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"The ability to think differently today from yesterday distinguishes the wise man from the stubborn."

Column  23.08.2018

The number of working-age Finns started to decline in 2010. The lack of skilled workforce already slows down many companies. How will companies survive and thrive if capacity must be continually increased and productivity and quality improved?

Development of automation is one way. This opinion is shared by the Finnish government, which considers intelligent robotics and automation to be key factors of Finland’s future. Automation is seen as a real opportunity in all areas, but especially so in industry, and in information and service sectors even in small and medium-sized businesses.

The idea of automation does not depend on the size of the company. Ten years ago, the first customer of Kaptas was a micro-company run by a single man. The entrepreneur had forged a long career at the workshop, where the strenuous work and lack of ergonomics left their mark on his body. The work phase was automated, with the amazed client commenting that the automation quadrupled his production, with a whole year’s worth of production achieved in three months. And he no longer had aching shoulders!

“Automation quadrupled production”

In a food business, automation ensures that 10,000 kilos of pizza slices are packed and shipped each day, instead of being processed by humans working in shifts. People are spared this repetitive work and freed to undertake more important tasks. In the security industry, efficiency was also improved in packaging. Instead of letting a worker on the production line manually fold the cardboard into appropriately sized boxes, he will order the box automatically by pressing a button. There are plenty of examples of automation benefits, both large and small.

“The gold rush to China is over – the workshops are returning to Finland”. These sorts of news headlines have been seen in recent years. As industrial robots get cheaper and automation develops, the importance of labour cost as a competitive factor decreases. This is logical development that causes many to fear automation. It is thought that automation takes jobs from people. This is not true. The nature of work will undoubtedly change, but the positives of automation far outweigh any negatives and it brings more opportunities in its wake.

Thanks to automation, the cost of workforce is no longer the deciding factor when choosing the location for a factory. Instead, the deciding factors are expertise, quality, flexibility of production, delivery times, operational safety, research, and product development – all areas where Finnish technology expertise has plenty to offer.

The nature of work will change, but the positives of automation far outweigh any negatives”

When western production was relocated to countries with cheaper labour, it was for the misguided idea of optimising the location. They looked at labour costs but forgot about the quality. Labour costs may have gone down, but the total costs went up. It may even have been the case that Finns did not appreciate their own skills and knowledge.

If we hope to succeed against global competition and meet customer needs, we need to develop production. Productivity and quality go hand in hand.

The title quotation is from the Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck. Stubborn, inflexible operators are left on the starting blocks whereas automation enthusiasts are being productive and achieve results.

Kari Sinkkonen
Production Manager
Kaptas Oy