“Although machines do dirty work for us, our dependence on them costs us time, poor relations with other people, loss of serenity and lack of attention. And we will pay even more,” says *Dominika Bettman, CEO of Simens Polska, in the interview by Robert Siewiorek

Robert Siewiorek: What are robots taught in Siemens to prepare them for the coming of Industry 4.0?

Dominika Bettman: Robots use sensors to collect information they need to understand what happens in the production cycle. Knowing that, we are able to tell in what production conditions a product was created. The analysis of production processes allows to optimize them by changing their parameters, by learning how to properly set them and by teaching the robots how to improve the production. Additionally, we can build a product information base which may also be used by a product user. At a later stage, when the product is used, we can ensure that spare parts are easily replaceable. This is beneficial both to the user and to the producer.

In what way does it relate to your Digital Twins project, i.e. to creation of a virtual equivalent of existing realities, things? Are you building parallel worlds?

That is right.

What for?

To check in that virtual world if and how a device, machine, production line or even a whole factory works out in reality before it is even created. When I watched crash tests I felt sad about all those beautiful cars turned into scrap… In the Digital Twins “parallel world”, in the world of computer simulation, we do not have to destroy any products. This is the first of many applications of that technology that comes into my mind.

Such a nice Volvo…

So beautiful, so elegant… I like James Bond a lot, but whenever I have to watch premium cars being destroyed in each part of the series, I think it is simply a waste. So when I saw the digital twin for the first time, I said to myself: “Finally someone has figured it out!” [laughing].

It is obvious that the original idea behind creating digital twins was saving money. The Computer-Aided Design Technology, which consists in creating a detailed computer generated product plan, has been used for many years. After some time it turned out that, owing to better computers, everything that is connected with a planned product could be tested “virtually” without doing that in the real world. What is more, it is possible to analyze such products throughout their whole lifecycle, to perform predictive maintenance, to evaluate various unusual situations or to study the use of the products for purposes they were not originally intended. The potential of digital twins is unlimited.

Identical products have been manufactured on a mass scale since the times of Ford. It is true that Industry 4.0 is still about mass production, but it is not anymore about production of identical products. It is about manufacturing products tailored to customers’ needs

What about civilization potential? For example digital twins in social relations?

For example. Do you mean inputting data regarding social determinants and checking what impact they will have on people’s behavior? Obviously that would first require development of correct models for a digital twin. Sadly, mathematics that describes social relations is more than complicated.

Instead of learning from our own mistakes, failures and pain, instead of wasting all those Aston Martins, we are testing our life “in reality” and we contribute to faster development of other fields. Is that correct?

Absolutely! Coming back to the industry: a perfect copy of one of the Siemens factories in Germany, which already has its digital twin, has been launched in China. The German factory located in Amberg has been cloned. Let me stress one thing: we are not talking about a single product. We are talking about the whole twin system.

What is the Internet of Things and the 5G network? Not in a factory but rather in an average joe’s life?

It means living in a different world. The core idea of the 5G network is its huge density, availability, capacity and speed. If we want an autonomous vehicle to park here, right next to our Siemens headquarters building at Żupnicza street, precisely 10 to 15 centimeters away from a crosswalk, then we will need that kind of network to make it happen. Otherwise it will be impossible for self-driving vehicles to operate properly. The same stays true for hundreds of other intelligent devices requiring detailed real time data analyses.

In the case of production, the 5G network is a prerequisite for development of Industry 4.0, because the core of that industry is a permanent inflow of information on how products are used and how they work at a specific point in time or in a specific location. The access to all devices connected to the network may not be limited by the network speed. Only high bandwidth and availability of the 5G network will make it possible to inspect, for instance, a production line somewhere on the other side of the world or to manage two twin factories situated on two different continents from a place located on the third continent.

Youtube movie URL: https://youtu.be/ObGhB9CCHP8

Siemens demonstrates capabilities of digital twins
Source: Siemens / YouTube

Can you think of an argument for the implementation of 5G and Industry 4.0 that would appeal to the imagination of an average joe?

With Internet of Things it will be possible for him to wear a diagnostic wristband collecting all the most important data about his current health condition. Even today we have watches that measure our heartbeat and record information about our sleep.

And what if such a band could contact your physician or connect to medical databases? Or what if the band could be used to analyze blood or saliva samples that would allow to immediately diagnose the band wearer’s health problems?

Any other argument?

Sure! Identical products have been manufactured on a mass scale since the times of Ford. Although Industry 4.0 is still about mass production, it is not anymore about production of identical products. It is about manufacturing products meeting customers’ requirements and tailored to their needs.

