Šį ketvirtadienį, gegužės 17 d., įvyks trečioji ketvirtajai pramonės revoliucijai skirta tarptautinė konferencija „Pramonė 4.0. Pridėtinės vertės kūrimas“. LINPRA, „Infobalt“ ir Vokietijos-Baltijos šalių prekybos rūmų organizuojamame renginyje patirtimi dalinsis užsienio specialistai ir Lietuvos įmonių, jau pradėjusių permainas, atstovai: kaip neišvengiamiems pokyčiams turėtų pasiruošti tiek įmonių darbuotojai, tiek ir jų vadovai, nuo ko pradėti ir kokių konkrečių žingsnių imtis, kad ketvirtoji pramonės revoliucija neliktų vien tik popieriuje. Vienas iš pranešėjų – DS SOLIDWORKS Generalinis direktorius GIAN PAOLO BASSI dar iki konferencijos pasidalijo savo įžvalgomis apie nykstančias ribas tarp realaus ir skaitmeninio pasaulių, globalias tendencijas, pokyčius darbo rinkoje, švietimo sistemoje, verslo organizavime bei inovacijų svarbą. Kviečiame skaityti visą interviu (anglų kalba) ir išgirsti daugiau konferencijoje.
4th Industrial Revolution – blurring the lines between the digital and the real
In the past, there were three industrial revolutions – Steam, Science and Digital Technology – and right now a revolution is happening again, for the fourth time. There is no shortage of enthusiasm and non-stop talk about the 4th Industrial Revolution; or as our interviewee Gian Paolo Bassi, CEO of Dassault Systemes’ SOLIDWORKS, would rather call it – the Industrial Renaissance. Why is it a Renaissance rather than a Revolution? Because during a revolution something is always lost, while a Renaissance is an era of innovation, where humans are at the centre of the action. Some fear does exist that automation and the developing technologies could take over people’s jobs and stability; however, G. P. Bassi believes to the contrary that automation has the potential to simplify or eliminate a number of tasks rather than entire jobs, so that technology will help people to do their jobs by making them easier. These technological changes are inevitable, and as we are living in very competitive world, every business must continuously work to create innovations in their business processes and to accommodate the changes.
There are significant changes occurring in terms of technology, manufacturing, design and in almost every other area related to digitalisation and 4th Industrial Revolution. Could you name some of the most significant changes that we will be seeing soon?
I think there are four significant changes that will occur in relation to the 4th Industrial Revolution. The first one is ‘The Age of Experience’. Designing and manufacturing will start to focus more on the products and services that deliver a superior experience, rather than a set of functionalities, and this includes connecting all products with real time data collection and feedback to constantly monitor the customer experience and expectations, and to adapt in real time to the changing requirements.
The second change is ‘mass customisation’. Higher flexibility in the production processes will lead to what I call mass customisation, which is a movement away from the mass production that we see today. People want to own unique things, and we can already see today the proliferation of online, on-demand product configurations. For instance, you can order cars with an increasingly large and customisable array of features and finishes. This will evolve into the real time manufacturing of all types of goods. We are already seeing a huge impact in health care, where custom implants are being designed and manufactured for each patient based on MRI 3D data, with documented better clinical outcomes.
Third, we will begin to see circular economies. Manufacturing will be more decentralised, and this means that circular economies will be possible. Circular economies are those that produce locally the goods and products that are consumed locally, and this is already in the radar of developing countries like Rwanda and Bhutan.
And finally, there will be the invention and use of new materials. New manufacturing technologies, like the several varieties of 3D printing, will make it possible to create innovations in the material sciences, and this has the potential to extend to new synthetic bio-materials.
In every Industrial Revolution throughout history, there always has been some level of uncertainty about people’s jobs; however, there has always been work that needs to be done by a person. What about now – what do these changes hold for the future of the labour market and for people’s experiences in it? Are the technologies a threat; or is it the contrary?
