Increasing efficiency is the main reason for most companies to initiate digitalization projects, according to a study conducted by PAC market researchers on behalf of Deutsche Telekom. In 2019, they took a look at “the Internet of Things in German SMEs”, its significance, fields of application and the status of its implementation. 161 companies from trade, logistics, transport and supply as well as the manufacturing industry were surveyed. SMEs are less interested in how the large digital companies, such as Amazon or Google, deal with digitalization, but even more in their direct competitors. The companies’ focus is on collecting data in order to digitally control and monitor devices and processes, automate processes or implement digital services, products and data-based business models.
A major challenge is to find employees with an appropriate skill-set, for example in IT consulting, security, development, implementation and operation or networking. Every second medium-sized company wants to rely on external experts. Partners who can offer staff, technology, know-how and solutions from a single source provide the greatest relief when implementing IoT projects. The DESI, the EU-wide Digital Economy and Society Index, has also found that large companies and SMEs have problems filling vacancies for ICT specialists. However, DESI also sees Finland, Sweden and Estonia as the most advanced in terms of human capital.
„Regarding manufacturing industries, Estonian companies are pioneers in the digitalization of processes for automation, robotics and ICT as part of production chains,” says Triin Ploompuu, member of the board of the Federation of Estonian Engineering Industry. “Estonia has an internationally oriented engineering ecosystem with high vertical integration and competitive costs, business and science exchange, industrial parks, accelerators and competence centers.”
Whether predictive analytics, preventive maintenance, smart factory or process automation – Estonian companies are development partners for companies abroad in many areas. Intelligent manufacturing is completed by smart logistics, which autonomously moves and transports required material. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) or shuttles e.g. with RFID- or UWB-based technology supply the production and its stations. However, battery-powered AGVs and shuttles require regular recharging, between 2 and 8 hours, which limits work cycles, extends downtime and reduces productivity.
Ultracapacitors for automated logistics
The ultracapacitors from the Estonian company Skeleton Technologies in Tallinn contribute to greater efficiency of AGVs and shuttles in logistics. The ultracapacitors consist of a patented nanoporous plastic, also known as “curved graphine”, which ensures reliable and durable energy storage solutions. Embedded in an automated logistics system, the transport systems can be recharged within seconds at individual charging points without downtime. With more than one million charging and discharging cycles, the ultracapacitors have a service life of over 10 years, and they also require very little maintenance. For the smart factory, this means more efficient and cost-effective logistics.
A component supplier for Skeleton’s ultracapacitors and prototypes is also an Estonian company, the Radius Group near Tallinn, which provides know-how and manufacturing expertise. Radius also integrates digital solutions such as ERP systems, automation and robotics. In its own smart factory, Radius for example, has automated the production of components using CNC-controlled combination devices, which ensure reliable and fast contract manufacturing and thus precise and reliable delivery times.
“The Estonian industry is export-oriented”, says Triin Ploompuu. “The number of international comanpies searching for appropriate know-how for digital transformation increases. Besides digital know-how, flexible and fast acting partners in production can also be found in Estonia.”
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