I'm looking for some advice for career planning on Industry 4.0.
Industry 3.0 refers to automation and Industry 4.0 refers to the integration between factory controllers and cloud service.
Reports I read:
Industry 4.0 and the chemicals industry
An example is Siemens' PLC plant in Amberg that was fully automated from start to shipping. Over 20 years, the plant maintained 1200 staff, but the productivity increased fivefold.
For Siemens, as an industrial automation provider, it makes sense to automate their plant as it will serve as a demo to their future customer. Analysts projects that the transition to Industry 4.0 will be gradual but slow because manufacturers don't want to upgrade before their existing equipment reach the end of service, or the market force them to, whichever comes first. Some people say changes will happen in 2025 or 2030 and when it happens there will be a massive shift in the workforce composition. (see the second link).
So as a young professional with a BASc in Chemical Engineering and an option in statistics with 3.3 GPA, I want to make sure I'm not in a career that give me ten years of obsoleted experience by 2030, where I'll have to be retrained to be suitable for work. Sure, buzzword comes and go, and many predictions go unfulfilled, but I'll rather be safe better be safe than sorry if I have a choice.
As the prediction goes with Industry 4.0, there will be more customization in each product as the factory gets smarter. Maybe one day you can choose all the features you like in shampoo and it will be custom made for you. In that kind of economy, R&D, data analytics and infrastructure, UI design will see job growth where production, maintenance, quality will cut staff.
I graduated a year ago with 28 months co-op experience and six months contract work. You can see my Linkedin here.
I took all process control courses at my school but wasn't able to find a job that utilized that.
In my co-op, I did a little bit of everything including research, material testing for Xerox, QC, process modeling for fuel cell & worked at a government analytical laboratory. After graduation, I worked for Enbridge Gas Distribution to implement their pipeline integrity software. I cleaned up half a million line of historical data and implemented pipe stress analysis algorithm (ASME B31.8), corrosion growth, etc., so they will never have to calculate it again, just read it off my plots.
In a sense, I feel the work is related to Industry 4.0 as it involves tons of sensors, big data, SQL server, python scripting, data visualization & predictive model.
Now the contract ended, and I'm job searching again, I don't know what to apply for anymore. I have 4-6 month experience of a lot of things, and I did a great job in all of them. But I didn't stay long enough in any of them.
I took the HAZOP study course offered by CCPS because I think maybe I can build a process safety career now that I know Pipeline Integrity. I don't think process safety will be obsolete in Industry 4.0 because it is regulated.
Sometimes I think if I learn PLC I can apply for junior Instrumentation job and hopefully move to process control which is what I wanted at school. Industry 4.0 builds on PLC, so PLC will not go away.
Or maybe I can apply for data analyst jobs, which is what I did for the past six months and do more of the same thing. I can lean heavier on my Statistics option and try to be a certified analytics professional (which is hard). There are only more data and data job in the future, but then I'll probably not be able to get my engineering license with data jobs.
I also have a Six Sigma green belt certificate, and with my statistics background, I can apply for Process Improvement jobs, even outside of Chem Eng. Process Engineer is the traditional path for Chem Eng and takes good use of my education. But process jobs are always in the middle of nowhere, and I don't want to be in the middle of nowhere for the rest of my life.
I applied to all of the above. I probably make a decent case for each. But having four plans is as good as having no plan. I fear that I'll end up hopping between roles like I did for my co-op and didn't build up in anything.
It is exciting to see more ChE's jumping right out into industry with a focus upon controls and data support. I usually only witness this happen as a process engineer sees a void to fill in an organization and then proceeeds to make automation and data management their career.
It looks like you have a firm grasp on the march toward 4.0. Definitely maintain as many data management skills as possible to handle to increased need for storage, organization, and analysis as the industry still reacts and shifts towards what all this increased data will be ultimately used. PLC ladder and function block is becoming easier each day and would certainly be a requirement to work in the space although it would seem to me that structured text would be more up your alley. I would emphasize learning the ladder instead of the text syntax just as a developer and future manager will most likely see and direct future programmer resources in that language due to its ease of transition between trade professionals that will most likely be supporting these applications after you've moved onto the next project.
In short, learn your ladder (should be a quick process as most of us just learned under trial by fire in fixing downed equipment), leverage your data management, and get as much experience in controls integration whether it be interconnected DCS or between IOT edge and enterprise resource management.
Your thought on process safety is a good one. It will always be needed, regardless of regulatory environments. Process safety is key to profitability, sustainability and reliable operation. Safety Instrumented Systems are an integral part of this relationship. You knowledge of computer and communication systems is vital to the successful implementation of such systems. I'd encourage you to excel in the field of safety instrumented systems as well as reliable system control. Good Luck!
Looking at your background and interests, there are companies working in the sphere of advanced controls and IIoT. One example is ControlSoft at controlsoftinc.com. They recently hired a ChemE with similar experience. I think that you will see faster advancements in 4.0 technology in smaller companies than the larger DCS firms, because they can be more nimble and experimental. I have a lot of experience in both types of companies.
You have a very good grasp of how data and process go together, wish you all the success.
Have you checked out Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition
There's an AIChE Webinar: Next Generation IT for Next Generation Manufacturing (next week Jan 19th), probably a good one to attend and the authors are part of Smart Manufacturing consortium. Your questions may be answered by them. Register and attend.
Another article you may be interested... gives a glimpse of industry direction...
ExxonMobil puts process automation suppliers on notice
On your note "I want to make sure I'm not in a career that give me ten years of obsoleted experience by 2030, where I'll have to be retrained to be suitable for work" - Process automation is an ever changing landscape, there's something new always, we all get retrained everyday and adapt to new technology, so I wouldn't be too worried