Maritime stands to gain much from Industry 4.0, but technology may not be the panacea it seems for safety, security and environmental issues in the industry.
Industry 4.0 describes the trend toward increasing automation and connectivity, including technologies such as internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous and unmanned technology, and data analytics. Technologies such as AI, virtual reality, IoT, machine learning and others are man-made, and their usefulness still depends on the people who design, produce and operate them.
There is a clear need to prepare highly skilled human capital in the marine industry to operate the technologies, machineries and systems that define Industry 4.0.
Take working with real-time data, for example. Collecting data alone is not enough – the data needs to be analysed and interpreted to derive value and enable judgment calls that ensure systems are designed to provide safety and security of operations, optimal efficiency, compliance with rules and regulations and eventually generate profit for their companies. This requires trained people who are not only tech-savvy but have a range of soft skills such as analytical capabilities and critical thinking to draw value from data.
To this end, marine education and training institutes must review their curriculum to offer courses and programs relevant to the marine industry’s current and future needs. Much work also needs to be done to educate the educators and increase their awareness of the usefulness of adopting Industry 4.0.
There are several other areas that need to be looked into to foster industry players to embrace Industry 4.0.
Sink or swim in the digitalisation wave
In short, stakeholders must embrace and adapt to Industry 4.0 or risk being left behind in a competitive world that is constantly improving productivity, efficiency, customer experience and cost.
Those who are slow to invest in technologies, digitalise and undertake change management and cultural transformation will lose competitiveness and relevance as the operating landscape undergoes waves of profound changes triggered by the digital revolution. It is sink or swim time, and the force of the waves of digitalisation to come will sweep away those who are ill prepared for their arrival.
A holistic approach is needed. International and national bodies, industry and organisations must work together to put in place a digital ecosystem that enables and encourages adoption of Industry 4.0 in a safe and effective manner. Their approach must address the key areas of policy, financing, human capital, organisational change and collaboration.
If we get it right and create this ecosystem properly, the industry and its businesses stand to gain. Operational efficiency and productivity will improve, players will find new competitive advantages, be able to venture into new markets and business segments, and carbon footprints will decline, ensuring the sustainability of industry. All these outcomes should work to boost businesses’ bottom lines and create a virtuous cycle that benefits the users of their products and services, consumers and nations depending on the marine industry for their socio-economic prosperity.