The term “Fourth Industrial Revolution” was only coined as late as 2016 by Schwab during the World Economic Forum in Davos. Now – a mere three years later – the scale, speed and impact of new technologies, built around artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, autono- mous vehicles, additive manufacturing and biotechnology, are changing our industry and the world completely. The previous three industrial revolutions had a significant impact on engineering, but this revolution is larger and faster than before and will significantly disrupt many engineering activities.
The wide spectrum of digital disruptions facing the fraternity can be viewed as either a threat or an opportunity to reposition ourselves.
A threat, because we know that any repeatable activity (and there are many of them in engineering) can and will eventually be machine learnt. This will threaten many jobs we currently do and drastically change our industry.
An opportunity, because this inevitable, digital rich future will change the role of the engineer. By embracing and adapting to this digital future, engineers can apply their skills wider and deeper than ever before. Our future will depend on how well we offer our craft, structure our businesses, integrate diverse skills, connect to society and prepare our young professionals to thrive in the digital age.
It is not enough to merely digitise (making information available in digital format). Neither will it be enough to digitalise (using this digital information to automate operations).We should strive for digital transformation – where we holistically change organizational activities, processes, competencies, and models to obtain maximum leverage from the mix of digital technology opportunities and their increasing impact on society. Our deep scientific and mathematical skills place engineers in a unique position to strongly contribute in a digitally rich future
Gustav is a graduate from Stellenbosch where he graduated with a BEng in 1984. He is a professional engineer with a master’s degree and PhD from Texas A&M in the USA.
In his professional career he has been actively involved in highway and rehabilitation design. He specialized in the analysis of non-destructive pavement testing and long-term performance modelling. He led the implementation of several road management systems in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Over the last 18 years he has served on the Executive of Aurecon, an engineering consultancy with 7000 employees operating in Australasia, Africa, Asia, the Middle East. He fulfilled the leadership roles of MD, CEO and the last 10 years as global COO of Aurecon.
Gustav has a very keen interest in digital transformation and the impact of the 4th Industrial revolution on engineering and the societies we serve. He currently serves on the Advisory boards of the engineering faculties of the University of Stellenbosch and Cape Town. He has been a Fellow of the South African Academy of Engineers since 2011.