SMEs are taking a step towards digital transformation

It is anything but easy for SMEs to invest in digital innovation, while it is crucial for their future. Flanders Make research center helps them to make the transition to Industry 4.0, including through various European projects. For example, Flanders Make is part of a prestigious network that gathers knowledge from all over the European continent to better support SMEs.

Most SMEs do realize that a digital transformation is essential to remain competitive, but they often lack the necessary time and resources. “They also often no longer see the trees through the forest, they have difficulty in finding out what advantages certain technology can have for them,” says Ger van den Kerkhof, Senior Account Manager EU Affairs at Flanders Make . “Nor can they afford long experiments, investments must yield a quick return.”

Network of digital innovation hubs

In order to provide SMEs with the best possible support, Flanders Make is engaged in various European projects. The research center is part of Trinity, a network of sixteen digital innovation hubs, European organizations that are committed to digital innovation among SMEs. “Through the Trinity project, we exchange knowledge and experiences with foreign partners, so that we can assist Flemish companies even better,” explains van den Kerkhof.

Within the framework of Trinity, Flanders Make developed several demo installations that should inspire SMEs, such as a robot arm on a mobile platform that can move independently to different work stations. The research center also called on companies to make their own demos with European funding.

Introduce cobots

The Cotemaco project , on the other hand, focuses on the introduction of specific technology, in particular collaborative robots or cobots, to companies in the automotive and food industry. Cobots can work side by side with human colleagues and lighten their tasks by taking over monotonous and very precise chores. “They can make the production process more efficient, but it is not easy for SMEs to estimate what exactly they can do for them,” says van den Kerkhof.

With travel costs covered by the project, SMEs can visit foreign partner organizations that are already fully using this robot technology. They can also receive free technological support from Flanders Make. The research center offers training courses and helps implement cobots on the work floor of companies.

Cooperation with the Netherlands

Flanders Make also set up a unique collaboration with the Netherlands with the Fokus project. The aim of the initiative is to transform two hundred companies in Flanders and the Netherlands, primarily SMEs, into ‘ Factories of the Future ‘ that are completely ready for Industry 4.0. The Fokus project helps companies with, among other things, flexible support for operators in their workplace, the digital generation of work instructions and the digital connection of workstations.

Finally, Flanders Make has also refined its own services via the Dihelp project. A number of European organizations coached the research center to better tailor its activities to the needs of SMEs, in order to optimally fulfil the role of digital innovation hub.

Would you like more information about these European projects or any other form of support? Contact Flanders Make here.

Flanders Make conducts technological research with and for companies. The research center develops and tests applications that help the Flemish industry to become more competitive thanks to product and production innovation. Flanders Make consists of co-creation centers in Lommel, Leuven and Kortrijk, the Flemish drone cluster EUKA and labs at the five Flemish universities.

Originally published in Made in Limburg (in Flemish)

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