The fourth industrial revolution is changing the maintenance activities of all companies. If on the one hand, the implementation of new technologies improved the efficiency and flexibility of most manufacturing processes. On the other hand, this radical change requires very high investments in terms of resources and training. Many technologies (e.g., augmented reality, IoT, digital twins) can support maintenance tasks, but in the general case, they require specific competence in IT technology. Therefore, in many cases, the frequent question is, “are there operators able to manage the innovative tools and devices currently available?”.

According to recent studies, the maintenance operator of the fourth industrial era will receive real-time information on the assets’ health status accompanied by diagnostic reports, simulations and prediction of potential failures. Therefore, he should be able to understand this data, use I4.0 devices and take decisions on time to solve potential problems. The hard skills required for “new” maintenance operators can be summarized into five competencies:

  • To know the most recent maintenance plans.
  • To check the measurements’ reliability, using statistical and analytical approaches.
  • To use digital technologies, including recent devices (e.g., 3D viewer, mobile asset devices, Cyber-physical Systems, etc.)
  • To assess the consequences of main maintenance tasks in terms of cost and time.

Multiple soft skills are needed; they are common to well-known industrial practices such as team working, problem-solving, multitasking, etc.

If, on the one hand, the new maintenance tasks will be more and more cognitive addressed, on the other hand, the physical efforts needed for maintenance activities will be moved to the artificial systems that will replace the human in the no-value-added activities. This is the roadmap towards a new perspective where the operators will be the mind of the most critical industrial processes.

Written by Prof. Francesco Facchini from POLIBA