Welcome to Super-Skill Me: The Thriver’s Guide to the Next Industrial Revolution

By Tom Furnival, director of training services, Marshall Institute

Ready, Set, Revolution!

Welcome to Super-Skill Me, an interactive discussion that explores best practices and ideas about learning to be more adaptable in the age of digital manufacturing.

We are in the middle of the next industrial revolution. Known as Industry 4.0 and synonymous with the industrial internet of things (IIoT), this revolution will require us to learn and apply knowledge and skills faster than ever  driving us to "super-skill" our abilities. And over time, with practice, focus and determination, I believe we can master the ultimate "super-skill"  adaptability.

This blog will explore how and why being "super-skilled" will empower us to thrive in a time of great change and equally great opportunity. Although we will talk a little about technology, please know that this is ultimately a conversation about people and learning, and will be driven by your thoughts, ideas, and feedback.

This first post sets up some basic goals for this blog – all future posts will comprise both my thoughts and your feedback, so come prepared to write, challenge, and contribute!

Let’s cover a few basic definitions:

What is Industry 4.0? 

Industry 4.0 is the umbrella term for the main drivers of the next industrial revolution, including: the industrial internet of things, the cloud, 3-D printing, automation, robotics etc.

What is the industrial internet of things (IIoT)?

The IIoT refers to the application in industry of digital machine-to-machine connectivity, communication and data sharing, large scale application of sensors, and machine learning. Some pretty impressive short- to mid-term outcomes are being predicted, including:

  • increased safety
  • improved asset utilization
  • optimized maintenance and reliability
  • intelligent supply chain and parts use
  • enhanced operational effiency
  • reduced operational costs
  • greater productivity

These predictions paint an amazing picture of a very ‘smart manufacturing’ environment, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.    

Over time, business models, customer experiences, and the entire commercial ecosystem will be reshaped. For example, in May, www.themanufacturer.com wrote about Adidas's new "speed factory" in Germany with a completely automated production process capable of mass-producing custom shoes. Imagine Henry Ford’s reaction to this news!

I know that some of you will be saying, "Hold on, Tom, there are so many concerns and risks with the IIoT that this ‘revolution’ is not a done deal, or it is at least not imminent." I agree that there are many risks, hurdles, and costs; however, I believe that these issues will be overcome. And I for one want to be prepared.

“We are standing at the forefront of a remarkable period of innovation and discovery”

What does this mean for industry professionals?

As industrial environments on-board new smart machines and devices, job responsibilities will shift, and so will the required skill sets. The World Economic Forum published a paper in 2015 in which they expressed the importance of dynamic learning and skill acquisition to keep pace with tech advancements.

I believe that the desire to embrace the opportunities presented by change, the motivation to continuously learn, and the effectiveness at applying new knowledge and skills will define professional success.     

Let’s get started

If you’re still reading, then I’m guessing you either agree or are at least willing to learn more. I am pleased you’ve stayed with me, and I sincerely hope this is the beginning of an exciting exploration in learning leading to you Super-Skill your abilities.

Here’s where we really make this valuable. Please join the two-way conversation by answering the questions below. The more we collectively contribute, share ideas and best practices the better we learn!

  • How is your company preparing for Industry 4.0?
  • How are you preparing for Industry 4.0?
  • What new skills and knowledge do you believe you’ll require to thrive in the coming years?

Keep an eye out for future posts as I’ll be incorporating your contribution. Thanks for reading and investing your energy in becoming "super-skilled." See you next month.

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  • Tom, really interesting discussion points you bring up! The company I work for (Oil & Gas) is starting to harness the advancements in technology by utilizing programs such as spotfire, to process large data streams into meaningful dashboards. We are then using these dashboards to measure our performance against business targets, identify gaps and therefore focus areas. Do you have any other suggestions, ideas?


  • Bradley, I appreciate you investing your time in reading the blog, watching the video, and sharing an update from your company. Big data is a core challenge/opportunity of our new digitally industrialized businesses. Kudos to your organization and team for making sense of large data streams into meaningful dashboards. The line of sight you’ve attained by reporting KPIs related to goals is great, and absolutely necessary. The ability to identify and correctly interpret performance gaps and translate them into meaningful remedies is fantastic, and again, necessary. Well done, keep it going. From a human performance perspective I am interested in how people prepare for, and respond to changes. Although ‘data-crunching’ is not new to business, big-data is, and so are the tools we will use to mine its riches. You may already be doing this, but if not I encourage you to learn about what changes big-data may have on the specific tasks of your job. Tasks: Has your job changed? For example… - Do you now have to use the Spotfire software? - Do you have to interpret the data and determine strategies to close performance gaps? - Do you have to report out the data/insights? Once you’ve identified task changes to your role you can then start to identify the skill-set required to survive, and then the performance levels you need attain to truly thrive. Skills: How must you adapt? For example… - You may need to be more proficient using Spotfire, a super-user perhaps? - You may need to be more analytical with data, better at forecasting, be able to link patterns with strategies? - You may need to sharpen up your oral presentation skills, PowerPoint design, etc I hope this was a helpful response. Your question has been a great segue for the next post. We’ll talk more about identify skill-requirement changes in the next post. Thanks for joining the conversation. Tom Furnival


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