New professions develop with new business opportunities
The role of the worker in an industrial environment is changing at a rapid pace. There is a large array of new requirements and skillsets that the modern industrial workforce has to adopt to, in order be able to orient themselves in the digital environment of the future, says Martti Mäntylä, Professor of Information Technology at Aalto University.
Many tasks are becoming more oriented towards information work. The changing role of the industrial worker can be compared to that of a prosumer – a consumer that both creates and consumes media content. For the client companies, the information the worker provides can offer valuable insight in how to develop their business. At the same time the worker requires more information to be able to conduct the increasingly digitized tasks.
The education offered by schools must move towards a T-shaped profile, meaning that on top of the specialization one might have, there’s also the need to have a general knowledge of the whole process one might be involved in. This same development can be seen in all branches of education concerning the Industrial Internet.
“We do not have a one-size-fits-all solution for how the education regarding the industry of tomorrow will look like, but as the Industrial Internet is largely an intersectional phenomenon, it is of importance for the students of industrial processes to have a good overview of how the whole process will be affected”, Mäntylä says.
A rise of new professions
According to Mäntylä, digitalization might breed new professions, for example in the field of data quality and collection. One of the new tasks might involve adding value by analyzing the collected data.
“Whatever the task is, there is an added element of creating data and creating additional value through information work”, Mäntylä says.
A large part of the value creation comes in the form of documentation. This practice brings the data to the use of other related systems, and improves the quality of the manufacturing process.
Several companies have appointed a person to be in charge of the digital transformation of their operations. The position, being relatively new, includes a wide variety of different responsibilities and tasks. According to Mäntylä, appointing these digital or data officers is a way that companies aim to find a direction and lead the ongoing change.
“The changing role of the industrial worker can be compared to that of a prosumer – a consumer that both creates and consumes media content.”
“They also aim to empower and network agents on different levels of organizations, and systematically create the needed stimuli for developing the Industrial Internet”.
There is still a notable amount of work to be done, especially in researching the possibilities of the Industrial Internet, and closing the gap between hypothetical possibilities and the concrete targets that companies wish to reach. At the moment one of the more common ways of proceeding for companies is collecting and comparing different cases to figure out in which direction the field is developing.
The added value comes from information
For B2B companies, one of the significant changes has been in the way they’ve had to view their businesses, and shift the focus from products to services. For example, a client might not actually want to purchase a complete welding system, but instead the “product” they wish to have is a guarantee of good welding seams. The added value for the company now offering this service is generated from gathering more data, which is then used to further assist the client in, for example, certifying their welding seams. It may also come from improving quality control, traceability or anything else based on the needs of the client.
“There needs to be a change of perspective, from a B2B approach to thinking about the client of the client. This change is visible in the processes, which utilize a more co-development based approach”.
Another new way to improve processes comes in the form of hackathons. They are an excellent way for an organization to discover what sort of new possibilities digitalization enables for its business. Some of the ideas that come up in hackathons might not fit the current agenda of the companies organizing them, but it is a great way to see the variety of possibilities offered.
“On top of the solutions developed during these events, hackathons offer insight on the type of valuable complementary knowledge there is to be found from outside of the organization. Still, for many companies, there is a threshold in taking extra-organizational personnel on board in developing the companies’ digital toolkits”, Mäntylä says.
One thing that the hackathons aim at, is utilizing information in new ways. This is also what will happen to the roles of many industrial workers. For them, the new solutions regarding IT, maintenance and services will surely have a noticeable impact on how they perform their tasks in the future. That is why schools must adapt a broader view of what it means to work in an industrial environment in the future.
Martti Mäntylä works as Professor of Information Technology at Aalto University
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