And what about home uses? Printing products with the use of home 3D printers?

Absolutely, but we will still need more time for that as the number of such machines is limited, and they are pretty expensive ranging from 100 to 500 thousand dollars a piece. But that was also the case of most of breakthrough technologies; they were expensive and not widely available at first, but eventually got cheaper and became more commonplace.

You are constructing a factory near Wrocław. You have just launched the recruitment procedure. Do you think I could be of any use?

Only if you specialize in control cabinets as this is the product we are going to manufacture in our facility. They are intelligent devices which control the whole production line; they store and analyze all information necessary for production. Today control cabinets are the heart of Industry 4.0 and the brain of any digital factory. That is why we are looking for people with technical background, wiremen and engineers. We are going to employ about 150 people and produce 1,250 cabinets per year.

I have recently stumbled across a statement by Roland Busch, Siemens Technological Director, who, referring to widespread concerns regarding machines that would take over our jobs, said that creating an opposition between a man and a machine is a mistake. Because what matters is improved quality of working environment for people. Is it possible to retrain all cart operators, welders and drivers and make them become engineers?

It is impossible, but bear in mind that this is not the point. Robotization will force retraining but it will not be necessary for technical high school graduates to obtain a university degree.

A huge factory is being built. It will produce many complicated devices a year but only 150 people will be employed. For that reason, I think that one should not be too optimistic about the fact that new technologies will not force people out of the labor market. Many people will not be able to acquire new high-level qualifications. You are not looking for warehousemen or machine operators to be employed in your factory. You are looking for engineers. For many people the price of modernity you embody will be very high.

Professional future will the challenge for all of us, because the world in which we learn only one profession and follow it until we retire is disappearing. We will have to develop and improve our competences all the time. On the other hand, our work will be more efficient, more interesting and safer. Surely, as in the case of any revolutionary change, not everyone will be willing to adapt. But we cannot stop that process.

So that leap into the digital world we are talking about, that immersion in the Internet of Things is not only the matter of infrastructure but also, for some, the matter of an enormous amount of effort to improve themselves and, for others, the matter of frustration, impotence, rejection and uselessness.

To me, those words of Roland Busch appear as a high metalevel opinion which pertains to all humankind in the perspective of several generations. The issues we are discussing in the context of our factory near Wrocław pertain to a man from Lower Silesian Voivodship who has specific qualifications, cannot, for various reasons, change those qualifications, and is unemployed. We are offering him the job here and now.

Yes, but a young man asking himself a question what he should learn in order not to be unemployed in the future is interested only in his own “frog view”. When the Opel factory in Gliwice was built in 1990s, jobs were offered to thousands of people, also former miners.

Over the past 20 years the technology has greatly developed, and so has Polish economy. Today you have to meet different conditions, and different skills are required. Nowadays, in modern factories different qualifications are needed if compared to those that were necessary several decades ago. One of the problems connected with all the society entering a new era of industry may include willingness of acquiring new knowledge and openness to new technologies.

Let us not stay attached to the idea of perfectionism at all costs and concentrate on ourselves in our professional life as our professional life is about playing in a team. Openness and flexibility are more important than specific skills.

It is said that whether a man is able to enter that new world does not depend on his age. But I think that, in a way, it does. But the whole society needs to undergo a transformation and “retraining” process. Employees should be helped to adapt to a new reality. Trainings, programs or new faculties at universities are not enough.

Let us imagine you are standing in front of a group of teenagers who finished their junior high school this year. They are asking you about an occupation they should learn and about the studies they should chose to survive. What is your advice to them?

It is hard to predict what future will bring and what jobs will be popular in 10 or more years. There is no easy and straightforward answer to that question. It is always advisable to follow your passion and work hard to develop it. We are undergoing many changes and everything is happening faster and faster. One year ago or two years ago it was believed that it would take about one and a half year to prepare an employee for efficient work in a company. That period is getting shorter. Soon we will not be able to afford anything like that.

But it does take time to learn increasingly difficult things.

That is the point. How to reconcile one thing with the other? How to combine the world of science or education with the reality of the labor market? It is impossible to avoid changes. There is no turning back. Our generation and the generations to come must get used to lifelong learning and professional improvement as well as to constant adaptation to the labor market. This is the challenge for our whole society, not only for young people. This is the challenge we have to take up.

Since we are unable to imagine most of professions that might exist in ten years, would it not be better to stop teaching professions to young people and to start teaching them skills and competences instead? So as they could use them to create their own professions and adapt to constant changes?

Whenever someone asked me about professions of the future, that was exactly my answer. I have been in the world of business for over 20 years. When I think about what can happen to me, I am not afraid that in the future I will have to learn new things. Let us teach young people how to be open and flexible.

