As the pandemic grows demand in the robotics industry, the sector is striving to be closer to business: companies implementing robotics solutions are educating industrialists, and the professionals who are developing them are making robots increasingly available not only for mass production but also for smaller manufacturers.
Daumantas Simėnas, the head of the Lithuanian Robotics Association, says that robotics companies are feeling the growing interest of the industry.
“Especially in the context of a pandemic, there is a growing number of companies interested in automation solutions. Finally, the industry is turning to robotics, and the myth that these solutions are expensive and available only to the largest ones is dispelled,”Daumantas Simėnas, Head of the Lithuanian Robotics Association
Demand is growing
The International Federation of Robotics estimates that in 2022, almost 4 million robots will work in the world’s factories. They will be crucial to automate and shake up the economy in the post-pandemic period.
VŽ has already written about the fact that automation can become a “medicine” for the industries fighting the pandemic.
“Over the next 18 months, we will have to install as many innovations as we typically do in five years,” The Economist quoted Anna Shedletsky, head of Instrumental’s industry-leading automation solutions, as the global pandemic hit in April.
VŽ has already written that in Lithuania, according to the Department of Statistics, at the beginning of this year, 3% of Lithuanian companies with more than 10 employees had employed robots in their activities. Although the percentage seems small, Justinas Katkus, the founder of Factobotics, which offers robotics solutions to the industry, estimates that progress is significant.
“In general, only 12.7%, or 13,607, of all Lithuanian companies can robotize, because all others are micro-enterprises. At the beginning of 2018, 435 Lithuanian companies had robots, in 2020 – 626,” comments Justinas Katkus
Not just the big ones
Although the Lithuanian industry is robotizing, robotics experts acknowledge that progress could be faster.
“One of the reasons why our companies are reluctant to invest is the myth that robots are expensive and intended only for large companies with large-scale series production,”Daumantas Simėnas
According to him, the further away, the more robotic solution developers strive to be closer to medium and smaller companies, which have so far untapped potential.
“It used to be that you buy robots when you are engaged in large-scale series production, you can easily calculate how long it would take to pay off production robotics. But now this trend is changing – developers are turning to the most flexible, easily programmable robotic solutions available to more manufacturers,” says the head of the Lithuanian Robotics Association.
Lithuanian robot developers mainly work with furniture, metal processing, components for the automotive industry, textile manufacturers, and food industry companies.
“As an association, while communicating with industrial companies and performing digital audits, we see a huge potential for robotization in the Lithuanian manufacturing sector, and the companies themselves are increasingly realizing that it is possible to robotize smaller production,” D. Simėnas says about the changes.
Training the staff
Speaking of robotics in a post-pandemic economy, the International Federation of Robotics emphasizes that industry today should think not only about process automation, but also about the workforce that production will need in the future – as processes become more automated, production workers will need more digital knowledge, as well as the transfer of manual labor to robots, will make the qualities of employees such as critical thinking and the ability to solve problems quickly.
“In the short term, we can talk about retraining the existing workforce and training employees, but we need to prepare for change more broadly, adapting the entire education system to the future labor market, where digital skills will become increasingly important,” said Susanne Bieller, Secretary General of the World Robotics Federation.
In a post-pandemic economy, the federation is urging countries to prepare in advance that robotics skills will become increasingly important in the future as the industry digitizes. The research company Economist Intelligence Unit, which has published an index of readiness for automation, so far distinguishes only 4 countries that have already adapted their education system to the automated economy of the future – South Korea, Estonia, Singapore and Germany.
D. Simėnas says that Lithuanian companies in the robotics sector do not complain about the lack of specialists. “We have 3 high schools that train robotics specialists, but in any case, the basic training usually takes place in the company,” explains Daumantas.
“The association plans to hold meetings with industry and share information on what robotics solutions are offered today, what benefits they can bring to companies, companies that have already robotized production could share automation experience and specific advice to other manufacturers,” says D. Simėnas.
According to him, the benefits of robotization for manufacturers can also be revealed by digital audits organized by the association, during which robotics experts visit companies.
“Visiting engineers review all production processes, human resources and provide an initial picture of the company, revealing bottle necks or any stuck things, as well as an initial assessment with specific suggestions for what the company could improve,” explains the head of the Lithuanian Robotics Association.
According to him, Lithuanian robotics specialists together with foreign partners seek to improve the digital audit methodology and in the future look for ways to further develop cooperation and information sharing between specialists and manufacturers, which would allow companies to get acquainted with the potential of robotics solutions and receive specific recommendations for operational automation.
Find out more about the innovation and technological audits performed by the Lithuanian Robotics Association here. For further information please contact:
- Daumantas Simėnas (firstname.lastname@example.org; +370 617 73339);
- Saulius Šerėnas (email@example.com; +370 620 59514).