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Automation in Poland is gaining momentum and presents opportunities for Swiss SMEs

Industry in Poland still has some catching up to do in terms of technology. However, due to a worsening shortage of skilled workers and continuously increasing wages, the interest and the will to invest in Industry 4.0 solutions are rapidly growing there. This also requires Swiss expertise.

The density of robots in Poland has increased by 45% within two years.
The density of robots in Poland has increased by 45% within two years.

Although Polish companies are using ever more robotics and automation solutions, the fourth industrial revolution has not yet made its way across the entire country. In the area of production automation, Poland continues to lag behind most developed nations and also behind its neighbors. According to the IFR (International Federation of Robotics), the average number of installed robots worldwide was 74 in 2016, and in Europe the figure was 99 per 10,000 employees. With a value of 32, Poland is well behind Slovakia (135) and the Czech Republic (101). It is expected that this deficit will be compensated for in coming years: Poland recorded growth in robot density of 45% within two years.

This offers great prospects to providers of automation solutions; larger companies have already reacted accordingly and expanded their presence in Poland. ABB is one example. The Robotics Center in Warsaw, which has been expanded and was reopened at the end of January 2018, serves as a demonstration, training and test center for customers throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

Shortage of skilled workers remains a challenge

One of the challenges that Polish manufacturing companies currently face is the development of the labor market. According to Eurostat, Poland had an unemployment rate of 4.9% in 2017 (EU-28 average: 7.7%), which is the lowest rate in the country’s post-communist history. In addition to this, wages are continually increasing – by just under 6% in 2017. A third challenge is posed by negative demographic development and an aging society. These circumstances mean that more and more manufacturing companies are suffering from a shortage of skilled workers. The latest report from recruiting company Work Service reveals that half of Polish companies have problems recruiting suitable staff. This ratio is even higher for producing companies, at just under 78%. These developments are accelerating the decision to invest in automation solutions.

Political support

The relevance of industrial modernization has been noted at the political level. Poland is pursuing a responsible development strategy, which is based on reindustrialization, development of innovative companies, creation of development capital, digitization, support for SMEs and cultivation of foreign markets as well as social and regional development. The foundation ‘Polish Industry 4.0 Platform’ is set to be launched in 2018; its goal is to facilitate the exchange of Industry 4.0 knowledge and experience in Poland.

In the second half of 2017, tax laws were revised in Poland and the law on robotization came into force. Thanks to the legal changes, the purchase cost of solutions such as industrial robots and 3D printers can now be written off more quickly. These rules are expected to encourage SMEs to invest in new technologies and solutions.

According to the Polish Bureau of Statistics, Polish industry’s investment expenditure in machinery and equipment amounted to 7 billion Swiss francs (+3.3% p.a.) in the first three quarters of 2017. The largest investors are the food processing industry (1 billion Swiss francs), the automotive industry (1 billion Swiss francs), the plastics industry (0.5 billion Swiss francs) and producers of metal products (0.4 billion Swiss francs).

The ideas of Industry 4.0 were first implemented in Poland by companies with foreign capital, such as the production centers of Volkswagen, Philips and General Electric. Large Polish companies also recognized this trend and made investments to increase their competitiveness in the global market. For example, one of the most modern office furniture factories in Europe is in southern Poland. The company, which belongs to the Polish group Nowy Styl, is producing with less than 100 employees on an area the size of six football fields. The leading Polish manufacturer of white goods – Amica – opened a fully automated 46-meter-tall warehouse in September 2017, which can be operated by just one operator. Modern technological solutions can also be found in the Polish food industry (Tago, Mlekovita), automotive industry (Solaris, Boryszew, Wielton), as well as in window and gate production (Fakro, Wisniowski).

Poland is finding its way to Industry 4.0

The Polish integrator of automation solutions ASTOR conducts regular market surveys among companies producing in Poland. According to the 2017 report “In Which Technologies are Polish Companies Investing?”, the majority of the companies interviewed think that Polish industry is still in the third industrial revolution. At the same time, however, the number of market participants who said that Poland is in the middle of a transformation to Industry 4.0 is growing. One third of the companies surveyed stated that they are taking measures geared towards Industry 4.0, and a large majority sees this as crucial to maintaining competitive advantage. Automation solutions are being used increasingly often. In 2013, 13% of companies said they used no automation at all, and in 2016 the amount sank to 3%. 26% of companies said that they were fully automated; in 2013 this was only 13%. These changes are partly due to developments in the labor market.

According to the study “Smart Industry Poland 2017” commissioned by the Ministry of Development and Siemens, around 77% of Polish SMEs implemented at least one innovation support solution in 2016. The most common solution is automation using single machines. Solutions that will be of great importance to SMEs in the future include production automation, mobile technologies and robotization of production lines.

Swiss expertise is in demand in Poland

Since there is a lack expertise in automation and robotics in Poland, foreign suppliers will be able to profit more than others from the trend towards automation and robotics. Apart from the big players like ABB, KUKA, Schaeffler or Siemens, wobit is only the significant Polish producer on the on the market, and its product portfolio is limited.

Interest in Swiss technologies is evident, for example, in the increase in exports of metalworking machine tools from Switzerland to Poland. These have risen by around 80% in the last five years and amounted to more than 94 million Swiss francs in 2017.

Do you want to sound out your chances in Poland with no obligation? Then contact our consultant for Poland Katalin Dreher-Hajnal today or register for a free country consultation session. Additional information

 

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