And to unlearn them getting A+ marks?

Let us not stay attached to the idea of perfectionism at all costs and concentrate on ourselves in our professional life as our professional life is about playing in a team. Openness and flexibility are more important than specific skills which, as the time goes by, may prove to be of little use on the labor market. We do not know what our children will do in the future. What is more, we do not even know what we will do!

How to unlearn them?

Today kids at school are taught entrepreneurship although back in the People’s Republic of Poland the term “entrepreneurship” was usually associated with wangling and getting rich while preying on others.

Shifty small business owners.

Terrible, is it not? But entrepreneurship is not a specific, knowledge-based skill. It is a competence, a set of features, but also an attitude to life and world.

Recent Siemens Smart Industry Polska studies show that creativity is also one of the most desired competences an engineer should have.

That is going beyond existing standards.

Exactly. When discussing development of artificial intelligence we often wonder who should be responsible for ethical consequences of AI actions. Should it be a user, a developer, a technology owner? That is why nowadays we can more often hear people say that education of engineers should also cover some aspects of ethics and philosophy.

To make an engineer know what ethical consequences of the solutions he applied may be?

Yes. When I talk with my colleagues, they often say: “Let me answer your question the way engineers do: I’m gonna refer to the binary numeral system.” Then I am presented with a detailed description of technical effects resulting from solution A or solution B.

At this point, we wish Nobel had known what invention of dynamite would mean.

Probably people would have avoided many tragedies.

Let us imagine that we meet here again in ten years. Let us say that strong artificial intelligence, the one that thinks in a flexible and abstract way, just like humans, already exists. What place are you in, as a director of a company, and what place am I in, as a journalist? What is happening around us? What does the reality look like?

Me as a director… It is said that as far as management is concerned, the human factor cannot yet be replaced by artificial intelligence. Because good management means sensitivity, empathy, seeing a broader context in which other people live. However, recent studies have shown that the role of general management is decreasing in importance because management relates now more often to very specific and narrow fields. And this would mean that the number of people who are business leaders today will be getting smaller and smaller.

And you as a journalist? Well… It is said that artificial intelligence is a threat to journalists, as it also is the case of lawyers, for example. I have read that algorithms are now capable of writing stock exchange related announcements sport news.

And much more.

Precisely. Artificial intelligence will probably be getting better at making connections between facts and at analyzing them more efficiently. But what about choosing what is worth analyzing and what elements should be used in such connections? I think that people doing your job and other jobs will still be better at that than machines for a long time.

So do you think we have a chance to survive with our professions on the market for another ten years?

Ten years at least, maybe even more. However, as far as the industry is concerned, the process of digitalization will continue because implementation of digital solutions is very profitable. I believe that in ten years a half of the Polish companies which do not know what Industry 4.0 is and do not take any actions to adapt, will disappear from the market. The ones that will survive will surely operate within the area of that industry. And that will entail a huge social change.

Will we transform from a navigating society that we are today to a society that is navigated? Will digital technology pervade reality after it is released from the closed boxes we keep it in today?

So it would seem. On my way back home I will be able to check what is in my fridge and what is missing. While waiting at the traffic lights I will be able to order the things I need from the shop, and they will be delivered to my place. Or my fridge will do it for me.

But I still wonder why, despite so many new life quality improvements, we still do not have time for anything. Why is it the case in spite of the fact that some time ago we needed hours or days to perform certain activities and now it takes us only few seconds and often we do not need to even lift a finger because the machines can do it for us?

Maybe because after having excluded all that can be done by the machines from our scope of activities we have become the elements of those machines? When I look at people on a tram staring at their smartphone screens, I have an impression that they are an integral part of those devices. Although in the past washing the clothes in a primitive washing machine would take a half of your day, my grandmother did not become a slave of that technology despite the fact that at that time that was a modern technology. Washing machines did not steal grandmas from kids. However, smartphones do steal parents from children.

The process of integrating people and technologies leads to the fact that it costs us more and more to operate the machines; we pay with our time, poor relations with other people, loss of serenity and lack of attention. This is a kind of contribution we have to pay to the devices for being more and more dependent on them. And for the fact that the machines “do the dirty work for us”. And we will pay even more as you never get anything for free in your life. The problem of finding oneself in that world has even been addressed recently by psychologists and universities.

*Dominika BettmanCEO of Siemens Polska, Member of the Supervisory Board of Eurobank, President of the Responsible Business Forum and Vice-President of the Women’s Congress association. Economist, graduate of the Warsaw School of Economics.

Skip to content