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October 09, 2017
Smart factories are putting the end to the times when everything was made in China

Even though manufacturing companies have migrated to low cost countries like China, the industry robotics can fundamentally change this situation. Today robots start to take over factories and are able to make decisions and organize their work without the help of humans, and such smart factories can be established in any corner of the world. Foreign experts explain that this kind of system is able make us forget the current reality when everything is made in China.


What are the smart factories?


Hans Praat, who is looking after the development of the smart factories in the Netherlands explains that the so called industrial revolution 4.0 is often times discussed in the press, however it’s realistic influence over manufacturing is still a mystery to the wider public.
H. Praat explains it in detail, “The concept of smart factories is based on autonomous, or, in other words, self–taxing manufacturing ecosystems. They use the data, which is processed by modelling systems and artificial intelligence, they manage engineering, manufacturing and logistics independently. Which is very convenient, as not only do they increase productivity and reduce costs but also can easily manage the most complicated processes, which previously used to take up a lot more time.”
Meanwhile, an entrepreneur Claus Risager, one of the creators of Blue Ocean Robotics explains, that largely reduced costs of robotics within the last year influenced more utilization within any large activity of the industry.
Carl Risager assures: “The new turn within the industry is essentially related to the machines, which are able to function within difficult systems and improve at the same time, without any input from humans. We will see such robotics in construction, agriculture and transportation sectors. Perhaps the most ordinary examples are automated cars, floor mopping robots and similar mechanisms, some of which may seem to be far ahead, but the machinery needed for them has already arrived.”


How can technologies transform the global market?


H. Praat, the expert, who looks after the smart factories in the Netherlands, is certain that the process, which has already began, will entirely change the entrepreneurs’ perception of manufacturing. And even though this will unavoidably bring positive results, undesirable changes may come to smaller countries and companies at the same time.
H. Praat claims that, “Smart manufacturing will not only radically change the market, but also its geography. Since these factories will only require qualified labour, the cost factor won’t be most important, that’s why low income countries will no longer remain the manufacturers for the entire world, because a factory in the West and a factory somewhere in a poor area in China will cost a similar amount.”
On the other hand, as the cost of establishing such factories is quite high and there is a limited number of experts, who are able to do that, at this point only large companies can attain it.
“Small or medium enterprises will simply not be able to afford smart factories. Such companies can solve this problem by sharing smart factories: in the near future it will be necessary have a smart factory in order to stay competitive, therefore it will be handier for the small companies to share factories with other manufacturers instead of trying to staying competitive by using old methods”, says H. Praat.


Can Lithuania keep up with the leaders of the global market?


Justinas Katkus, the CEO of Lithuanian robotics company Factobotics explains that Lithuanian industry robots have been used ten years ago and so far has been keeping up with the global standards.
J. Katkus explains, “If we want to become a country that utilises newest inventions, we have to quickly catch up with Germany. The robotics level is best illustrated in relation to the number of employees. European average is 70-80 robots for every 10,000 people working in the industry. In Germany this number exceeds 300. In Lithuania, this number is just over 40, which is not so bad, especially, when we have in mind that the current USA and China ratio is only 30 robots.”
However, this number can be deceiving, as while evaluating the level of robotisation one would take into account not only their number, but also the country’s readiness to accept the innovations.
The CEO of Factobotics claims, “A few basic things are necessary in order to make a leap in technology that the Lithuanians so far are lacking. First of all, there is a need of a certain level of specialists, certain experience, which we don’t have so far. We can’t catch up with large countries overnight, as it is the Universities that have to grow specialists and the country should realise the need. On the other hand, looking at the infrastructure and having evaluated the possibilities of IT technologies we are probably even more able than countries like Denmark. Therefore, maybe it’s unrealistic to catch up with the global leaders right away, however we should see the future of Lithuanian industry in a positive light.”
C. Risager also sees country’s position optimistically: “The biggest problem that smart factories and other technologies face is legislative acts and financing. Lithuania performs well in the sensor, software, applications and internet markets, that’s why we can expect to adjust to the robotics industry. For that it is necessary to move forward with a purpose.”
These subjects will be discussed more in detail during the innovations forum “Innovation Drift” October 12th-13th at the Lithuanian Exhibition and Congress Centre Litexpo. One of the largest events in the Baltic Sea Region on the subject of futurism will bring over 50 scientists, entrepreneurs and futurologists, who will present the recent innovations and their challenges.

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