Connected machines will create better jobs (and Free Webinar on April 13, 2017)
Negative stories have surrounded the internet of things and job losses have been their focus, but a more accurate analysis reveals a shift in the skills needed towards services
The internet of things or IoT, which can connect any device to the web, has been a boon for owners of manufacturing firms. By providing data from multiple machines, factory performance can be monitored, goods can be tracked and maintenance needs predicted – all for greater efficiency.
Those on the factory floor have been less supportive of the change, understandably fearing their jobs will be replaced by robots and machines that “speak” to each other.
The reality, however, is more nuanced. Rather than eliminating all roles, the IoT is creating demand for a different set of skills. Many of these jobs will come from the service sector, supporting customers, and also the technology sector that supports the systems.
By 2020, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research and technology firm SAS, some 182,000 jobs will be created in the UK by the IoT and big data in a range of areas.
The IoT allows traditional product businesses to become services firms. Instead of simply manufacturing and selling goods, the industry can now maintain and upgrade them, something the technology sector rather awkwardly labels “servitisation”.
IoT-connected devices link consumer goods to manufacturers’ systems, advising of maintenance and upgrade needs, the same way factory devices are connected. Washing machines or heating control systems, for example, can be fitted with sensors to detect when they are going wrong, alerting manufacturers to send an engineer. The same concept can be applied to the business world, and to a water utility’s pipes and control systems.
While the IoT may reduce the need for some manual jobs in factories, it will also create a huge new demand for service skills to maintain, create and market the systems.
Numerous predictions demonstrate the enormous services opportunity. Gartner expects 8.4 billion IoT-connected devices to be in use worldwide this year, with 5.2 billion of them in consumers’ hands and 3.2 billion of them in businesses. Some USD 1.2 trillion will have been spent on IoT by 2020, says analyst IDC, with manufacturing leading the way last year with a cool USD 187 billion.
The change creates demand for a raft of new talent. “To capture the bigger opportunities presented by the industrial IoT,” according to management firm Accenture, “companies will especially need to look for skills in data science, software development, hardware engineering, testing, operations, marketing and sales.”
How businesses are adapting
The smartest firms have recognised this shift. Among them is General Electric, whose chief executive Jeff Immelt says industrial companies are “in the information business whether they want to be or not”.
The most positive aspects of the new service model are that it provides a deeper customer relationship and a reliable revenue stream for manufacturers. Goods makers can record customer details from which to develop loyalty and they can look forward to recurring service revenue, repairing the devices themselves or taking a cut of their contractors’ income.
Home and heating management from the Google Nest and British Gas Hive systems accumulate user data, becoming increasingly invaluable to people as they link automated services to recorded habits, making a brand switch less appealing. For their makers, both data analysis and marketing skills are essential.
This thinking is being taken a step further by expanded teams of marketing and technology personnel, who are using the IoT for immediate promotions. Drinks maker Pernod Ricard has fitted sensors to bottles that enable smartphone users to simply tap their device on the vessels to reveal recipes for cocktails and ways to buy more products. Competitor Diageo designs and runs internet-connected bottles so users can share their own videos.
An entire workforce will grow to create, sell and support the new business. In addition to sales and marketing, Accenture notes in its research, new employees “will include product managers, software developers to create and test new information services, hardware designers to develop the products, data scientists to create and interpret analytics, and user-interface and experience designers”.
Business buyers are adding to the scale of these skills demands. Rolls-Royce and General Electric have manufactured jet engines that can be sold as a service, rather than simply a product. Packaged into regular costs for airline buyers are maintenance and upgrades, with IoT systems telling them when to take action. Meanwhile, Michelin uses sensors on customers’ delivery trucks to help human experts suggest more efficient travel and sell tyres based on the number of miles driven.
As these services become the key proposition for sales forces, manufacturers can use them to drive uptake of add-on or upgrade products. The data from all of these services can also be applied by expanded research teams to influence fresh product design.
As businesses move their humans away from manual tasks, workers will equally be required to operate, design, monitor or service the IoT-linked machines they have purchased. Then there is the new demand for staff educators to help them use the systems and process engineers to make sure they fit properly into existing operations, Accenture notes.
Of course, with all these systems connecting business networks to the wider internet, security personnel will be paramount. Gartner expects that the “scarce” IoT security specialists will be in ever-higher demand and figures from freelance database Upwork show a 194 per cent increase in 2015 in demand for security infrastructure specialists.
While the IoT may reduce the need for some manual jobs in factories, it will also create a huge new demand for service skills to maintain, create and market the systems. There is no doubt that such a colossal shift will be uncomfortable for some, but the power of people will remain strong in the new world.
Free Webinar on April 13, 2017
50% of manufacturers believe they will require significant information technology upgrades or network overhauls to use the IoT within their facilities.* Combined with security and reliability concerns and difficulties aligning the needs of Operations personnel with IT departments, there are significant barriers to realizing potential profit improvements from Industrial IoT initiatives.
Join Eric Winsborrow, CEO & Kevin White, VP Engineering & Client Services of Distrix Networks for an informative look at these issues and potential solutions to reduce complexity, barriers to adoption, time to deployment, and cost of Industrial IoT projects.
*A 2016 Internet of Things study by MPI Group found that 50 % of manufacturers believe they will require significant information technology upgrades or network overhauls to use the IoT within their facilities.
The webinar will be held on April 13, 2017 at your convenient time:
3pm London, 4pm Western Europe, 5pm Eastern Europe
Americas: 7am Pacific, 8am Mountain, 9am Central, 10am Eastern, 11am Atlantic
Duration: 1 hour
What You will learn
Part 1 – Challenges
– An overview of the common Industrial IoT (IIoT) challenges
– Legacy equipment upgrades and addressing costs and alternatives
– Important questions for taking control of your requirements development process – security, flexibility & reliability
– The cultural divide – addressing the issue of change and differences between Operations and Information Technology (IT) departments
Part 2 – Solutions:
– Approaches to incorporating legacy equipment to IIoT
– How to ensure critical security & reliability needs are met – approaches and questions to ask
– How to align Operations and Information Technology (IT) teams for success
Part 3 – Cases:
A brief summary of common IIoT cases & examples will be covered for a range of industries including manufacturing, oil & gas, power & utilities and renewable energy.
Who Should Attend
– Industrial & utility business leaders looking to better understand IIoT strategy, reducing costs and risks through improved remote operations
– Operations personnel currently in charge of improving connectivity
Third-party equipment manufacturers interested in remote monitoring
– OEM industrial automation equipment vendors
– Data analytics vendors and other industry partners
– Solution integrators & distributors
Registration is necessary an can be made here