Statistics Lithuania has calculated that the number of Lithuanian companies using robots has increased from 3.2 to 4.6% in two years. Looking at the numbers, it is difficult to talk about the promising breakthrough, but experts say that, although not fast enough, Lithuanian business is digitizing, and 1.4% growth is not as modest as it may look like.
The last time robots at Lithuanian companies were counted by Eurostat. Based on these data collected in 2018, Lithuania was one of the least robotized countries in Europe.
“Although the demand in the market is huge, there are not many robots in Lithuanian companies. As labor resources dwindle, this becomes especially important,” said Kęstutis Šetkus, then director of the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA), who promised that we should have a breakthrough soon.
What has changed
At the beginning of this year, when the number of robots was counted by the Department of Statistics, it was announced that, at the beginning of the year 2020, 4.6% of companies with more than 10 employees used robots, compared to 3.2% two years ago (no data were collected in 2019).
First of all, it is observed that, although the increase in the share of robotic companies from 3.2% to 4.6% does not appear to be significant, it in fact means that the number of companies using robots has increased by 30%.
“In the leading countries, the growth rates are consistent and fluctuate between 20-40%,” notes E. Tauraitė-Kavai. The context of time is also important.
“The main challenge for robotics is the digitization processes that enable it. If you have a simple production line and want to robotize it, you have to automate it first, then all the processes have to be digitized, connected to the system and only then can robotization be performed,” says the expert. She notes that many industrial companies in Lithuania are already automated, and we also look good in terms of the scale of digitization.
Justinas Katkus, founder of Factobotics (member of the Lithuanian Robotics Association), which offers robotics solutions to the industry, also invites to calculate. When counting robots in companies, Statistics Department only surveyed economic entities with more than 10 employees – 5,204 industrial enterprises and 8,403 service enterprises. “In general, only 12.7%, or 13,607, of all Lithuanian companies can be robotized, because all others are micro-enterprises,” says J. Katkus. This means that in 2018, 435 Lithuanian companies had robots. At the beginning of 2020, – 626. “191 companies were robotized in two years. The tendency is good – Lithuania is digitizing”, states J. Katkus.
The ball is on the business side
According to one of the founders of Factobotics, the speed of robotization in Lithuania is much too slow. E. Tauraitė-Kavai says that the main challenges are not due to robotics specialists, but due to the specifics of the industrial sector – low wages, low production volume and outsourced production, which creates less added value, still prevail here. “As a result, the motivation to robotize is low, as it would not significantly reduce costs and payback would be slow, and in the short term competitiveness may even decrease,” says the MITA expert.
Remigijus Laurutis, the head of the robotics company Nord Robotics, who was recently interviewed by VŽ, also said that although the demand for robots in Lithuanian companies is growing, businesses, especially the food industry, still need to be persuaded to robotise.
We will educate producers
Although the Lithuanian robotics ecosystem – both service providers and users, according to E. Tauraitė-Kavai, is still being formed, the sector has the potential to create high added value. At present, Lithuania has 5 robot companies, which create unique robots for manufacturing companies, and 15 companies offering robotics solutions. “This year, the EU is launching a network of European Digital Innovation Centers (ESICs). Several of them will be formed in Lithuania as well. One of the goals of this network will be the robotization of the industry, providing consultations and developing individual robotics solutions. In addition to these services, digitization support measures for the purchase of equipment are repeatedly announced,” E. Tauraitė-Kavai names the preconditions for further development. And President Gitanas Nausėda, returning from the European Council, mentioned the digitization of industry as a priority with European support. “Lithuania will have excellent opportunities to finance green economy and digitization projects, which will be a priority of our activities for the next seven years,” the President said.