New technologies and automation have been affecting people and societies since the dawn of civilisation. I think that the very definition of civilisation is the progressive march towards the means and methods that will improve life for everybody. We could say that the overall the march of progress has brought more good than harm. However, today less people live in poverty, health calamities like widespread epidemics are pretty much a thing of the past, and food production techniques have the potential to reduce hunger on a wide scale.
In more practical terms, ‘yes’ some jobs will disappear, or will become less necessary; for instance, bank clerks are largely being displaced by ATM machines. On the other hand, there is a greater need for competent financial advisors. New opportunities will also emerge. A few years back, jobs like social media communication experts or big data analysts were unheard of.
There was a very interesting McKinsey research report published on the impact of automation on jobs in North America (it is widely documented online), which pointed out that automation has the potential to simplify or eliminate a number of tasks rather than entire jobs, and this potential is very much spread across all income level and job roles, from food processing employees to CEOs (I can certainly relate to these findings!). In the same report, it was found that only 4% of tasks truly rely on the most human and non-automatable assets: emotional intelligence, creativity and imagination. Today, we are still facing enormous problems: congested cities, a housing crisis, exploding costs of healthcare and education. Too many people are still lacking basic needs like food, shelter and safety, while we also have a looming energy crisis and constant pressure to secure scarce resources, as well as the problem of climate change. We certainly need to have more people dedicated to working on solving these problems, and to do that we need to democratise two things: knowledge and tools. People with the knowledge and the tools to realise their dreams will surprise us with the innovations they can come up with, which will make everybody’s lives better.
Actually, I often see many examples of amazing innovations among our customers. For example, Blokable is a manufacturer of modular and highly energy-efficient houses that could likely help alleviate the housing crisis that we are seeing in so many communities. Freight Farms is also worth a mention. They have invented automatic hydroponic mini-farms that can be housed in a discarded freight container. The yield of each mini-farm is equivalent to two acres or more, making it possible to grow food very close to the consumption site and in unfavourable environments. And last but not least is Boom. This is a small team that is reinventing supersonic commercial aviation, to make travel much more convenient and to shorten the distances between people. Today, design and simulation tools for complex aircrafts are very much accessible to everyone.
To be able to move forward in the development of technology, education is a key element. What is the role of higher education institutions in fostering all the abilities and knowledge needed in students and our future professionals? What should the higher education institutions be doing?
Yes, education is a key element, and all societies must expand what we call the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects at all levels. Today, this is not confined to higher education, as there are amazing initiatives underway even at the high school level like the FIRST Robotics competitions, where students can design and build very capable robots to perform highly complex tasks. I think that education in STEM is also the responsibility of commercial enterprises. For instance, Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS has always been involved in education initiatives. In addition to providing our tools to schools from any background at very affordable rates, we are working with teachers to build the right curriculums for a variety of courses. We train the educators and maintain a certification programme to test and keep everybody’s skills up-to-date in the fields of design to manufacturing, and we also have a very large library of online training courses, part of which are available to everybody.
Even though there will be always some cautious and prudent CEOs and leaders, do you think that digitalisation and the growth of technology are unavoidable, and that every industry will eventually accommodate these changes? Why is this so?
Even cautious and prudent CEOs must continuously develop innovations in their business processes, as today we are living in a very competitive world. We live in an era of constantly increasing expectations, global competition and ruthless online scrutiny of products and services. Digitalisation can make the companies more agile and shorten the distance to their customers. Not long ago the mantra was the ‘time to market’, but now the catchphrase is increasingly becoming the ‘right to market’ – which means a company really needs to understand what its customers need and want and deliver this very quickly. Digitalisation and connectivity will be a tremendous help in this direction.
What do businesses and entrepreneurs need to do, and what do they need to change in order to achieve all the goals and technologies we are talking about when we discuss the 4th Industrial Revolution?
I think we need to constantly educate ourselves, to create a “Chief Innovations Officer” role (seriously!) and to tolerate failure, meaning they need to experiment often, as this will cause them to fail fast and learn faster. The agility of organisations and their tolerance to failure is the key to success. I read somewhere that some Google products did not last for more than a day on the marketplace.
