The Industry 4.0 report outlines how many jobs and tasks will change as a result of smart plant deployments and the convergence of IT and OT. For system integration engineers this convergence has the potential to impact them greatly, as they will need to expand their automation skills to be able to design, deploy and commission the enhanced requirements of the smart factory. They will also need to deliver IT requirements like Ethernet and cybersecurity as well as non-technical business and project management skills in addition to their traditional automation skills.
To further examine these changes for a system integration engineer it’s important to consider that Ethernet-based networking is essential for the convergence of IT and OT. An automation engineer will need to expand their knowledge, and in fact become an expert, in delivering and installing this kind of networking to meet the demands of industrial customers. In addition, the openness provided by Ethernet comes with the increased, and hugely important, demand for ingrained and enhanced cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity is integral to IT/OT convergence, and should not be considered as an addition on top of a project deployment, but rather as an essential part of the initial design of a system. While connectivity is assumed in Industry, security of the system needs to be inherent and system integration engineers need to be leading their customers to the smart, and secure, plant with advanced skills and knowledge in this area.
So how can system integration engineers fill this gap between their current focus, skills and knowledge on process automation and the demands of IT/OT convergence, increased networking and cybersecurity requirements?
A key step is for system integrators to ensure they are continuing their professional development throughout their career. It’s essential that system integrators have the latest technological skills to implement the latest products and solutions for the smart plant. They need to be at the forefront of industry and technological changes to lead their customers into the future.
A key example of this for system integration engineers are Schneider Electric’s PlantStruxure Engineer Certifications. These certifications include key product training across SCADA and DCS, as well as Ethernet, networking and cybersecurity. These types of certification programs will ensure our internal engineers and partner system integrator engineers have the latest product and solution training to deliver the best system technology solutions for our mutual customers. For more information about these certifications please click here.
One of our key SI Alliance certification partners in South Africa, Artiflex, recently shared some of its impressions and business implications of the PlantStruxure certifications explaining that “Clients are becoming inclined to use certified companies like ours to up their own standards”, according to Johan Smith, Managing Director, Artiflex. “The PlantStruxure certification training has shown us easier methods and efficient programming of engineering systems. Having more knowledge in these areas leads to decreased engineering time and fault finding.”
Investing in up skilling and continuing professional development on an individual and company level will ensure that your system integration company and/ or professional role will meet the ever-changing industry demands.