Czech industry in a whirl of changes

Published: 5. 12. 2018
Author: Redakce / Editorial Staff
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We find ourselves in the period of the 4th Industrial Revolution, sometimes also called Industry 4.0, and because the Czech Republic is one of the most industrially developed countries in the world, it is more than a fundamental phenomenon.

In the years to come, industrial companies and their production will be transformed by the progressive digitization and automation of manufacturing and other business processes with technologies that will play the leading role in this regard include advanced industrial robots, the Internet of Things, and additive production, also called 3D Printing.

Czech companies are now much better informed about the possibilities and benefits of digitizing production and business processes than two or three years ago. They are already buying solutions that are based on smart sensors, analytical measurements, or enable predictive diagnostics. It also raises the interest of companies in linking data from the design and manufacture of a particular product to the operating data generated by its use.

Businesses are motivated to invest in automation also because of the shortage of workers. "We could see it at the regional seminars we organized about the deployment of Industry 4.0 technologies. Some companies prefer to increase their production capacity with digitization rather than hiring more Ukrainian labourers. They are aware that it will also help their competitiveness in the future," says Jiří Holoubek, Member of the Board of Directors of the Confederation of Industry and Transport of the Czech Republic and Director of ELCOM.

Faster implementation of digital technologies, however, often hinders long-standing corporate practices. An example may be the use of predictive maintenance. Instead of pre-planned maintenance shutdowns, it is possible to make repairs only when necessary, thanks to real machine data. This makes it possible to increase the usability of production lines. However, corporate security standards often run counter to the use of predictive manufacturing because they insist on keeping maintenance times, thus they do not allow the use of predictive maintenance.

In the field of 3D printing, Czech industrial companies are rather looking for ways how to use this technology. There is a growing number of companies that want to try out additive metal production, but one of the obstacles to more expansion of 3D metal printing is the cost of printing, which is between 10-20 million crowns for the most demanded models. In addition to 3D plastic and metal printing, 3D sand printing is slowly being expanded, which can be used, for example, in the production of prototypes and patterns for casting.

Improving infrastructure

Elements of Industry 4.0 are dependent on high-quality and reliable data infrastructure. "In this, we are seeing one of the biggest challenges for the state. It has to remedy the neglected situation in the development of public and non-public data networks as quickly as possible, "says Milena Jabůrková, Vice-President of the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic.

The state of digital networks in the Czech Republic is not at a good level compared to other European countries. In the ranking of European countries, the Czech Republic moves only in the second half. For example, in the DESI index, which monitors the share of citizens in the use of modern technologies and the direction of their activities, the integration of digital technologies into business models or electronization of public administration, the Czech Republic achieves only sub-average score in the field of connectivity and ranks 16th in the EU. In the field of high-speed NGA networks, it is even the 20th. The Czech Republic was overtaken by countries like Hungary, Portugal, Spain and Malta. "If we want to digitize a society that is increasingly working with a large amount of data, we need high-speed internet with maximum coverage in both homes, factories and offices," adds Jabůrková.

Changes in the labour market

Prognosticators agree that, due to the 4th Industrial Revolution, up to 7.1 million jobs will be lost in the world's 15 most technologically advanced countries by 2020, but around 2 million new jobs will be created. Estimates of job losses in the Czech Republic vary. According to a study prepared by the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic in 2015, there will be 3.9 million jobs in the economy in 2029. According to estimates, 700,000 jobs will be lost, but as a result of modernization, 300,000 new jobs will be created.

Positive role will be played by demographic developments. According to the forecast of the Czech Statistical Office, there will be about 400,000 fewer people aged 20-64 applying for a job in 2029 than in 2015.

Dynamic development of industrial automation in individual industries has been recorded for the past 30 years, and recent developments show that no catastrophic scenarios have yet been met. New technologies in the Czech Republic most pose a threat to the labour professions in processing industry, staff in logistics (warehouses and transport) and people in administration. Approximately 30% of staff move from secondary to tertiary sector.

The negative impact of new technologies will not be reflected in a well-prepared young generation. A lot of today's children will perform a profession that we cannot imagine today. The pace of technological development and innovation will also bring greater need for lifelong learning.

In order to fulfil the elements of Industry 4.0, there is also a need for better intergenerational communication - experienced technologists and technicians must constantly pass on knowledge and experience to the young generation of graduates. On the other hand, older colleagues should take on the skills of the younger generation.

Industrial robots

The difference between an advanced and a traditional industrial robot is the ability to autonomously process information from its surroundings and use it for decision-making. Advanced robots themselves create a large amount of data that processes central business information systems to optimize production processes. The use of advanced robots is now common in the electronics, automotive and aerospace industries.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is an integral part of the digitization of production and of the entire company. By installing and connecting the interconnected sensors of the manufacturing process to the software that is capable of processing their information, both the physical production system and its digital cybernetic form are created. Thus, digital twins of products, production facilities and equipment and entire factories arise. Individual elements of this system become themselves digital devices that can be controlled by algorithms. The Internet of Things has already spread to the oil and gas industry or the automotive industry.

3D printing

Additive production, also called 3D printing, becomes part of digitized systems of product structure and design. Thanks to 3D printing, it is possible to produce complex, digitally designed models in one technological step. Additive manufacturing technologies simplify the production process as a whole, accelerate the development of new products and enable individualization of finished products.

What is Industry 4.0 

Also called Work 4.0 or the fourth Industrial Revolution. This is an indication of the current trend of digitization, the associated automation of production and changes in the labour market that it brings. The term is based on the document presented at the Hanover trade fair in 2013. According to this idea, "smart factories" will emerge, using cyber-physical systems. They will take over the repetitive and simple activities that people have done so far. This will be accompanied by a change in the labour market, so that the employment of those, whose work can be replaced by computers with new management / decision systems or robotic systems controlled by these systems, can be endangered (e.g. diagnostic medical systems, legal systems, universal production lines, etc.)

Source: / Tereza Holanová, Aktuálně.cz

A key element in the transition to digitized and automated business is the transformation into so-called smart factories.


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