Engineering Europe

Industry 4.0: German School Boosts Graduate Employability With New Robotics Courses

RWTH Aachen University professor says advanced technical skills will make students stand out in the jobs market

Prof. Tobias Meisen teaches classes on Industry 4.0 at Germany’s RWTH Aachen University

Prof. Tobias Meisen teaches classes on Industry 4.0 at Germany’s RWTH Aachen University

With developments in technology revolutionizing the workplace, today’s business execs need new skills in fields like robotics and computer programming.

At Germany’s RWTH Aachen University, a host of new classes will address innovations in Industry 4.0 —a moniker for the current trend of automation developments in mechanical engineering – starting in April this year.

Known for advocating the ‘smart factory,’ the Industry 4.0 movement emphasizes the interconnectivity of objects and people through advances in computer engineering. The German government has long supported this computerization of manufacturing, dedicating some €470 million to research.

RWTH professor Tobias Meisen is set to lead a variety of classes on the school’s Cyber-Physical Systems and Intelligent Robotics (CPS-IR) program, a professional education certificate comprising of a variety of courses which touch on high-tech topics like Industry 4.0.

Prof. Tobias Meisen is head of the Institute of Information Management in Mechanical Engineering (IMA) at RWTH Aachen, and a seasoned computer scientist – computer programming was his first foreign language. He thinks that MBAs and other business students who gain extra technical skills will stand out in the jobs market.

How would you describe the Industry 4.0 courses at RWTH Aachen?

Industry 4.0 is a very broad field, which, strictly speaking, covers almost everything that currently takes place in mechanical engineering. Our Industry 4.0 courses are based on an interdisciplinary approach and provide a broad perspective on Industry 4.0 topics.  

However, these courses cannot achieve a sufficient depth in all areas. In the courses on cyber-physical systems and robotics, we intensively address the main areas of these subjects and offer a very practical access. Our lecturers have several years of project experience and provide exactly the information that is necessary now.

As no distinct theoretical definition of Industry 4.0 exists, to offer practical experience on the teacher side is our key strategy. At the end of the course, our students will be problem solvers in the Industry 4.0 world.

What will students gain?

The courses are based on what we believe are necessary skills that today's students and employees who are involved in development of Industry 4.0 environments should have. This includes, on the one hand, basic knowledge of information and communication networks and protocols such as OPC UA, DDS and MQTT. On the other hand, topics such as big data infrastructures and analysis are addressed in further courses.

Another important topic is modern robotics. The students learn how they can make use of the many opportunities digitization and Industry 4.0 provides for the production chains of the future.

What can employers expect from students who take the courses?

Employers expect today's graduates to be able to position themselves in the digitalized world and to contribute to the transformation of working environments towards Industry 4.0. The courses provide the foundation on which students and employees can rely to find their position in this vision and to be prepared for it.  

How is the 21st-century workplace changing?

An old bit of wisdom already says that nothing is as uncertain as the future. The fact is that the tasks of today's engineers are already extremely diverse and can hardly be described in an overall package. The classic "mechanical” engineer will not exist anymore. The production engineer must be multitalented and needs to have a profound production-technological understanding both in the fields of engineering and IT-related topics.

Fields of application such as project management, development, design or manufacturing, all of which are applied to production, span a wide range of associated activities. The aim of our courses is to prepare participants for this change and provide them with the necessary knowledge.

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