Digitalisation has been on everyone’s lips for many years now, but the progress made in implementing it varies from industry to industry, and also between companies. Sweden will have to step up the pace to avoid being left behind in the global race towards digitalisation.

It is evident that the battle to succeed in utilising the opportunities provided by digitisation is not taking place primarily between companies in Sweden, which as a rule have large export markets, but with other international markets.

“The Swedish industrial sector’s customers exist primarily in a global market. Historically, we’ve been good at leading the way through expertise and innovations, and we’ve developed companies with efficient operations that have secured our competitive ability. What used to be considered low-cost countries are now in a phase of expansion when it comes to digitalisation, they are developing their competences and are now an increasingly major factor to reckon with. We risk losing our advantage. As we now have the infrastructure with connected systems, processing power and data warehousing capacity, we have much to gain by collaborating to disseminate good examples and introduce value-adding solutions that make use of digital technology,” says Mats Jakobsson, CEO of SSG.

Mats believes that Sweden has not been particularly clear about driving initiatives within Industry 4.0 and that as things stand we are not the country that is developing the fastest. According to a number of market surveys, the adoption of digitalisation varies greatly. One incorrect and widespread perception is that AI, which is considered to be a technology that will help us move into the future, is being widely used in the process industry. In reality, the level of implementation is relatively poor. There are variations between different industries, but in general the process industry needs to step up the pace of its work.

“There are some pioneers, but there are those that haven’t even got onboard this train to the future. It can be worth waiting until a new technology becomes more established, but eventually the train leaves the platform and leaves you standing there with business models and systems that are being out-competed by new ones,” says Mats.

He believes there is a degree of inertia in the system, and that it would be desirable if there were more readiness to try a little more new technology.

“Converting a whole business model to meet new conditions is a challenge. This also affects our company, of course. We want to continue to be a proactive party that helps the industrial sector move forwards, which is why we are driving our own digital transformation in order keep at the forefront. Our base is collaboration in the industrial sector and taking shared problems as a basis for developing standardised best practice solutions that really do streamline the industry. We started working with standards in the traditional areas of technology and have developed this to create solutions for work processes and issues of personal safety. It’s now time to take the next step into the future and drive standardisation for the use of the digital opportunities. The potential is clear, and it’s expected to be able to contribute as much as a 2% increase in growth per annum in Swedish industry in the future. If we’re to succeed with this implementation, it’s important to work on system-related issues such as data quality, integration opportunities and information security issues, as well as the interaction between humans and technology.”

One success factor for Swedish industry has been collaboration and the sharing of competence between companies. In line with this, SSG is running the collaborative project involving the strategic innovation programme PiiA (Process Industrial IT and Automation), which is aiming to develop the process industry within Industry 4.0. At present, the programme is focusing on applications of the digital initiatives that have been developed.

One exciting project from SSG is LCDM (Life Cycle Data Management), which is all about digitalising the information flow from a production unit’s life cycle from planning to operation. The success is based on interoperability, which means that data can be freely used between systems involved based on internationally established standards. The work has made good progress in other countries such as Norway, the Netherlands and Germany, while Sweden has so far been a blank area on the map, but Mats hopes that Swedish industry, through the high level of interest in the project, will understand the value and commit to this whole-heartedly.

“If we could make the process fully digital, so that you have all the information when you start up and use a plant, you could earn 2-3 per cent per annum on your investment cost, which represents enormous sums of money over a factory’s life cycle,” concludes Mats.

Author: Anna Bjärenäs