Automation Poland: Industry on a wave of automation

Author / Editor: Agata Świderska / Lisa Saller, Lisa Saller

Polish industrial concerns are beginning to appreciate the benefits of production line automation. In 2014 the combined machine park of such automation comprised about 15,000 CNC machines and 8,500 robots.

In 2014 the robotisation ratio in Poland was 22 that is 1 robot per 455 employees.
In 2014 the robotisation ratio in Poland was 22 that is 1 robot per 455 employees.
(Photo: FANUC America Corporation)

According to the latest report by the Central Statistical Office (GUS) entitled „Innovation Activities of Enterprises, 2012-2014”, in 2014 total expenditure on R&D in Poland amounted to 9.2 billion dollars, of which as much as 67% were the investments of industrial enterprises.

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This positive trend suggests that the level of innovativeness of the Polish economy will gradually rise, with time reaching European standards. Currently, with R&D expenditure at a level of roughly 99.5 dollars per capita (as compared to an European average of 597.2 dollars), Poland is in a distant 24th place among the 28 countries of the European Union. Poland obtained a similar result in terms of automation and the use of industrial robots in manufacturing. According to a report by the Gdańsk Institute for Market Economics the density of robotisation (number of robots per 10,000 employees) in Poland was 22, thus nearly four times lower than the EU average (85).

A leader in automation

As the GUS statistics indicate, Polish companies are also trying to close the gap in this last area, investing ever greater resources in tools for the automation of production processes. In 2014, one in three Polish industrial companies possessed such equipment. The largest subsets from among this type of equipment comprised computers (43,500), automated production/processing lines (20,100) and computer controlled lines (18,700), CNC machines (15,500), industrial robots (8,500), and manipulators (4,500). In each of these subsets, an increase in numbers compared to the previous year was also noted, with the greatest increase (20.5%) occurring in the number of CNC machines.

The main beneficiaries of this increase were companies in the industrial processing sector. These companies accounted for 82% of all computers, 90% of the CNC machines and production lines, and nearly 100% of the industrial robots and manipulators. The lead was clearly taken in this respect by the automotive industry, with 13% of all automation, including close to 43% of all industrial robots and manipulators. Subsequent places were taken by manufacturers of rubber and synthetic products (1.4%), metal processing (10.7%), food products (7%), and also computers, electronic and optical products (6.3%).

At their own cost

The high position of the automotive industry indicates that investments of this type are mainly within the reach of large enterprises with access to significant capital and with high expectations regarding quality control, repeatability, and efficiency of production processes. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that in Poland the vast majority of manufacturers (69.2%) still finance investments of this type from their own pockets, much more rarely making use of public funding or EU funds.

And this is a shame, because in the budget outlook for the years 2014-2020, more funds than in previous years have been earmarked for the support of innovation in European economies – says Bożena Lublińska-Kasprzak, president of the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development. – The process of automation of production is also supported by the Polish government, e.g. within the framework of Innovation and Economic Efficiency Strategy (Sieg) „Dynamic Poland 2020”.

Growing awareness of benefits

It should be assumed that openness to outside source of funding will gradually grow together with a change in the way of thinking of the entrepreneurs themselves. According to a report by the Gdańsk Institute for Market Economics, Polish managers increasingly perceive automation as a useful tool for increasing the efficiency of production processes, and companies which have already implemented such solutions generally (73%) intend to continue this line of development. Of these companies, 83% listed the main benefits of automation as an increase in production and production quality, 67% as a decrease in costs, and 54% as an increase in profitability and flexibility in the production process.

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These opinions highlight the huge role of direct experience in the process of combating fears associated with the automation of production. The greatest of these fears concerned the necessity of cutting jobs.

Analogous fears were voiced during the implementation of the first computers – states Krzysztof Szubert, an expert of the Business Centre Club. – In fact, our real concern should be to model our education so that we ensure a steady supply of integrators and operators of industrial robots.

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