Are there any risks involved in the 4th Industrial Revolution?
By their nature, revolutions are not gentle, and somebody is always left behind. Something precious may be lost, and this is why we prefer to talk of an Industrial Renaissance. The Renaissance was an era of incredible innovations, both in art and technology; but the true novelty of this time period was that humans were at the centre of the action. This is clearly reflected by the paintings of the era and by the emergence of a new class of merchants and artisans. Let’s not forget that the printing press was invented in the fifteenth century, and it is likely the most important innovation of the millennium because it made knowledge so much more accessible.
I think that the risks involved in automation and new technologies can be mitigated by a parallel increased access to knowledge and tools, and in this way we can really transform a revolution for a few into a Renaissance for everybody.
You have been working in the 3D, CAD and PLM industries for over 25 years, and now you are a CEO at Dassault Systemes SolidWorks. How has this industry changed over time? I know it’s not an old industry, but maybe even the industries which began along with the 4th Industrial Revolution are having to adapt and change over time?
The innovations that have taken place in our industry, just like the invention of the printing press, are among the engines of the digital transformation that is at the core of Industry 4.0. We benefit from and rely upon the dramatic shifts taking place in information technology: the ubiquitous computing industry, the mobile–cloud convergence, and the growing availability of large bandwidths. The result is that our industry is progressing from one that is composed of isolated solutions to a truly integrated multi-disciplinary approach, where for instance mechanical, electrical and electronic designs are converging on the same platform. We are making sophisticated multi-scale simulations available to every designer, and by doing so we are blurring the boundaries between the digital and the real, and between bits and atoms to the point that we will be able to easily go from bits to atoms (and vice versa) at the click of a button, as was famously said by Prof. Neil Gershenfeld, Director of the Centre for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with whom we are collaborating. We are also supporting a new trend in our society where there is a lot of interest in personal fabrications. The FabLab movement, which is also a creation of the Centre for Bits and Atoms of MIT, is an example of this trend where design and manufacturing tools really need to be adapted and simplified for mass adoption.
What is Dassault Systemes trying to create and achieve? It’s obvious that the corporation is trying to help businesses create new things in order to accelerate innovation, but how is this achieved?
Our stated mission is to ‘Inspire Innovation’. You are right: today, our customers don’t ask for more productivity as they did in the past, but instead ask for more innovations. What we are doing in order to help them be more innovative can be summarised in two words: integration and automation. Integration means simplifying and closing the knowledge gap, by bringing multiple designs in the manufacturing disciplines together in the simplest possible way; for instance, by combining mechanical and electrical designs, as mentioned previously. Automation is about massively leveraging the use of simulations to help engineers make the right decisions, and it is also about using the power of Machine Learning to reduce the need for repetitive tasks. Let me give you an example: designers often need to document their design decisions in drawings, and they need to write down the dimensions and tolerances neatly on a sheet of paper. We now believe that it is possible to automatically analyse the patterns that many designers follow in creating this kind of documentation and to automate most of these processes.
Interestingly, one of our customers said that our platform (it is called the ‘3DEXPERIENCE platform’) could deliver to every engineer the brain power of hundreds of scientists, and this is actually what we are trying to achieve through integration and automation.
Do you believe that adaptation of innovations could be the key for businesses to successfully take advantage of and use the new technologies?
Innovations don’t happen in a vacuum, so ‘yes’ continuous adaptations are actually necessary for the innovations to become breakthroughs. The businesses need to develop a culture of continuous innovation. There is much talk about ‘design thinking’, but design as a discipline is about exploring and experimenting to make the impossible possible, and failure is an inevitable part of this process. I love a quote from Thomas Edison: when he was asked why he failed thousands times before successfully inventing the light bulb, he answered that he didn’t actually fail, he just successfully found one thousand solutions that didn’t work!
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