Digitalisation – myth versus reality for small & medium-sized companies in Hungary
There is no chance to open a document or visit a conference without coming across the digitalisation agenda for industry. There is a clear technology push and hype around industry4.0 trend, yet its interpretation among the manufacturing SMEs is lagging behind. Almost all businesses benefitting from industry4.0 are typically large (automotive) manufacturers or serial producers – not small companies.
So, how to tackle this in Central-Eastern European region, West Hungary, where cheap labour is the main competitive advantage? The most urgent task for manufacturers is to understand their current level of maturity followed by a common roadmap definition. A survey conducted by Hungarian Pannon Business Network (PBN) revealed a shocking reality: Only 8% of manufacturers claimed to understand what digitalisation means in production, only 7% were satisfied with their ERP system and around 3% claimed to have expertise in data analytics.
At the same time, almost all manufacturers were ready to invest in new technologies. This contradiction highlights the danger of the digitalisation trend: investment in machinery rather than application know-how.
How to transform digitalisation roadmap to competitive edge?
There is an urgent need for discussion with manufacturers in Hungary about customised training, experimentation with new technologies and individual mentoring. This is exactly what has been taking place at PBN with selected companies for a year now, to assist the shift towards the digital era. Companies visit the am-LAB digital innovation hub individually where the goal is to identify relevant solutions for each company.
Engineering and economic experts are mentoring them for two days, from digital twinning to collaborative robotics, and each element is analysed in detail. The participants’ level of satisfaction is well reflected by an 188.8.131.52/10 score, but more importantly on the agreed next steps. Demand for data analytics is phrased explicitly, to help understand the potential first, then analyse data and finally outline concrete steps to move forward. This may sound trivial, but it is not. The process of production smartification is the first step towards intelligent digitalisation.
European initiatives and projects are also supporting the digitalisation of SMEs. PBN is a member of the L4MS consortium, which is an acceleration programme for European Manufacturing SMEs and Mid-Caps to automate their intra-factory logistics. SMEs in PBN’s network have the chance to apply for L4MS open call and develop their logistic processes. The challenge is outlined above. Reaching a higher level of digitalisation is a complex process, where smart logistics is one of the last needs on the company side. The possibility is there for innovative companies, making this an interesting experiment in the Hungarian market.