The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Digital Transformation – an opportunity to reposition. Dr Gustav Rohde

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.