know what you’re thinking right now. That the Siemens expert probably said AI was the best way to cope with this rising complexity, right? Wrong.

Actually, the best way to respond is by increasing the knowledge, the skills and the competencies of workers. As Zeki Aydan, Global Head of Education, Motion Control Systems Siemens puts it, human capital will be the biggest asset for industry to achieve the digital evolution where translating this into action means we have to change the way of thinking, change the way of educating and help lecturers to teach in context.

He uses the term lecturers, as Siemens focuses on vocational and university education as the main tool to equip human capital to be relevant in an Industry4.0 environment and where vocational training is perhaps even more important than university training when it comes to Industry4.0.

At the same conference, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) shared some current data from their half yearly Business Conditions Survey they conduct jointly with MIER (Malaysian Institute of Economic Research) which shows their manufacturer members are on the ball in recognizing the importance of upskilling and the link to increasing productivity and competitiveness. A full 74% of respondents have invested in training/upskilling initiatives for staff while 71% have upgraded their machinery with another 37% having increased their technical workforce. The accompanying chart above gives you a full breakdown.

FMM president, Soh Thian Lai, elaborated that most members have undertaken upskilling initiatives to strengthen their competitiveness while increasing automation is the primary focus of those implementing Industry4.0 strategies. Soh was reeling off tech buzz words like Industrial Internet of Things, Autonomous Robots, Cybersecurity, Data and Analytics and Cloud Computing as solutions that members have applied or are planning to in order to stay competitive and relevant in an increasingly competitive business world.

It was heartening to know that our FMM members are embracing the changes of Industry4.0, with strong support from various government programmes and enabling agencies such as MTDC, which have been pushing Industry4.0 awareness, education and upskilling drives since around 2015.  

Today, thanks to widespread media attention on the changes, the disruption and fears around Industry4.0, more people are aware of the stormy seas we are in now with real concern about job growth keeping governments, society and corporate leaders awake. And journalists like me to, wondering if the country and its business community is doing enough to master the complexity in digitalization, which Siemens’ Zeki, says, will be our most common challenge.

On that front, I am heartened by a recent conversation I had with a headmaster of a national secondary school who told me that the best way for students to learn today is by doing. Not surprising that the headmaster has many hands-on activities for students in her school telling me that an aquaponics garden they have teaches students about chemistry and physics.

The same headmaster showed a strong appreciation for vocational training as an equally viable career path for students instead of trying to force everyone to score high enough grades to get into university. Perhaps next year MTDC should have a panel of secondary headmasters talking about how they are changing the way they teach to ensure students are ready for their post-secondary education as they prepare to enter an Industry4.0 era of smart manufacturing.

And no matter what buzzwords are used, in the end it still boils down to human capital upskilling itself to be relevant in technology driven world. And it won’t be a waste if you marked down on your busy calendars to attend the 2020 edition of MTCE which has been fixed for July 14th and 15th!

 
 
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