Workforce for a digital future: Industry 4.0


Workforce for a digital future: Industry 4.0

Don’t get left on the starting blocks – Industry 4.0 is here and digitalisation is already shaping the workforce for the future. This report explores some of the key digital skills and capabilities that industries, in particular built environment industries, need to invest in for the future, and how organisations need to adapt to effectively support and grow these skills.

About this guide

Digital technologies are changing all facets of our lives. They shape how we interact with one another, how we work, how we move around, how we shop, how we entertain ourselves, and what we consume.

We are entering what many are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution – sometimes referred to as “Industry 4.0”. This is predicted to be just as disruptive as the advent of the steam engine in the first industrial revolution, the rise of mass production and electricity in the second, and personal computing in the third.

Industry 4.0 is growing in an era that is characterised by digital technologies being overlaid and integrated with the physical world, and changing how we connect, understand and negotiate our environments, from our homes to our cities.

The boundaries between the digital and built environments are becoming blurred, and this has significant consequences for how the built world will be designed, managed and operated. New workplace skills and capabilities will be required, some of which do not even exist yet.

Using this guide

This report, Workforce for a Digital Future, describes how digitalisation is impacting industries, and shaping the workforce of the future. We first look broadly, and then narrow down to the professional services that will design, deliver and maintain the infrastructure of our built environment.

We share our insights into what organisations need to consider as they prepare their workforces for the future.

Trends impacting the future workforce

Aurecon is focused on digitalisation as a megatrend, a major vector of change that is pervasive at all levels in workplaces now and into the future. We use the term digitalisation to refer to the process of change associated with technology, data, purpose and need, as shown in the equation below.

Digitalisation as a megatrend

Digitalisation megatrend

Digitalisation megatrend

The influence of trends

The workforce of the future is shaped by numerous interacting trends. At a macro level, it is necessary to consider shifts in demographics, economies, governments, the impacts of climate change and resource scarcity.

But digital technologies are also changing what is worked on and how the work is done. At this scale it becomes important to understand how technologies might shift the business models, value chains and structures of a market, but also the mix of industries that sit inside it.

Levels and types of trends influencing the future workforce

Levels and types of trends influencing the future workforce

Figure 1: Levels and types of trends influencing the future workforce

Vital skills, literacies and abilities for the future workforce

Data analytics

Shifts in data technologies linked with enhanced data access means we can now monitor our built world at very high speed. Each of these technologies or responses requires new skills to collect and understand the associated data. In turn, these changing needs create new specialities and professional roles for employees, and force re-evaluation of how standards and processes are managed and updated.

Software development, systems integration and cybersecurity

Even for organisations that do not develop their own software, having people that understand software development and systems integration will still be important. The number and types of software products used in businesses will only grow. So, organisations that are able to successfully work with, manipulate and integrate software systems to suit their objectives will be at an advantage.

Likewise, as digital systems and software underpin all of our work, organisations are increasingly required to handle sensitive data, both their own and that of clients, partners and customers. As a result, cybersecurity skills will be required at many levels of a business.

Computational design

Many of the problems designers are currently faced with are too complex or too varied for off-the-shelf software alone. This is likely to become a bigger issue as the infrastructure we design becomes more interdisciplinary and complex. The need to extend off-the-shelf software, integrate different design software and translate data formats from one standard to another, has driven the growth of computational design and visual programming skills and capabilities.

Robotics and process automation

Looking ahead, Industry 4.0 is likely to bring about further significant advances in how we program and control the physical world, together with a concomitant demand for updated robotics and automation skills and capabilities. In the design space, engineers will need to evolve their understanding of digital fabrication and robotic processes, so that the data and designs they produce can ultimately be used to program the robotics systems directly. These designs will need to manage variations in materials, and account for interactions between human and non-human workforces.

Project deliverables will likely shift away from reports and drawings, and instead move towards models and data that can be directly used to fabricate components or instruct robotic technologies on site.

Systems engineering

Demand for systems engineering is increasing as the built environment and assets are becoming more connected – both physically and through digital systems. In our industry, the structure and management requirements of our physical infrastructure and associated systems are becoming more and more complex. Businesses need to integrate different systems designed by different disciplines that use different processes and software.

Designers, constructors and operators are having to contend with rapidly changing industry dynamics, while trying to create assets that are ‘smart’ enough to be flexible, adaptable and automated.

Business model innovation and new commercial creativity

Digitalisation offers organisations a means to create and capture value in brand new ways. But key factors must be considered: there needs to be a clear focus on how digital technologies create new value, how that value can be captured, and which business models best suit these new approaches.

Businesses must consider:

  • A focus on learning
  • Changing procurement
  • Designing for resilience and adaptability

And be prepared to address challenges:

  • Demand for skills
  • Geographic variations
  • Diversity

Workforce design is a complex subject. But those organisations that consider and act on these areas simultaneously will be in a strong position to adapt to a rapidly changing industry and economy.

How Aurecon can help you navigate your digital future?

In a world that is increasingly complex, interconnected, and fast-paced, intersecting trends such as the rapid advances in technology, shifts in societal values and the growing imperative to protect our world through decarbonisation and sustainable approaches mean that organisations are operating in highly dynamic and uncertain environments. Industry boundaries are blurring, traditional definitions of organisations are changing and time-honoured theories of business are being challenged.

Aurecon’s Innovation team work to ensure that us, our clients, and our partners can better navigate uncertainty, anticipate change and take well-consider action.

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