The Process SME project’s aim is to improve the competitiveness of small and medium-sized industrial enterprises by supporting the development of products and business models. The objective is to support the international networking of SMEs and participation in EU projects. In addition, the purpose is to support cross-border cooperation between SMEs and large process industry companies.
During the spring and autumn 2017, the Process SME project conducted 31 SME business interviews in Lapland and Northern Ostrobothnia. Branches of industry that interested the SMEs could be divided into three main sectors: mining industry, wood & paper industry and steel industry.
SMEs key business challenges in Lapland and Northern Ostrobothnia
Based on interview data, the most challenging things in SME business are know-how and the availability of skilled workforce, marketing and sales and lastly financing the SMEs businesses.
The key challenge for SMEs now and in the future is the availability of skilled workforce. Work is more technical and robotized than before. The workforce must have diverse abilities and be multi-skilled. In most cases, they have to know the whole process from start to finish.
The second challenge is sales and marketing. Especially for new products, it is important for the customer to be assured that the SME is a credible and relevant player in the business sector. Especially startup companies have a credibility problem. Company’s recognizability and visibility also requires marketing efforts.
The third challenge is the financing of a company. SMEs are often facing cash flow problems. At the large companies, competitive tendering tends to be long and the decision-making is slow. In addition, it is difficult to finance big business deals because payments of product or service deliveries are lagging behind the actual cost.
The purpose of the Process SME is to help SMEs to network with other SMEs so that they can work together with other companies to provide larger product and service packages for large enterprises. The awareness of the SMEs and their expertise will also reach larger enterprises better.
During the autumn of 2017, the Process SME project will resume by interviewing larger enterprises. After the interviews, joint meetings of SMEs and enterprises will take place through industry cross-border cooperation.
Project Engineer (M.Eng.)
Lapland University of Applied Sciences