Digital Transformation Opens the Door to Upskilling
Published on : Monday 10-08-2020
Manufacturers should take current work from home scenarios to encourage training for their personnel on the latest digital instrumentation and control technologies, asserts Jonas Berge.
Digital transformation, often called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, is taking place all around us, in society and in manufacturing facilities – anywhere that IIoT technologies, software, services and expertise are used to expand digital intelligence, augment workflows and create new efficiencies that affect cultural and behavioural change within a company. Whatever you call it, jobs are changing, and workers are looking for ways to upskill. This latest wave of innovation has brought more instrumentation and control (I&C) software and hardware into plants, and with it a need to pick up new skills to get the most out of the technology. As the industry makes the transition from manual, paper-based procedures to automatic, digital, data-driven workflows, there will be an ever-greater demand for engineers and technicians specialising in everything from industrial grade sensors and actuators to high- security networks, hazardous area protection methods, corrosion management, plant maintenance and reliability, process control, and so on.
True digital transformation happens when real change is affected within an organisation. It’s a change that’s sparked by rethinking and optimising processes and by empowering personnel with the knowledge and tools to do their jobs more effectively. When this happens, a company can achieve measurable performance improvements in areas such as production optimisation, reliability, safety and sustainability. These are critical to operations, and real performance improvement in these areas can help a company maintain its competitive edge and drive long- term health and profitability. This is accomplished with technologies and services that help personnel shift from routine activities like data collection to acting on the recommendations from the software. Manual tasks are now being automated to achieve new ways of working.
Organisations should take the opportunity to upskill their personnel by offering training on new I&C technologies, especially at a time when many are working from home. The current stay-at- home period is an excellent opportunity to learn new skills.
Industry 4.0 – Redefining work in a digitalised world
A key element of this redefined work is getting automatic data collection to become more productive (i.e., require less resources) and more predictive (i.e., able to detect the onset of the problem sooner). This means jobs will shift from collecting data to acting on information derived from data. Take this opportunity to empower personnel with the resources that will keep their skills up to speed with the latest developments in technology. A vast majority of the software and hardware that goes into the digitalisation of a plant is I&C-related. This includes advanced
sensors, industrial networks, detail point analytics, and higher analytics for larger equipment, process units, and the plant (see Figure 1).
Which skillsets are needed in a digital plant?
Digital transformation in the plant is different from digital transformation in the office. In the office it requires programmers to code apps with proprietary application programming interfaces (APIs) for enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and data analysts that can spend months testing out various artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms on large data sets trying to understand consumer behaviour. However, in the plant digital transformation requires different skill sets (see Figure 2), and I&C is at the core of this work. Many I&C hardware and software pieces come together in a digital operational infrastructure (DOI) that plant personnel must know and learn. The exact requirements depend if the worker is designing and deploying the system, is supporting and managing the system, or is the ultimate end-user of the system tools.
A few examples of the list of skillsets needed may include (not an exhaustive list) training and expertise on:
1. System architecture
2. Industrial sensors: Corrosion, erosion, vibration, position, level, contact, flow, pressure, temperature, acoustic noise, pH, conductivity, gas detection
3. Industrial networks: HART®, Fieldbus™, PROFIBUS, PROFINET, EtherNet/IP, Modbus/RTU, Modbus/TCP, FF-HSE, HART-IP
4. Wireless sensor networks: WirelessHART™
5. Industrial control system (ICS): PLC, RTU, HMI/SCADA, DCS, SIS, F&G,
6. ICS cybersecurity: IEC62443, ICS-CERT, and
7. Maintenance and reliability: FMEA, failure modes, RBI, PM, PdM, CBM, P-F curve.
The list can go on but punctuates the need to stay up to date on training. Some of these skills require formal training, while others are gained with experience. Some are more instrumentation- related, such as sensors and field network hardware, while others are more control-related, such as software systems. I&C engineers also need to know the differences of Ethernet, Wi-Fi, UDP/TCP/IP, and Windows servers and workstations because that is what most control systems have been utilising for the past several years. With future Ethernet-APL instrumentation it will be more so. For an example of a list of training library check out these course offerings 1 .
Interestingly, in the plant, programming and coding has turned out to be required less than in office administration because most plants prefer to use readymade software with a proven track record that’s based on standards, i.e., known solutions to known problems. Some may not feel comfortable with custom made software if they can avoid it. Similarly, in the plant, data science has turned out to be required less than in office administration for the same reason; plants prefer to use analytics based on FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) fault trees and first principles (1P) whenever possible, and for process equipment it often is because they are familiar solutions to well understood problems. Why this is important is because it breaks down the perception that workers have to go back and get new degrees or plants have to hire new roles versus highlighting the value of training that certifies and provides the instruction workers need to gain experience and grow quickly and easily.
Digital transformation makes working safely easier for operators, but it is I&C that deploys the enabling solutions. The best place for manufacturers to start is with workforce training and upskilling. So how can organisations turn this situation into an opportunity?
Three Modes of Learning
There are three basic modes of training that are typically used to teach I&C skills:
1. In-class: instructor-led, physically in a classroom
2. Virtual: instructor-led online, scheduled, and
3. Online: self-study online, any time.
Schedules have become a bit easier to navigate through, as many workers are now remote. Workers may find their regular commute time can now go towards exploring areas of training or self-study. Many I&C automation vendors have online self-study and virtual instructor-led classes that can be taken from home. These tend to be product-oriented, but if it is the type of product used in or applicable to a plant, it makes sense. Continuing education units are available through many of these courses, as required for some professions. A more thorough explanation of each of these modes of learning can be found here 2 .
The time is now for those who prefer virtual lessons or are looking to explore the effectiveness of this training style. Virtual instructor-led training (VILT) simulates traditional classroom or learning experiences. For most VILT courses, learners have direct access to instructors and get the same quality of training as in-class sessions. Learners can ask questions, connect with industry experts or access demos, whereas online courses are a self-paced and great solution for those looking to refresh their skillset.
Closing skills gaps over the long term
The digital transformation occurring across the manufacturing industry is changing how we measure, monitor and report business performance at every level of an operation. But it encompasses more than the implementation of technologies, it includes empowering people. The growth of digitalisation is transforming manufacturing jobs as we know them, driving a workforce skills gap that threatens the future of our industry.
According to a 2018 study 3 by the Manufacturing Institute, the skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028. Now is the time to equip current and future employees with the technology skills that they will need to thrive in their jobs. The level of digitalisation and the skills of I&C engineers and technicians is critical for plants to operate efficiently now and in the future. It is important to take every opportunity to build and upgrade I&C skills as part of a digital transformation journey. Employers should encourage their employees to pick up new industrial automation skills to accelerate digital transformation and the operational excellence that can result. With more workers having to do their jobs remotely, there’s never been a better time to train.
Jonas Berge, is a Subject Matter Expert in digital transformation in the process industries, technology adoption, and digital architectures including dashboards, analytics, software interfaces, historian platforms, wireless instrument networks, fieldbus, intelligent device management, digital ecosystems, and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). He is currently the Senior Director for Applied Technology for Emerson's automation solutions business in Asia Pacific. Jonas has over thirty years of experience in the field of instrumentation and controls. Jonas is a senior member of ISA, participating in the ISA104 and ISA108 standards committees and sits on the Steering Committee of the FieldComm Group in Asia Pacific. He is one of the architects of FOUNDATION fieldbus. He is the author of the book ‘Fieldbuses for process control: Engineering, Operation, and Maintenance’. He is the editor for the ANSI/ISA/IEC/TR 61804-6 standard. He holds patents in safety communications received the 1999 ISA award for excellence in documentation.