Monday, March 05, 2018

Industry 4.0 - challenges and implications to education - NZ context

The term Industry 4.0 was coined in Germany around 2011. It has roots in the manufacturing industry and the term is based on societies move into the 4th industrial revolution. First one being the use of water power and steam to drive machines, second the shift into mass production and the use of electricity, and the third being the info. tech. computer and automation revolution. The fourth industrial revolution is premised on 'smart technology' with the leveraging of AI and robotics, the internet of things (IoT) and integration across machines and devices.

The principles driving Industry 4.0 are interoperability, information transparency, support of human work by cybernectic / cyberphysical systems, and decentralized decision making (i.e. AI).

In NZ, Callaghan Innovation convened a meeting of industry leader to discuss the impact of Industry 4.0 on NZ manufacturing and wider industries. Industry 4.0 is envisaged eventually to encompass all aspects of manufacturing across the supply chain. For example, NZ primary industries have been working for many years on a 'farm to fork' system to better meet customer needs but also to maintain sustainable practices. Industry leaders across NZ have had many occasions to catch up the implications to their businesses - including this article (2015) and this conference on the internet of things. (2017).

The impacts on education are many. Firstly, there is the push towards STEM as Industry 4.0 hinges on the interface and interconnections between machines, materials and digital technologies. However, understanding the implication to humans, the society at large and being able to see the big picture, requires a high degree of critical thinking. The humanities need to be proactive in representing the 'human' in how industry 4.0 evolves. Secondly, there is the need for all to understand the promises and possible threats of IoT, in particular, the pervasive effects across future lives. Education needs to prepare people for collaboration not only with others but to include 'non-human' entities. Included is the need to be able to work across a networked world, whereby cultural competency includes others who view the world with different perspectives. Thirdly, there is a need to help all individuals become savvy about how to proceed in a world which changes rapidly and where 'careers' across a lifetime, shift constantly. This NZ Herald 2016 article calls for the need to prepare 'kids' for the robot revolution and recommends an optimistic approach to meeting the surge of change. As the new Minister of Education announces reforms in the NZ education system, it will be important to contribute to the discussion as this is a crucial time for how countries shift their education systems to cope with the challenges of Industry 4.0.

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