After More than a Decade in Consulting, I Went Back to University to prepare for Industry 4.0
8 February 2022 — When it comes to having the qualifications to be called a global talent, Kelvin Chin definitely fits the bill. Since obtaining his Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology, he has lived and worked in a number of global cities such as Chicago, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. His resume includes more than a decade of professional experience at leading consulting firms such as Shainin and PwC, where he implemented sustainability projects, guided manufacturing readiness and commencement, and planned cost controls and strategic globally procurement. He has trained more than 1,000 technical professionals in using Shainin’s Red X® methodology to solve complex problems and pin down the root causes of crises faced by leading automakers, aerospace companies and manufacturers around the world. Then he put his career on hold.
Kelvin Chin, MSc in Industry 4.0, 2nd cohort, 2020/2021 class
Returning to university, Kelvin chose to pursue a Master of Science (MSc) in Industry 4.0 at the National University of Singapore (NUS). We caught up with him recently, after his graduation, to ask him about his experience.
Kelvin: I was born in Singapore but worked overseas for many years, first as an engineer, before moving into consulting. The projects I worked on were mostly related to manufacturing, and I noticed that many of my consultancy clients were undertaking Industry 4.0 transformations, as part of a larger trend.
The nine years I worked in Shanghai left me deeply impressed by the rapid pace of development in China. Automation, for example, has improved by leaps and bounds. This has led to changes in the job scope of workers and engineers, as well as in the respective recruiting requirements for those positions. For example, in the automotive industry, every major automaker is introducing plans to manufacture alternative fuel vehicles. These cars will see many of their mechanical parts replaced by electronic components, so much so that they would probably more closely resemble electronic devices like microwave ovens or mobile phones. So, will the automotive industry need the same talents and skills as before?
Many industries, not just the manufacturing sector, are pursuing Digital Transformation. There is a huge shortage of talent in this space, and demand for such skilled employees is high. On the other hand, those who do not update their skills and knowledge are most likely to become redundant.
When NUS launched MSc in Industry 4.0, I felt that the programme aligned with my professional background and personal vision, so I decided to apply.
Kelvin: What is Industry 4.0? Some people may not understand what it is, or what its methodologies may be. It involves making strategic decisions about the implementation of multiple new technologies in digital transformation. How this is achieved can vary quite a bit across different industries, fields and companies. To steer the implementation of Industry 4.0 across their organisations, visionary companies such as Siemens and Bosch have established dedicated departments that are focused on how to successfully carry though this transformation.
It is not an easy undertaking. First and foremost, efforts must be made to change the mindset and culture in the organisation. The leadership and foresight of business leaders are an important part of this. They must define a clear Industry 4.0 transformation strategy. What should we do and where should we start? What resources should we allocate? How should we build the infrastructure? For the most part, we are still figuring out the way forward. For example, companies generally think that developing an app or having a customer relationship management (CRM) software system means that they have effectively implemented digital transformation and digital marketing. Honestly, these are no more than just the first steps.
To realise the untapped potential of Industry 4.0, companies need to engage talent with expertise in the area, and there will be a growing demand for such professionals. The challenges involved in transitioning towards Industry 4.0 are so complicated that it may be a pipe dream to transform a company immediately without additional talent and resources.
A programme like the NUS MSc in Industry 4.0 equips you with the necessary skills and knowledge to take up a role in the digital transformation department of a company or to work as a consultant to make a difference and catalyse change step by step. The kind of transformation needed for Industry 4.0 is beyond the capability of a professional who is trained in a narrow subject area, and can really only be achieved by someone with multidisciplinary knowledge, someone who is capable of conducting in-depth analyses into a company, planning, allocating resources, setting up the necessary infrastructure and managing the process of the transformation.
Kelvin: The NUS MSc in Industry 4.0 is unique in its multidisciplinary set-up. In addition to core modules, elective modules are offered by tapping onto the deep expertise of five academic units.
