Our mission expands beyond the boundaries of Bulgaria

Automation & RoboticsInterviewSouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 4/2018 • 23.11.2018

Our mission expands beyond the boundaries of Bulgaria

For another year Soltec, Polymeta C and Blaster organized an Open Doors Day themed around the topic of digitalization in the industry. Do you notice any change with each new event, is the Bulgarian industry ready for the upcoming processes?

Soltec’s mission has always been to assist the development of a well-informed and forward-thinking industry. It is due to this that we are dedicated to making the event better and bigger every year. When we first started, we had less than 80 people attending, and the number has grown to 200 people this year with more than 130 companies present.

The concept of Industry 4.0 was no more than a buzz word circulating in the field some years back. There was a concerning lack of understanding, coupled with no existing resources for acquiring proper know-how. I am proud to say that we are now starting to see that the Bulgarian industry is catching up. This is why we created www.digitalizationindustry.bg, where people can sign up for webinars and find relevant articles. It is evident to me that the significance of industrial digitalization is becoming more recognized. Soltec’s mission expands beyond the boundaries of Bulgaria and most certainly we will continue our efforts in providing expertise to companies that need to find their way in the maze of digitalization.

Automation solutions for milling and turning machines are much sought-after, because of the lack of human capital. There is an increased interest in connectivity solutions, as more and more businesses face the need to ensure that they have the proper means of sharing and reusing data. Platform thinking is also starting to develop. Companies have come to realize that developing the right internal infrastructure is vital to sustaining their businesses in the upcoming years – they also need to do it sooner rather than later, as they risk becoming obsolete.

A somewhat concerning tendency is that there is little to no awareness of data storage and revision management. A lot of companies are still struggling to establish their IT infrastructure, and that is the pinnacle of innovation for most Bulgarian businesses. In reality, this is still very much an infancy stage regarding realizing the true potential of Industry 4.0. Nonetheless, I believe that this particular area will experience a swift increase in interest and demand, as simply put - there is no way around it anymore. If you choose to postpone starting the process of digitalizing your production now, you will be pushed into a corner in less than five years. Add to that the pressure from competitors that will be ahead in the game.

Which solutions and products were the main focus and which had the biggest visitor interest? What demonstrations could your guests watch?

This year we felt compelled to rebrand the event in order to communicate our core values and vision even more effectively. Many companies organize events following the “Open Day” format, but we strive to build onto that concept. Our goal expands beyond showcasing how available solutions work in isolation. We strive to exhibit how a fully-fledged digitalized production looks like in order to shift pre-existing mindsets and start the conversation. At this stage, the main goal for us is to share our knowledge and experience. It is vital for all businesses to actively seek education and ground their decisions onto a solid base. We would like to create a better connected and competitive industry in Bulgaria. Since there is a lot of risk and uncertainty connected starting such an important transformation, the accompanying lack of sharing the best practices hinders innovation and decision-making. It is due to this that we organized the first “Digital Day 2018” and had not only live demonstrations and tours, but also foreign representatives and lectures running the whole day.

The highlights of the event included presentations on achieving maximum production efficiency for sheet metal fabrication, the concrete steps on starting the journey to Industry 4.0, stock and order optimization in the digital era, as well as automation at all factory levels. Our guests-speakers from Siemens PLM Software and Hoffmann Group did a marvellous job at presenting the concrete ways in which companies can leverage the best solutions available in the market, as well as have one-on-one conversations to answer specific questions from our attendees.

Undoubtedly the live demonstrations in the production plant were the most anticipated part of the event. We displayed how the theory works in practice and the accomplishable synergy between the different solutions. In the area of automation, we showcased the potential and high level of ROI that could be achieved with integrating industrial robots like Universal Robots (UR) and Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR). Within industrial equipment, we showcased how to optimize orders and existing stock with the help of Tool24 – Hoffmann Group’s automatic issuing system for tool supply and possibility of linkage to ERP systems. The feedback that we got from the visitors showed that the most impressive demonstration was the joint demonstration between Siemens PLM Software and Hoffmann Group. The demonstration presented a self-adapting milling strategy that creates tool paths combining both the best tool life and program running time.

Will the tendency of applying Industry 4.0 principles continue in Southeast Europe? What is your forecast?

As previously stated, I am delighted to see that the foundation of Industry 4.0 in Bulgaria is being laid. The journey has only started and entrepreneurs and managers need to realize that this development presents a chance for growth for their businesses, rather than a challenge. The process of digitalizing the industry is irreversible, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. It is not only a question of resource management, although that is the core problem for most companies. It is also an issue of mindset and prioritization. It is only human to avoid transformation, as we feel comfortable in the confines of what is known, choosing the complacent state of bliss and immediate benefit to facing straight on the inevitable change. However, fortune will favour the bold. I do hope that more companies will choose to act, as from experience I can say that all the effort and dealing with uncertainty is preferable and it pays off, especially when compared to reacting only when it is absolutely necessary and when push comes to shove. I do believe that the following years will mark a swift shift in perception and guiding principles. The increased engagement and interest that we experienced during the event this year was remarkable. I am looking forward to seeing an innovative and prospering Industry 4.0 in Southeast Europe – the team of Soltec is ready to be your guide!