Even though a decade ago the mobile phone was just a thing to make a call early in the morning or late in the evening when the rates were better, now few can fathom that this, our everyday companion, could not be used to log in to social media, make a video or listen to your favourite music. However, the sad example of the mobile phone unit at Finnish technology giant Nokia is one of the most illustrative when we talk about new technologies and their development and application in production. Due to a poor assessment of the competitive environment, Nokia’s mobile phone business fell unacceptably behind its aggressively innovative competitors, and was ultimately swallowed up by US tech giant Microsoft in 2014. What can we learn from this story?
An accountant interested in innovation or a specialist in the field?
Specialists agree that these days, representatives from many different areas of industry, including ones based in Lithuania, are balancing on a similar line. Today’s world of manufacturers is rapidly being transformed by digital technologies, and data management is beginning to dictate solutions in almost all processes – most of them are being digitised and production automation is rapidly increasing as well.
Audrius Jasėnas, director of the Intechcentras Smart Manufacturing Competence Centre, says that practice shows that any modern, forward-looking company with at least 150 employees is definitely creating positions for digital technology specialists.
“Only Lithuanian companies usually retrain production or IT managers for these positions; there have been cases where an accountant interested in innovation has been retrained. These actions are not the result of the good life – there just aren’t enough experts available in the labour market, so companies have to train them themselves,” emphasises the specialist.
In 2018, Intechcentras and the Lithuanian Innovation Centre prepared the Lithuanian Industry Digitisation Roadmap 2019–2030. It was based on a study which found that manufacturing companies are currently ready to take on approximately 1,000 production process digitisation specialists.
“For corporate managers, qualified digital manufacturing specialists would be a counterbalance in the search for quicker solutions, would make it possible to introduce innovations in production processes faster, and would provide resources to address the specific digital needs of every unit. Not only can these specialists take care of digital technology – they can also take care of the search for necessary digital competences and develop a dialogue with customers and partners about what digital changes they are making or plan to make in the future. All of these faster processes would help the company compete under global market conditions,” believes Mr Jasėnas.
A VGTU programme for targeted preparation of specialists
Prof. dr. Vytautas Bučinskas, head of the Department of Mechatronics, Robotics and Digital Manufacturing at the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University Faculty of Mechanics, not only agrees that Lithuania already has a shortage of digital manufacturing specialists, but also notes that the demand for them will only increase in the future. Seeing this niche, the digital manufacturing Bachelor’s degree study programme was created at the university where future specialist can acquire targeted knowledge. Graduates of this study programme will be awarded a Bachelor of Engineering.
“The digital manufacturing study programme was designed to prepare specialists who are able to adapt to rapidly evolving industry needs. In production, people are currently resolving issues with the resources that they have. But with the emergence of technologies based on cloud engineering solutions, large data flows from mass production, and machine-to-machine communication, everything is changing and the need for domain-specific competencies is increasing. And these processes are not necessarily in the machine processing industry. It can also be the food, agriculture, product processing or biotechnology industry,” says one of the authors of the digital manufacturing study programme.
According to Prof. Bučinskas, the most important accents of the programme are focused on two directions.
“First, it is the organisation of a modern manufacturing process, covering many areas: classic machine manufacturing, product manufacturing, food production, biotechnology production, and other things where technology is interrelated. And the second thing is the field of computerisation. This is the Internet, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing technologies and their specific application,” underlines the professor.
According to the observation of the authors of the digital manufacturing study programme, of no less importance is the liberalisation of the human workforce, by automating classic production.
“In this case, we are actually releasing managers or ordinary manual workers from production, and we can direct their energy to more creative processes and generate additional values. We are also becoming attractive in the market – the number of investing companies is increasing and new facilities are emerging. There are already a lot of modern and well-known production brands in Lithuania. Manufacture of components, avionics and hydraulic systems, and production of lasers and related components, which is also a large branch of digital production. There’s a lot of everything here,” notes Prof. Bučinskas.