Smart Machines & Factories
Busting digital myths
Published:  17 May, 2019

Running under the lead theme of "Industrial Intelligence", this year's Hannover Messe shone a spotlight on digital connectivity, particularly as it applies to connecting people and machines in an age of artificial intelligence.

The new Future of Work in Industry Conference at the event brought together some 300 experts, thought leaders and industry executives to discuss the impact of digitalisation on skill sets and work management.

The forward march of digitalisation is having a major impact on skill sets and work management, creating a new set of challenges across the globe. Within the context of Industry 4.0, the intelligent use of IT systems and communication networks is greatly increasing the level of productivity and flexibility in production. But to date the focus has been more on the interconnectivity of plant and machines with minimal attention paid to the employees involved. However it is necessary to also focus on the human being within the context of this scenario. Hannover’s the Future of Work in Industry Conference highlighted these challenges.

The Conference was kicked off by the philosopher and writer Richard David Precht, who delivered a keynote speech on "The Digital Revolution: Why Redecorating the Deck Chairs on the Titanic Isn't Enough". His talk highlighted whether the end of the "achievement-oriented society" brought about by digitalisation is necessarily a bad thing. In his eyes, digitalisation means above all the opportunity to live a more fulfilling, self-determined life. At the same time, he warned that a clear strategy must be developed to accomplish this.

Picking up on these ideas, the Conference continued with three central thematic strands of leadership, skills and tools, emphasising the expertise and skill sets required to make companies and their employees future-proof, including better communication.

For hourly and salaried employees, change is often associated with uncertainty and anxiety – making it all the more important to take them along the path of change and get them involved. This means manufacturers need to bust the myth that digitalisation necessarily means job cuts and highlight how the digital transformation will, more often than not, actually create jobs and lead to re-skilling and better paid and rewarding roles for employees.

Engaging far more effectively with the workforce about the numerous opportunities that digitalisation offers and taking them on the journey too, will make the transformation easier as well as enhancing productivity.

The Hannover Messe Conference started this important discussion, but this now needs to feed into more mainstream thinking among manufacturers and Government.