Gamification shapes engineering digital skills

Industry 4.0 is bolting engineering and digital together, CIOs are exploring how to play the skills development contest.

Engineering is shaking off the oil stained overalls, and hard hats are not required in an augmented reality. With 5G networks rolling out across the world, sensors being placed on each and every moving part or touchpoint, the Internet of Things (IoT) is bringing engineering and digital together into a single industry. But, in doing so, pure engineering organisations are unable to bolt in the skilled workforce it requires. Gamification is shaping up to be the gear the sector can leverage. 

"You cannot have engineering without digital," says David Ivell, CTO and Chief Innovation Officer with Enginuity, the engineering sector charity that supports engineering employers, training providers and engineers in the UK. Enginuity has machined Skills Miner, a Minecraft game in response to the engineering sector's demand for digitally oriented talent.

In the world of building bridges, rail lines, wind turbines or sea defences, it is perhaps not surprising that a term like gamification may not bond the industry together. Gamification is defined as: the use of game elements and principles, such as scoring and competition, for use in a non-game setting. Engineering is a serious world, and more often than not lives depend on the decisions made by engineers. In the Coronavirus pandemic, the engineers of Formula One motor sport raced to build ventilator machines to fill a major shortfall in hospitals in the UK, following a decade of health service cuts. But, as engineering and digital come together, games can be the Lego bricks that build the skills engineering firms need to augment their physical engineering strengths.

"In the UK there is a gap of 60,000 entry level engineering jobs that need filling," Ivell explains of the challenge.

"Johnson Matthey now needs to attract the best people not just in chemistry, commerce and product engineering, but also in IT," Paul Coby, CIO with the global science and engineering business says. "When you plug in new tools, especially using the cloud, it can immediately change the way people work across the business," Coby adds. The cloud is enabling the CIO to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and Machine Learning (ML) into the factories of Johnson Matthey, which engineer catalytic converters for vehicles and precious metals for other engineering and medical industries. 

Darren Martin, CTO of engineering firm Wood Group, is combining building structures like wind turbines and oil pipelines, with digital elements to create new services. "A digital twin of an energy fluid dynamics can spot a leak and then automatically turn off the pumps.

"We also use tethered autonomous drones to review such sites, so we can tell our engineers when it is safe to go to the area and make repairs," Martin says. "Before such security solutions were in place, some engineers might have been in danger when they went out to fix an asset." Minecraft is arguably a digital twin of the world we live in, and drones may have started out as toys, but are augmenting and protecting engineers in the aircraft, oil and utilities sectors. 

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