The manufacturing industry is in the middle of a transformation: Smart Industry or in other words, Industry 4.0. This involves the far-reaching digitalization of manufacturing processes and systems. These are becoming smarter, more autonomous and more data-driven. This brings with it many challenges for organizations. Education has to adapt to this as well. In order to prepare students to give shape to the Smart Industry, Fontys University of Applied Sciences ICT is launching the specialization ‘ICT & Smart Industry‘.

Starting this coming school year, students will be learning what Smart Industry means in this specialization. And they will discover what core skills they will need as future professionals. These include machine-to-machine communication, information sharing, sensor data collection and visualizations. But also an understanding of process-oriented working and the downstream impact of interventions.

The challenges students face are extremely diverse, explains Suzana Andova, an ICT lecturer and ICT & Smart Industry coordinator.

“The digital transition affects all manufacturing processes, which makes it difficult for organizations to tackle it in a structured way. You have to deal with the integration of older machines and smarter manufacturing processes and the retrieval of data for new Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructures. A second question is how you can then visualize and harness that for smarter production. Those are substantial challenges that require a new way of thinking.”

Crucial role

ICT plays a crucial role in Smart Industry applications. After all, it’s not the machines that are becoming smarter in production processes. It is mainly about the software that drives them and the underlying systems that run on data and make the information flow of an entire process possible.

Andova: “One of our partner companies once said: ‘Building machines has become a matter of software development’. The process of digitalization is accelerating because ‘enabling technologies’ such as IoT, Big Data, cloud computing, AI, and robots are now extremely advanced. Our students understand the possibilities and learn how to integrate them into a manufacturing process. They accomplish this together with partner companies via specialist modules of their choosing. For example, they learn there to work with, industrial IoT, industrial automation, data engineering, human-machine interaction and intelligent management.”

From a lectorate perspective, Fontys is involved in the international Eurreg project ‘Digital Twin Academy’, where research is being done into the application of digital twinning in various work areas. This project, which is concerned with a key technology for Smart Industry, also devotes a great deal of attention to sharing knowledge with industry and embracing new technologies. The launch of this specialization is in line with the role of Fontys as a pivot between industry, applied research and the training of future professionals.

Smart Industry engineers

According to Andova, training students for Smart Industry is an absolutely essential step. Students will become specialists in this too. “It is important that they understand the basis of this global transformation, yet the various applications in industry are so broad that you choose a focus area within this specialization. That way, students gain targeted knowledge of specific technology. A student who focuses on IoT will learn about the current protocols, cloud storage and security issues. A student who chooses intelligent management will learn more about supply chain management, as well as data analytics and R language. A team of lecturers with a diverse range of backgrounds will support them across 5 different modules. Innovative business partners are going to run workshops and students work with them on targeted Smart Industry projects so that they can immediately start using their knowledge and gain experience in the work fields.”

Click on this link to read many more IO articles about the degree programs at Fontys.

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