Ideas for the industry of Lithuania: 10 most relevant technologies and a German example for a successful business future

2020 07 10 · 3 min read

Industry sector in Lithuania and around the world is increasingly talking about changes inspired by changing needs of the customers and other social trends. Germany could be seen as an example, where as many as 9 out of 10 companies invest in the digitalization of factories. This is an excellent evidence of the need to meet the challenges that arise through implementing new functions and technologies that are most relevant to the industry of the specific country.

The digitalization of the industry can be organized in very different stages and cover other parts of the business, but we decided 10 technologies that are now most relevant to the Lithuanian manufacturing sector.

  1. Additive production. This type of production is based on the principles of overhead construction, where the structure is formed directly from the digital model. For example, 3D printing, Rapid Prototyping – RP, Direct Digital Manufacturing – DDM. Depending on the chosen method, it is easy to complement the production with other technologies.
  2. Automation. Otherwise, this is understood as carrying out production, monitoring, control and management without the involvement of people. Process automation allows you to achieve maximum production quality, save resources, improve working conditions and reduce production time thus increasing productivity. The trend includes very wide use possibilities and levels, from one production facility to the automation of the whole line.
  3. Robotics. Industrial robots are programmable mechatronic systems capable of moving on three to eight mobile axes. The advantages of industrial robots are high durability, speed and accuracy. Robots are simply irreplaceable in the production process, which are particularly tedious and dangerous.
  4. Mechatronics. It is the basis of automation systems and robotics, synergistic integration of engineering areas such as mechanics, electronics and management systems. Mechatronics is essential for the development of computerised production and flexible production systems. In the near future, it will take an important role in the cyber-physical systems (CPS) used for the monitoring, coordination and management of production processes.
  5. Smart sensors. These devices are able to selectively detect and filter information, allow you to collect data automatically, with greater accuracy and with less ambient noise. Smart sensors have improved operating features and increased integration, multi-parameter measurement, safe operation and pre-designed network work.
  6. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). A network of interconnected physical devices may include electronics, software, sensors, actuators and communication components that these devices can communicate and exchange data. It is hoped that this will create new business models, improve productivity, and make better use of analytical data for innovation. In production, IIoT is based on the concept of cyber-physical systems (CPS), a link between the human and cyber worlds that would turn the collected data into adaptable information.
  7. Cybersecurity. This is the protection of hardware or software and data systems connected to the Internet. The convergence of IT or OT (convergence of information technology and operational or production technologies), cloud computing, the Internet of Things and other innovative technologies reveal new vulnerabilities and threats. Cybersecurity therefore requires a holistic approach and the early integration of security measures into the entire cycle of equipment development and use, a multi-layered supply and value chain.
  8. Cloud-based production. Otherwise understood as network-linked production based on access to diversified and distributed resources that operates through temporarily formed cyber-physical production lines. The advantages of such a model are greater economy, lower costs over the life cycle of the product and optimal allocation of resources. The production process is flexible, demand-based, accessible and virtualized.
  9. Automatic warehouse management systems (WMS). They refer to software for the management and administration of processes related to the movement of materials and goods. Supervised operations include inventory management, transportation and inventorization. The WMS (as a separate system or module) can be integrated into the inventory management system and/or transport management system, which together form part of a larger business resource planning system or a complex supply chain system.
  10. Artificial intelligence (AI). This is a set of software or machine-generated algorithms. In production, it allows machines to perform human work and automate processes. AI relies heavily on big data collected from sources in the smart factory, including manufacturing equipment, machine controllers, sensors, SMS/business resource planning systems, etc.

3 types of challenges: how to overcome them?

It would probably not be countering that the life of industrial enterprises is not easy. The sector faces challenges such as fluctuations in products, labour and commodity markets on a very daily basis. For example, changes in the raw materials market (delayed supply, price change) cause fluctuations in production, so often efforts are made to secure the supply and price of raw materials for a longer period of time, which leads to the problem of oversupply of raw materials and increases their storage costs. The problem is also the expectations of the customers. The equipment must be rapidly reconstituted and the possibility of producing small batches must be ensured without significant raw material losses at that time. Many industrial companies also complain about the lack of suitably qualified workers and the over-regulation of the labour market. As product markets fluctuate, companies would like to be able to easily lay off excess labour and, if necessary, easily hire them, and therefore contact hiring companies. However, such workers cost more than permanent ones.

Based on the recommendations of the business collaboration solutions leader SAP, manufacturers can overcome future challenges by taking on new features and stepping into digitalization.

The most important advice from the organization calls for open standards and automate data wherever and whenever possible. Also – simplifying the user experience, focusing operations on proactivity (prediction today is more important than analysing). It must also be overlooked that micro-services facilitate innovation, but they need a reliable platform and operational technologies must be as connected as possible to enterprises in information technology.

Germany’s example: 9 out of 10 companies invest in digitalization

Although, at first glance, this may sound very complex, Germany, which has applied part of these processes, is already monitoring inspiring results. According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited, 9 out of 10 German companies invest in the digitalization of factories. They identify efficiency and focusing on customer’s needs as the main reasons for digitalization.

On average, 6% of sales revenues are allocated to the digitalization of factories in Germany. The largest proportion of companies, almost half, expect the investment to pay off within five years. Most companies expect to increase sales and reduce costs by 12% over the same period.

According to this analysis, solutions relating to big data and IIoT will be implemented most widely in Germany in the near future. The digitalization of production will require significant changes in the recruitment, training and budget structure of the staff.

These are impressive indicators, having in mind that as much as 90% of small and medium-sized businesses and 60% of large businesses in the EU lag behind their competitors in the US, Japan, South Korea and even China. At the same time,it is also a great opportunity for Lithuania to invest in business digitalization, using the resources available and the EU Cohesion Funds.