In the era of the online – normality
Indeed, in the post-pandemic world, education and knowledge sharing will be more digital than ever before. The use of cyberspace is already, amongst others, a very efficient and popular method to interact globally with colleagues from the same profession and learn new skills. On the other hand, you are allowed to contribute to the professional and technical community. The possibilities to gain knowledge, learn and benefit from other people’s experiences are becoming unlimited.
Status Quo for the industrial IT and automation sector
For the industrial IT and automation field, the booming of online knowledge sharing may be a unique opportunity to overcome some of our profession’s challenges. Yet, we have to recognize the sector’s specialties, particularly compared of other IT or software engineering disciplines.
Industrial IT systems and machines are considered assets with a very long lifetime and are expected to operate reliably and uninterruptedly for at least a couple of decades. The variability in production and market demand, the continuous improvement operation, the changes in local and international regulations, and finally, the availability of spare parts mandate numerous minor and major updates throughout the life cycle of the system. To envision the situation better, we just need to consider that an industrial IT and automation system delivered at the beginning of the century most likely runs in an early Windows XP version and PLCs that are already discontinued and not supported by the manufacturer.
However, the coin has a second side, and it would not be anything else than the most essential and vital asset every organization has, people. Using the previous example, most likely due to personnel and fluctuation during the last twenty years, the developers, the designers, or even the company that supplied the system initially may not be available today. Thus, only a few individuals have the field knowledge, competencies, and the necessary means to perform modifications and maintain the industrial IT and automation system. The situation becomes exceptionally critical during machine downtimes due to malfunctions, where a quick reaction is necessary and sometimes essential for the operation holistically. Closing, the lack or the very limited entry of new young engineers into the sector complicates and decelerates the knowledge transition between the different generations.
Since the beforehand introduction of the fourth industrial revolution in 2011, the need of high-qualified technical personnel and in-depth knowledge is increasing rapidly. Still, the demand is higher than the availability, but digitalization made the field a lot more attractive to new and existing engineers from other IT-related fields. However, the smooth transition can only be successful with the know-how exchange between experts in the area.
It is said that knowledge increases by sharing but not by saving. Digitalization and online knowledge sharing may be the solution to bridge the increasing gap in our professional sector. Let’s support it then and contribute towards a more digital and smart industrial tomorrow.