Dutch industry is gaining strength on the back of economic recovery. Especially export-oriented businesses such as machine builders and metal products manufacturers have the wind in their sails.
All the macro-economic indicators are pointing in the right direction for industrial firms. Their customers are increasingly looking for tailored solutions and fast delivery at low prices. This calls for further automation and robotisation of processes in so-called smart factories, which are steadily gaining ground, ABN AMRO concludes in its 2014 sector update 'Visie op Industrie'.
Industrial fundamentals are strong
On 1 January 2014, the Netherlands numbered 56,545 industrial enterprises: 4.4 per cent of all private sector businesses. Together, these industrial enterprises accounted for 12.7 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). This makes industry the biggest contributor to GDP of all the sectors and a mainstay of the Dutch economy. In 2013, machine builders and metal products manufacturers were particularly successful, with machines and transport equipment accounting for a quarter of the total value of Dutch exports. The production of machine building companies was worth 7.5 billion euros in 2013, which equals over 10 per cent of the total value of Dutch industrial output. There were 2,920 companies engaged in machine building in 2013. Their number has increased by 13 per cent in the past six years. On 1 January 2014, 10,275 companies were registered as metal products manufacturers. Their number has grown by 17.2 per cent in the past six years, and ABN AMRO expects this uptrend to continue in the years ahead.
Investing in industry 4.0
Customers are increasingly looking for tailored solutions and more choice. The only way companies can meet their changing needs, ABN AMRO believes, is by investing in digitisation: in other words, in Industry 4.0. This is a matter of optimising the production process by linking production facilities and systems for inventory management, invoicing and purchasing via the cloud. More and more work will be done by robots, which enhances efficiency and productivity. But if production is really to become faster, more efficient and more flexible, these robots need to be controlled by intelligent software. Software is thus fast becoming the new hardware. The development of new open source software is crucial for boosting interaction in the industrial supply chain.
Smart Factories gaining ground
Technological progress will produce advanced machines that actually communicate with one another. ABN AMRO expects the Smart Factory to steadily gain ground. With demand increasing for smaller series and more complex processing, industrial processes are being automated at a stunning pace. “These Smart Factories deliver greater efficiency and cost savings, and can make industrial companies more competitive,” says David Kemps, Sector Banker Industry at ABN AMRO. “Large machine builders in Germany are rapidly adapting their machines for use in Smart Factories, but Dutch companies, thanks to their high degree of cooperation, are front runners in applying this technology. The development of products and their manufacturing processes are increasingly going hand in hand. Cooperation with partners who provide access to production data online will create a more efficient production environment. This results in higher productivity, shorter time-to-market and lower failure costs.”