Automation is starting to fill the gap
The good news is that Finland is turning to automation and starting to use robots to help to solve the challenges caused by labor and skills shortages.
The most automated industries in Finland are metal & machinery (which accounts for around a third of the country’s robot stock), automotive and electronics. Here, our company’s collaborative robots typically fulfill duties of handling and picking, inspection, logistics and assembly and they are helping companies to increase productivity. Janavalo Oy, a metal industry company from the Häme region, started to fill vacancies with collaborative robots. In just a few months it has been able to use cobots to almost double the output of each welder.
Still some way to go
Big corporations like Nokia have spearheaded the use of robotics in Finland and are of course already highly automated. But in terms of overall robot utilization we are lagging behind some of our neighbouring countries and there is still much potential for automation in smaller companies. According to the International Federation of Robotics, neighbouring Sweden, where the industrial structure corresponds quite well to Finland’s, has three times as many robot units installed throughout its industries as Finland.
As a nation we need to think of robots in a wider context – beyond the walls of international brand names and car companies. Wherever a person does repetitive work, robots can make things easier. Robotics can absolutely be one of the solutions to the skills shortage, if given the chance.
Another driver of automation in Finland, beyond the commercial benefits for individual companies, should the country’s focus on sustainability. As a country that is heavily dependent on natural resources, Finland has a strong commitment to environmental protection. Here, automation can help reduce waste, increase energy efficiency and promote sustainable practices.
We’re heading in the right direction, but more governmental support is needed
We are lucky in Finland to already be seeing the benefits of government support for automation. Many companies have benefited from a public development grant for robotics investment - I know that it is much appreciated. The state has so far reimbursed 50% of projects’ salary costs, but only 10-35% of the actual investment, depending on where in Finland the company is located.
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 slightly more generous and regionally non-discriminatory investment support would make a difference, especially for the small and medium sized companies. I think we could make a real impact by increasing the investment support for equipment purchase to 35% throughout Finland.
Need to grow technical expertise
Finally, let’s not forget that technology is itself one of the sectors afflicted by skills shortages. According to a study on the need for skills conducted by Technology Industries of Finland in 2021, Finland’s technology industries will need 130,000 new experts within the next 10 years. So, just as in other countries, we need to continue to focus on education and training in schools, colleges and in the workforce.