A belief in growth but challenges face Swedish industry

A strong belief in future growth – but a challenge to find competent workers. That is one way to summarise the latest Industrial Trend Monitor survey in Sweden. The results were presented during AutomaTHINK’s stage presentation “What is necessary for Sweden to be an attractive manufacturing nation?” at Elmia Subcontractor.

Of the almost 400 people who replied to this autumn’s Industrial Trend Monitor survey, no less than 44 percent said they would unhesitatingly recommend Sweden’s manufacturing industry as a workplace to friends and family. This is a significantly higher percentage than when the question was asked in the survey last spring. Despite this vote of confidence, the general view is that a lack of skills is still by far the largest obstacle to growth for manufacturing companies in Sweden.

“All businesspeople must look at themselves in the mirror and ask: ‘What have I done to attract someone to my company? What have I done to support a training course, accept interns or bring workers into Swedish industry?’ Because the fact is that most of us lack people with the right profile,” said Mikael Ronder, CEO of Östrand & Hansen, one of the five panel speakers. 

Knowledge moves down

The Industrial Trend Monitor survey is done by AutomaTHINK twice a year, with different focuses in the spring and autumn. One question in this autumn’s survey was what people see as the biggest obstacle to growth. Forty percent said a lack of skills, much more than any other possible answer. Neither the opportunity to invest or political conditions such as legislation and regulation were seen as problems by the respondents.

Anton Svensson, CEO of Ewes, pointed out that much of the skills improvement work can be done in house with existing personnel. This is already starting to happen thanks to more user-friendly technology that requires neither outside tech consultants nor employed specialists.

“The real development happens when the knowledge moves down a bit to the production personnel and they become comfortable with working in flexible areas together with robots,” he said. “When we get that skill out to employees and co-workers, we can also place greater demands on flexibility, which in its turn will drive Sweden as a manufacturing nation to develop more flexible structures.”

The ability to switch production

Flexibility was a key word when the panel moved on to discuss the automation on the horizon. The Industrial Trend Monitor survey concluded that automation is by far the biggest technological trend that will affect Swedish companies within the next three years.

“What we see as the major challenge is that the economy will not be as strong next year,” commented Tomas Berg, General Manager, Schunk Sverige. “In that case, production may have to be switched over, and I see a large need for automation that is more flexible and differentiated, and can be switched over to other products.” 

The results of the Industrial Trend Monitor survey are presented in their entirety at automathink.se about a week after Elmia Subcontractor.

The panel from left: Stefan Gustafssson Ledell, CEO Proton Technology; Tomas Berg, General Manager Schunk Sverige; Anton Svensson, CEO Ewes; Ulrika Elmersson, project manager SKTC; Mikael Ronder, CEO Östrand & Hansen; and moderator Joakim Norlén, CEO Sinf.