Changing vocations – the skilled worker

Change: Industry 4.0 will lead to changes in the industrial work environment and therefore, in the associated professions as well. A lot of things that appeared inconceivable 10 or 15 years ago are already reality today, or are being targeted as goals for Industry 4.0. But how will this affect employees? In focus: workers and skilled workers.

The worker knows “his” machine – every humming, rattling, and squeaking noise, and every blinking light. If anything changes, the machine is immediately readjusted or the maintenance department is informed. Workflows often remain unchanged for years. Even the slightest deviation from the machine’s usual routine might indicate that something is wrong – for example, that a machine component has become loose or defective, or that a quality problem has developed in a downstream processing step, and therefore, any specified tolerances are no longer correct. The worker knows every idiosyncrasy of his machine. This can also lead to monotony. Safety is a central issue, because the high complexity of the machines makes them increasingly confusing and often conceals sources of danger. When changes are made in production – for example, changeover to a new product – the worker usually has to be retrained. New task – new know- how.

Change is part of everyday life. The transformable factories of the future demand constantly-evolving employee capabilities and skills. The new virtue in vocational training for industry is therefore called “Changeability” – and involves the willingness and the ability to change. This will be decisive for the personal success of each production employee, as well as for the overall success of the company. The education and training of future skilled workers will therefore have to be strengthened in terms of methods and capabilities, approaches and attitudes – skills which make it possible for employees to deal with complex, quickly changing situations in a self- organized manner. Due to the lack of rigid process sequences, it is advantageous for the worker to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the a machine’s interrelationships and processes. Because in highly networked manufacturing, small problems often have a large impact. As part of their collaboration, people and machines are moving closer and closer together within very tight spaces. However, there won’t be many protective barriers in Industry 4.0, because they hinder flexibility. New, intelligent safety systems and interfaces will emerge. Key phrase: Thought-controlled systems. Research in this area is well-advanced enough that sample systems already exist – even today.

  1. This article has been published in our trends in qualification customer magazine 1.2017.
  2. Photos: Fotolia/iStock