Gabe Eiteljorge has always been interested in computing, engineering and robotics fields.
Now, the 19-year-old Terre Haute South Vigo graduate is helping pioneer a new program at Ivy Tech Community College that trains students for what is described as the fourth phase of the industrial revolution, called Industry 4.0.
Industry 4.0 allows machines or robots equipped with microprocessors and smart sensors to connect together in smart factories/systems so they can communicate with each other and to people, via the cloud.
Smart systems can be controlled remotely through a computer or device, programmed to do things automatically, or provide employees with real-time updates on what those systems are doing.
The changes are important because they lead to improved safety, productivity and efficiency, experts say.
Increasingly, industries are making the transition to Industry 4.0, but there is a lack of skilled labor for this field, Ivy Tech officials say.
In response, the community college has a new program called Smart Manufacturing and Digital Integration, or SMDI. Molly Joseph is the Terre Haute program chair and Eiteljorge was the first student to enroll in the program this past semester.
The SMDI program “sounds like it might be a good, new career path,” Eiteljorge said. “It might be good for industry to incorporate [Industry 4.0].”
The degree will train students to incorporate new digital technologies into manufacturing that increase efficiency, he said.
Preparing the workforce
More and more manufacturers are adopting the changes, although currently, it’s primarily larger industries including auto manufacturers. As companies make the transition, “They need someone to figure out what to do with the data they are getting from the sensors and how to analyze it,” Joseph said.
The new program is being offered at campuses in Terre Haute, Columbus, Indianapolis, Kokomo, Lafayette, Madison, Sellersburg and South Bend/Elkhart.
It’s just getting started in Terre Haute, with some courses available in spring and all SMDI courses to be available next fall.
“With this program, we’re teaching our students about networking, data analytics, automation and control, but we’re looking at more integration of the smart technologies,” Joseph said. “Technically there’s a little bit of maintenance, but we’re not training these people to go out and be able to fix something. It’s kind of in between maintenance, engineering and information technology.”
Those trained will be able to integrate the smart technologies into a company’s already automated assembly line, Joseph explained.
In a classroom at Ivy Tech’s Center for Workforce Development, the college has its own mini “smart factory,” a small, classroom version of an automated assembly line.
According to Joseph, “Our students will be able to remote in to Ivy Tech’s Lafayette campus ‘smart factory’ and be able to diagnose it from Terre Haute. … That is the networking part and the cloud-based system part of it.”
A report released by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte estimates 2.4 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled between 2018 and 2028. “Ivy Tech graduates skilled in Industry 4.0 technologies will be employable in new, interdisciplinary career fields that will help Indiana employers close this gap,” according to Ivy Tech.
Ivy Tech’s program is an associate of applied science, and graduates will have the opportunity to earn 19 industry-recognized certifications.
Among the career options for graduates will be a digital manufacturing engineer, a job that pays a median salary of about $39 per hour.
In Terre Haute, the new program already has two students and a third plans to enroll. All SMDI program courses will be available in fall 2022, with some of the courses available this spring.
The advancements through Industry 4.0 don’t reduce the need for employees. “What we’ll need are people with a higher level skill set,” said Sue Smith, Ivy Tech vice president for the School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering and Applied Science.
For industry, the changes mean increased productivity and competitiveness, Smith said.
By offering the new program, Ivy Tech’s role is to help people attain better careers and also help employers have a better workforce, Smith said.
While some of Indiana’s larger companies have already embraced it, others are getting started. “What we want to do at Ivy Tech is to prepare the workforce before it is in really high demand,” Smith said. “We’re trying to get ahead of that curve.”
Great Dane looks to Ivy Tech
The program has the interest of Andrew Thraen, control engineer for Great Dane in Terre Haute. “It’s very timely because Great Dane is in the process of a pretty large expansion in Terre Haute” that will create about 125 jobs over the next few years, “all very high technology-based, high-paying jobs.”
He anticipates the company will hire graduates of the new Ivy Tech program, and current employees also will benefit from training.
“The good thing is we’re able to create these jobs that are more desirable — higher-end type technology with pretty good pay,” Thraen said.
Production equipment will be highly automated. “Great Dane isn’t really new to automation, but the level of automation that we’ll bring in house is at a level we haven’t really taken on in the past,” he said.
The advancements relate to the ability to collect data off machines, something the company has done to a certain extent but “we’re really stepping into” with the expansion in Terre Haute.
The changes will make the process more efficient, he said.
“It typically makes the work a lot easier on the individual, because maybe instead of having to manually move parts by hand or lifting heavy objects, we have a machine that does it, and [the employee] just makes sure the machine is running properly,” Thraen said. Industry 4.0 “allows employees to take their brainpower and focus on solving bigger problems instead of constantly being focused on how to run the machine day in and day out.”
Another benefit is that much of the work can be done remotely, he said.
For example, if he got a call from someone who didn’t know how to fix a problem, instead of having to go in and diagnose it, he can check it from wherever he is, advise the employee on what to do and perhaps solve a problem in 15 minutes rather than one or two hours.
Ivy Tech’s program launching is very timely, said Thraen who received an engineering degree from Purdue.
“I’ve noticed a pretty good gap between where a typical manufacturing engineer would end and an IT person would start. And that’s really a gap this program intends to address,” he said. “I’m really excited about it because I personally have been trying to work through some of those challenges myself.”
Endress+Hauser in Greenwood is one company looking for employees with Industry 4.0 skills.
The need is increasing because more companies and industries are trying to integrate Industry 4.0 into their operations, said Nicole Otte, Endress+Hauser director of workforce development.
“We have a need for individuals who can come in with that skill set and can help sell product,” she said. The company also needs people who can troubleshoot and service its products.
The company sells instruments that help other manufacturers automate and measure their processes in such industries as food/beverage, oil/gas and pharmaceuticals.
Right now, “It’s more about educating all of our industries about what the possibilities are,” Otte said. “I think a lot of companies want to do it, but they need to be able to understand it.”
The benefits of Industry 4.0 are that it should increase productivity and decrease downtime, she said. It can help companies predict issues or concerns before they happen and prevent them from occurring.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at [email protected] Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.
For more information on the smart manufacturing and digital integration program, go to ivytech.edu/smdi. In Terre Haute, questions can be directed to Molly Joseph at [email protected] or 812-298-2335.