Industry 4.0 envisages a cyber-connected world in which manufacturing is automated and in which manual workers are proficient in IT, software, and data handling.
RWTH Aachen University, which starts offering the courses in April 2017, believes that advanced technical skills will make students stand out in the jobs market. With developments in technology revolutionising the workplace, today’s business execs need new skills in fields like robotics and computer programming.
Known for advocating the ‘smart factory,’ the Industry 4.0 movement emphasises the interconnectivity of objects and people through advances in computer engineering. The German government has long supported this computerisation of manufacturing, dedicating some EUR 470 million to research.
RWTH professor Tobias Meisen is set to lead a variety of classes on the school’s Cyber-Physical Systems and Intelligent Robotics (CPS-IR) programme, a professional education certificate comprising a variety of courses which touch on high-tech topics like Industry 4.0.
Meisen is head of the Institute of Information Management in Mechanical Engineering (IMA) at RWTH Aachen, and a seasoned computer scientist – computer programming was his first foreign language. He thinks that MBAs and other business students who gain extra technical skills will stand out in the jobs market.
What will the Industry 4.0 courses be like?
In an interview with BusinessBecause, Meisen said that the university’s Industry 4.0 courses are based on an interdisciplinary approach and provide a broad perspective on Industry 4.0 topics.
However, these courses cannot achieve sufficient depth in all areas. In the courses on cyber-physical systems and robotics, RWTH intensively addresses the main areas of these subjects and offer very practical access. The lecturers have several years of project experience and provide the exact information that is necessary now. Meisen says that:
As no distinct theoretical definition of Industry 4.0 exists, to offer practical experience on the teacher side is our key strategy. At the end of the course, our students will be problem solvers in the Industry 4.0 world.
What will students gain?
The courses are based on the necessary skills that today's students and employees, who are involved in development of Industry 4.0 environments, should have. This includes, on the one hand, basic knowledge of information and communication networks and protocols, such as OPC UA, DDS and MQTT and, on the other hand, topics such as big data infrastructures and analysis are addressed in further courses.
Another important topic is modern robotics. The students will learn how they can make use of the many opportunities which digitisation and Industry 4.0 provide for the production chains of the future.
Meisen says that employers expect today's graduates to be able to position themselves in the digitalised world and to contribute to the transformation of working environments towards Industry 4.0. The courses provide the foundation on which students and employees can rely in order to find their position in this vision and to be prepared for it.
The 21st-century workplace is changing
Meisen points out that the tasks of today's engineers are already extremely diverse and can hardly be described in an overall package. The classic "mechanical” engineer will not exist anymore. The production engineer must be multitalented and needs to have a profound production-technological understanding of engineering and IT-related topics.
Fields of application, such as project management, development, design or manufacturing, all of which are applied to production, span a wide range of associated activities. The aim of the courses is to prepare participants for this change and provide them with the necessary knowledge, Meisen concludes.