Automation is starting to fill the void
The good news is Finland shift to automation and start using robots to help solve challenges caused by labor and skills shortages.
Finland’s most automated industries are metal & machinery (which accounts for about a third of the country’s robot stock), automotive and electronics. Here, our enterprise collaborative robots typically fulfill handling and picking, inspection, logistics, and assembly tasks, and they help companies increase productivity. Janavalo Oy, a metal industry company from the Häme region, started filling vacancies with collaborative robots. In just a few months I’ve been able to use cobots to nearly double the output of every welder.
There are still several ways to go
Big companies like Nokia have pioneered the use of robotics in Finland and of course it has been highly automated. But in terms of overall robot utilization, we are lagging behind some of our neighbors and there is still a lot of potential for automation in small companies. According to the International Robotics Federation, neighboring Sweden, where the industrial structure is very similar to Finland, has three times as many robotic units installed across its entire industry than Finland.
As a nation, we need to think about robots in a broader context – beyond the walls of international brand names and car companies. Wherever someone is doing repetitive work, robots can make things easier. Robotics could really be one solution to a skills shortage, if given the chance.
Another driver of automation in Finland, beyond the commercial benefits for individual companies, has to be the country’s focus on sustainability. As a country heavily dependent on natural resources, Finland has a strong commitment to environmental protection. Here, automation can help reduce waste, improve energy efficiency and promote sustainable practices.
We are going in the right direction, but more government support is needed
We are fortunate in Finland that we are already seeing the benefits of government support for automation. Many companies benefit from public development grants for robotics investments – I know they are greatly appreciated. The state has so far reimbursed 50% of the project’s salary costs, but only 10-35% of the actual investment, depending on which Finland the company is located in.
Over the past year, I’ve asked dozens of companies what would encourage them to take the final step and invest in automation. Very often the answer is that a little more generous and less regionally discriminatory investment support will make a difference, especially for small and medium enterprises. I think we can make a real impact by increasing investment support for equipment purchases to 35% across Finland.
Need to grow technical expertise
Finally, don’t forget that technology itself is one sector that suffers from a skills shortage. According to a study on skills needs conducted by the Finnish Technology Industry in 2021, the Finnish technology industry will need 130,000 new experts in the next 10 years. So, as in other countries, we need to continue to focus on education and training in schools, colleges and the world of work.