This article was originally published in the Autumn 2018 issue of The Record.
Like it or not, Industry 4.0 calls for super engineers and it calls for high levels of education. In Germany, the term ‘Sitzfleisch’ is used for the ability to concentrate for long periods of time. There is little doubt in my mind that Sitzfleisch is an essential quality for super engineers.
Imagine someone who has a good understanding of physics, chemistry, mechanics, software development and artificial intelligence with a strong interest in music and astronomy and the personality of an inventor. Someone who can imagine how these technologies meet, how the virtual world can be replicated in the physical world, or the other way around.
This type of person is quite extraordinary – rather than having a specific area of specialist knowledge, they have more general scientific knowledge. An example would be Leonardo da Vinci, the ‘universal genius’. However, these types of people are few and far between – and having multiple experts working in teams is often a viable alternative. However, we absolutely need people who can see the whole picture, not just the big picture.
A super engineer has an important character trait: curiosity. An unquenchable curiosity with a feverish imagination. Too often today we think these heroes must become highly successful entrepreneurs, people like Bill Gates or Elon Musk. A super engineer can – and must – be protected from these entrepreneurial ideas: Sitzfleisch does not work when you are the middle point of a publicity storm.
For a super engineer, the quest for knowledge and realisation of ideas and dreams often involves solving burning issues. Issues such as cleaning up plastic waste or, even better, not creating it in the first place. Our super engineers must be nurtured and protected so they can practice their art.
As IT and operational technology (OT) merge, we can think about the tools needed for our super engineer. Reality calls and merging IT and OT needs toolsets. Both IT and OT people are already using Microsoft solutions – in fact, Microsoft tools such as C#, 365, SQL and Azure are already dominant on the shop floor. These tools are a great starting point for serious collaboration, but if you want to become the next Leonardo da Vinci, you need to do just as he did and get the right sponsor. This is where ATS can help. (da Vinci got the right sponsor, but ATS did not exist back then!)
Mike James is chair of the board of directors at ATS Global
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