We introduce you to our first post of our Blog-series talking about „The Engineers of the Future“. In this series, we uncover the complex and various work fields of engineers, offering a stage to these experts, who overcome those challenges every day. Following the series, we will introduce you to different engineers and their journey to creating the most astonishing products in this world. You will thereby gain a deep understanding of the product creation process and its boundless potentials.
Future challenges for engineers
by Guido Walter
This year marks the birthday of the fourth industrial revolution. It was ten years ago that Wolfgang Wahlster, Henning Kagermann and Wolf-Dieter Lukas first coined the term "Industry 4.0" at the Hannover Messe in 2011. The first industrial revolution symbolized mechanization with waterpower and steam power. The second brought mass production, assembly lines and electrification. The third was dominated by the usage of electronics and IT automated processes. The fourth and current phase merges industrial production with information and communication technologies. Machines equipped with sensors make all data recordable and mappable.
A revolution emphasizing on the value chain of every company that drives Industry 4.0, essential for the ones who keep everything running: The engineers.
Knowledge must be connected
Once the worlds of industry and information technology merge, jobs change with them. Mechanics and electronics merge. Processes are becoming more complex. Engineers must constantly expand their understanding of the digital product. Without IT expertise little will be possible in the future. Planning, manufacturing and maintaining of technical processes and products turn into something too complex. Not only machines intertwine, but also the knowledge of engineers cross-link. We need to pass the point in which misunderstood expertise and lengthy information procurement processes define the normal. Even today, engineers spend 20 percent of their time searching for information and 50 percent coordinating meetings.
The paradox of knowing everything and nothing at the same time
Today, the hassle of coordination and searching for information can be solved by intelligent systems. Once information is easily accessible and transparent to all stakeholders, engineers can start concentrating on the real challenges: Developing solutions for complex products, allowing them to be innovative. The difficulty of developing a product increases in the future. More pieces will have to work and connect, it takes the expertise of the engineer to keep track of all these steps. It seems a paradox: the individual knows everything and in some ways nothing. Engineers collect knowledge in one special discipline; however, the understanding of the bigger picture is missing.
Today every product is unique
In every modern company, the knowledge is spread into different apartments. Keeping an overview view over all these disciplines is impossible to execute even for a genius. Here intelligent systems take over. Today, almost every car has become a unique object, automated checks have become more complex. Daimler, for example, has responded to this new challenge with its "Factory 56".
Knowledge transfer through intelligent systems
The most important aspect of engineering in the future is a broad product and system understanding. Here German engineers have been great role models. The idea of Industry 4.0 started in Germany for the same reason. Even in other countries the word “Industrie 4.0” is still spelled in a German way. The gap between companies that produce AI and the companies which hold the knowledge of AI should be closed. It often is the wrong strategy for companies to set up their own AI departments. The engineers must keep being involved and responsible in questions about Deep Learning even if it seems to be the responsibility of AI experts. Similar to the motto: We are not computer scientists, we are engineers. Here again, we see an intelligent knowledge transfer through an intelligent system is helpful.
Humans have intuition
In the field of artificial intelligence, we need collaboration between AI experts and engineers. Without a deep process understanding, AI will not be successful in the industry. Until a robot develops such a comprehensive understanding through its AI, some time will pass. Wolfgang Wahlster, one of the founding fathers of Industry 4.0, says the following: Due to the way human perceives their environment and execute precise movements with their hands, they are vastly superior to any robot. Engineers make decisions based on data, accumulated knowledge thanks to their education, experience and even more important: Intuition. A robot will never reach this competence.
Understanding the product
This said, there is hardly a way to work without real engineers, they are indispensable. But they need tools to enable a better and smother working with digital and complex products. These required tools themselves must have a broader understanding of products. Such an intelligent system, which understands the product, is the key to better coordination and information processing. Following this path, it will be possible to join the entire engineering potential of a company and build sustainable and innovative products.