Digitalisation and toolmaking 4.0 are just around the corner

 

Despite the omnipresent digitalisation and automation, toolmaking will need to work intensively on human resources and the transfer of knowledge.

This year’s Economic Forum in Davos published the Global Competitiveness Report. As many as 11 West-European countries were among the first 20 countries. Unfortunately, Slovenia is not one of them, and this should be dealt with promptly. Janez Poje, Executive Director of the company Kern d.o.o. and years-long member of the ISTMA toolmaking association, started the presentation of the developments and trends in the toolmaking world in a picturesque way: “In the toolmaking business, each week is like the Mission Impossible movie.” After getting a chuckle from the audience, he continued on a more serious note. He pointed out that factories around the globe have already become a part of the educational system – this way knowledge is transferred into practice more quickly. Our educational system’s autonomous stance exacerbates the imbalance of vocations in the society even further. Pragmatically oriented development, supported by capital, provides results and enhances resources.

New winners in the field of export and import: China and Mexico

The value of production of tools and equipment has grown steadily in the last decade. In 2015 it exceeded 70 billion American dollars and is comparable to the value of a global tech corporation. Numerous countries have become aware of the significance of toolmaking and started to develop their own toolmaking clusters, not only for their own needs, but also for export – the latter quite accurately describes Slovenia as well.

Nowadays, China and South Korea are not only the biggest producers, but also major exporters of machines and tools, followed by Japan and Germany. Italy is the fifth largest producer in toolmaking, still dominating the USA and Canada. Among the ten toolmaking superpowers in terms of export is also our northern neighbour, Austria.

And who is the largest importer of tools? Believe it or not, it’s Mexico. The biggest reason for this phenomenon is the mass relocation of production of TVs and cars to this South-American country, which imports more tools and machinery than its considerably larger neighbour, the USA, and the megalomaniac China. Germany, Japan and India are significantly behind the first three countries.

Last year was the first time that Slovenia appeared on the global map of producers of machinery and tools for sheet metal processing, as in the recent years, the country’s toolmaking plants created between 80 and 100 million euros of turnover – the majority of buyers being from EU countries.

Toolmaking 4.0

Apparently, toolmaking 4.0 will be marked by digitalisation, which, like in the field of IT, brings significantly more automation and artificial intelligence technologies – machines and tools will communicate and make decisions increasingly autonomously. “Producers of tools are striving to maximise the productivity of resources and realisation. New, often ecologically-oriented business models and new partnerships are emerging, based on similar development concepts. But despite the increasing autonomy of machinery, toolmaking companies are concerned about ensuring the proper staff, especially employees who understand the new working paradigm,” said Poje.

We can’t do it without young people

What inspires young future employees? Technology is a positive imperative of young people, with the merging of the cybernetic and the real world in the forefront. Besides, young people want to work for companies that are widely recognised, as they believe that they have better career opportunities in such organisations. The industry is striving to solve staff shortage with additional and extensive educational programmes for professions that are currently in demand in toolmaking – an increasing number of HR officers from toolmaking firms are establishing contacts with their potential employees starting already at universities and even elementary and high schools. “Managers will have to prepare employees and develop job training systems, so that employees can participate in the so-called intelligent systems, in harmony with intelligent machines,” concluded Poje.

 

Miran Varga

IRT3000 – June 2018 – Trends in toolmaking