The programme covers a wide range of subject areas, and is perfectly aligned with its objective to train professionals for Industry 4.0. Broad perspectives and a foundational understanding of numerous technologies are required for graduates to organise resources in a forward-looking manner and effectively develop the Industry 4.0 implementation strategy for their company from a macro perspective.
Imagine if you were given the job of implementing Digital Twin technology for your company. You would have to know clearly what resources need to be mobilised for the project, including the manpower, materials, and funding. This involves being able to select what type of programmers are needed and what software coding language is to be used to develop the system. Engineers would also be needed to install sensors for offline situations, which means you have to know how to assess their productivity and quality of work. The key to successfully carrying out this project is to change rigid company cultures, carry out change management and to get top management, employees and customers to embrace new technologies.
|Elective Modules of MSc in Industry 4.0
• Digital Supply Chain
| Faculty of Science
• Data Mining and Interpretation
• Deep Learning for Industry
• Quality Assurance and Yield Optimisation
| School of Computing
• Principles and Practice of Secure Systems
• Digital Business
| Institute of Systems Science
• Pattern Recognition Systems
• Intelligent Sensing Systems
| Faculty of Engineering
• Additive Manufacturing
• Internet of Things
• Robotics and Automation
This is why I especially appreciate the core module IND5004 Digital Infrastructure and Transformation. Once you master all those concepts, tools and techniques taught in all the other modules, this module trains you in how to deploy and apply them to tackle the Industry 4.0 challenges that exist in a company.
From a certain perspective, the NUS MSc in Industry 4.0 can be described as a Master’s in Business Administration programme for Industry 4.0.
Kelvin: My classmates consisted of fresh graduates and people with prior working experience, such as myself. Thus, work experience is not a requisite for application.
However in my opinion, if you have at least two to four years of work experience, you stand to gain more from the programme. The reason is that, as I have said before, the curriculum and the concept of Industry 4.0 itself requires you to be familiar with the pain points and operations of a business. Without industry or operations knowledge, you would have trouble keeping an open mind when trying to complete assignments and projects. It would be advantageous to gain practical/internship experience before starting the programme.
The challenges for students who lack work experience could also be seen as opportunities. For example, such students may find that the Capstone Project accelerates their understanding of industries and the operations of companies, besides providing them with access to and practical experience in applying different technologies. These could lead to more job opportunities.
No matter what career stage they may be in or what career goal they might have, students can gain something from the MSc in Industry 4.0 programme, whether it is multi-disciplinary skills and knowledge, a chance to break into the field of digital transformation, the leeway to make a career change, or the stepping stone to advance into a management consulting position. Just keep in mind that the programme was not designed to equip people with a deep mastery in a single field—if this is your goal, then it may not be the best match for you.
Kelvin: I left Shanghai in 2019 to settle down in Germany, and planned to take a career break. I started the NUS MSc in Industry 4.0 programme in August 2020, attending online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and did not go to the campus in Singapore until December. Upon completing my Master’s Degree, I returned to Germany and embarked on a job search, targeting roles related to digital transformation in operations and project management in the European Union and Asia.
The impact of digitalisation on mobility, supply chains, social behaviour and the environment is of interest to me. I pay particular attention to the challenges faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) surfing the wave of Industry 4.0. They may be suppliers to the world’s 500 largest companies, but they do not have the resources that those companies have. How do these suppliers keep pace with the times when leading companies are investing heavily in digital transformation?
Where there is need, there is opportunity. Graduates of the Industry 4.0 programme can be employed based on their knowledge and skills in data analytics, automation and machine learning. They can also join the innovation departments of large companies in emerging roles such as Digital Transformation Lead and Industry 4.0 Programme Manager. In addition, consulting firms are also recruiting more and more Industry 4.0 professionals to solve problems in digital transformation for their clients.
In many aspects, Kelvin’s approach to career and development—based on his years of consulting experience and insights into the future of Industry 4.0 and the demand for related talent—reflects the lifelong learning philosophy advocated by NUS.
Do the opportunities that Kevin describes match those that you are looking for? If they resonate, you too may want to do something to prepare yourself for Industry 4.0.