From Charmeleon to Charizard – Industry 4.0 and Job Sector in India

The title itself highlights the level of transformation that we will be undergoing in the next industrial revolution. But before we jump to some obvious conclusions – let’s take a small ride through the various Industrial Revolutions we have undergone. The first major Industrial Revolution or Industry 1.0 took place in England. The introduction of steam as a source of power characterised this revolution. Businesses went beyond the homes and began the age of self-owned industries. The essential feature of this revolution was the transformation of hand production methods to machines. Charmeleon was aggressive and more powerful and yes unlike Charmander was competitive. On similar lines, the next industrial revolution took place in the 20th century when electricity made its way into the factories. This revolution saw the concept of mass production transitioned to a reality. Fedrick Taylor tried developing ways to optimise the worker and workplace to make more efficient assembly lines.
But the phenomenal shift took place in the last few decades of 20th century, where we saw the integration of software and automation into the manufacturing sector. It saw the growth of Enterprise Resource Planning, usage of Computer Aided Process Planning methods and formalization of Supply Chain Management. Although Lean Manufacturing was introduced, yet it’s potential has not been fully utilised. Coming to the Charizard, Industry 4.0, there are some major changes that we are undergoing currently. Just like Charizard could actually fly unlike Charmeleon, this transformation will change the way industries are working today. The transformation is aimed at digitising our factories. Some of the key role players in this transformation are of Things(IoT), Additive Manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence and most importantly, Data Analytics. Data is the key to this major change.
Now let’s look at the most common FAQs/ statements made by people with regard to this change –

  1. There’ll be Huge Job Losses
  2. The structure of Indian Economy will drastically change
  3. Will Mechanical Engineering as a discipline die?
  4. Career Choices for future?
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Now, addressing each issue one by one. You’ll be surprised that all these have been common to all Industrial Revolutions till date. Job Loses – Astrologers predicting to change career areas as huge job losses will take place. The computer will replace man! Robots are going to rule the world. Sounds like a sci-fi movie or a demonic prophecy. Will this actually be true? According to me, the answer is NO. Every industrial revolution made people think in this way, and yes, actually job opportunities increased. Now you may ask, how is this even possible? With reference to Industry 4.0, you’ll need at least a person to code, repair a robot. You’ll also need a factory to make robots. You’ll need a team of people to market your robot, prepare new features to make your enterprise to set you apart. You automate a factory, but you’ll need a strong supply chain network and efficient shop floor planning. There needs to be research done on the materials required to make these robots. So yes, you need a strong workforce to sustain this infrastructure. So yes, there will be opportunities created. The only thing we have to do from our side is to upgrade our skills.
Will the Economy change? Yes, as usual. The manufacturing sector will now see radical changes and we need to adapt ourselves. The need of the hour is upgrading our skillset. If you ask about passion following? Yes, you should follow it. Reason being it’ll never die out unless you want it to be. Example – if you love designing – it cannot be automated as the processes required can’t be coded. The aesthetics of design would anyway require you to sketch first and then transform it into something worthwhile. So yes career choices would be purely on what you want to do and not something the public wants. Here’s something where push approach comes into play. You are your own brand manager and develop your own USP. The pull approach will ease out in finding the criteria that will help you understand the job market. There is nothing like a stupid area unless you want it to be one.
Now you might wonder that I skipped a question. I didn’t actually. I wanted to dedicate some time so that you can take a coffee break. Here’s something that will actually surprise you. Mechanical Engineering will never die as a discipline. How? Mechanical Engineering has domains which need our time. Time to explore their possibilities and their seamless application to our domains. Example – AI is under research for its potential applications in Manufacturing Process Control. Quality Assurance is now moving towards Analytic Framework. Lean actually finds a prominent place in this change. Lean has a multidisciplinary approach – from retail to manufacturing – potential applications everywhere. Conventional Areas like Welding before getting automated, need a strong understanding before we automate the process. Supply Chain and most importantly Industrial Engineers will be needed to understand shop floor and yes even renewable energy resource planning requires optimisation techniques and facilities planning. So yes, Mechanical Engineering won’t die as people would assume.
So yes, as Indians we need to upgrade our skills. At the ground level, we should upgrade our ITIs. Now, our education system demands more participation from Industry experts. We need to focus on potential areas where industry and education sector can contribute in together. We can also ensure that our start-ups also contribute to the best so that we can smoothen this transition. We need to address even the old issues like brain drain more seriously. We need to be aggressive like Charmeleon and working continuously harder and smarter so that we can be Most importantly, have the guts to follow your dreams in spite of the failures that may come along our way.

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