SFU launches new professional master’s program to prepare Canada for the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0)

December 15, 2021

As the world transitions toward a fourth industrial revolution (also known as Industry 4.0), Simon Fraser University is announcing a new professional master’s program that will help meet Canada’s growing demand for advanced digital manufacturing professionals. The new Master of Engineering in Smart Manufacturing and Systems (SMS) program will accept applications from December through early 2022, and the first cohort will begin their training in September 2022.

“Canada is under-prepared for the industrial digital transformation that is the future of manufacturing, and this premier program will help train skilled professionals who can become national and international leaders in building digital transformation and smart manufacturing capabilities for a better economic future,” says SFU mechatronic systems engineering professor Edward Park, one of the main developers of the SMS program. He specializes in mechatronics, robotics and automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Currently, digitally skilled labour in the Canadian manufacturing sector is in short supply and in great need,” adds Park. “Canadian manufacturers will either adopt Industry 4.0 technologies or die.”

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the first industrial revolution shifted workers from hand production to using steam- and water-powered machines. Electricity was adapted during the second revolution, while computer and automation technologies were embraced by the industry in its third transformation.

Industry 4.0 will see the emergence of cyber-physical systems that integrate robotics and automation with advanced digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics and IoT. Digital-twin technologies will enable virtual models of systems and objects using real-time data to allow engineers to run virtual simulations and troubleshooting of the physical assets. This digitization of the industry will allow automated processes that are faster, efficient and optimized.

“In a smart factory, automated production lines are equipped with advanced sensors and embedded software and powered by machine learning algorithms to allow for better decision making,” describes professor Woo Soo Kim, the interim director of the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, and an expert in additive manufacturing.

“The new digital technologies can identify what parts are needed in real-time, produce them on demand from digital designs, monitor quality control of manufacturing processes virtually, and predict and correct equipment errors before they occur.”

“Right now, the world needs a specialized workforce that can develop the high-tech solutions and get us to that smart manufacturing future,” says Kim.

To help close the critical skills gap and position British Columbia and Canada as competitors in the Industry 4.0 market, SFU is uniquely positioned to train the next generation of advanced manufacturing professionals.

“SFU’s world class faculty expertise in mechatronic systems engineering and computing science allows us to provide this first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary program in Western Canada, with a unique Industry 4.0 focus compared to similar programs nationwide,” says Kim.

“Our faculty, government and industry partners are seeing the urgent demand of digitally skilled professionals, and this program will prepare students to work in the smart manufacturing industry immediately after graduation,” he adds.

Students can complete the MEng degree in 16-20 months, which includes a 4- or 8- month industry internship. The program appeals to engineering students and professionals who are looking for a specialized graduate program to upgrade their skills with relevant industry experience and move their careers to the next level.

Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the gaps in Canada’s manufacturing infrastructure as the country has been reliant on other nations to provide critical supplies such as medical equipment and vaccines. Recent weather events and supply chain challenges continue to reinforce the need for Canada and B.C. to strengthen its production and distribution systems. While this new SMS program will support the needs in labour demands and economic recovery, Park points out a significant human-centred improvement that will come out of the next industrial revolution.

“We are now at a time in the twenty-first century where these smart manufacturing technologies and AI will finally allow the industrial workforce to focus less on tedious, sometimes dangerous, labour-intensive tasks, and focus more on what is important: ingenuity and innovation.”