Niko celebrates 100th anniversary with Factory of the Future Award

Since the fifth edition of the Factory of the Future Awards, our country has ten more companies with a Factory of the Future title, the award granted by Sirris and Agoria to companies that best succeed in reconciling the technologies of the future with work tailored to people and the environment. One of the winners is Niko, market leader in switchgear, sockets and home automation.

One of the key objectives of Sirris and Agoria is to enhance the contributions of the technological industry to a prosperous and sustainable society. Together with various partners Sirris and Agoria support manufacturing companies to achieve this, for example through the ‘Factory of the Future’ project, in which an award is granted each year to the best students of the class.

Factories of the Future invest in digitisation, smart processes and products and in global production, while also thoughtfully dealing with energy and materials and paying attention to involvement, creativity and autonomy of their employees.

The ten winning companies this year are BMT Aerospace, Bosch, Colruyt Group Fine Food, Duracell, Janssen, Lavetan, Mirion Technologies, Niko Group, Materialise and Rf-Technologies.

Niko celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2019. The company is best known for its switches and sockets, but over the years has greatly expanded its range with detectors and smart-home solutions.

Niko is a Belgian family business with 700 employees and 11 European branches. The production plant has always successfully been in Sint-Niklaas thanks to three strategic key elements: product strategy which focuses primarily on quality, repeated investments in innovation and faith and investment in skills.

Far-reaching automation

The digital evolution and connectivity lead to major and rapid changes, among others in market demand, production methods, the technologies used, ... To remain competitive and to be able to keep production locally in Sint-Niklaas, Niko continuously implements improvements in terms of efficiency, flexibility and quality control.

As part of the digitisation process, the machinery in the factory is gradually, yet completely being modernised. Niko wants to further optimise the production process through flexible automation. Thanks to extensive automation, the company can still compete with low-wage countries. The main focus lies on reducing lead times. Servo-controlled machines are capable of producing complex products. With the help of cobots (collaborative robots) equipped with intelligent vision systems and machine learning functionalities, a high variety of products can be produced efficiently at lower volumes. Each process is closely monitored and adjusted where necessary.

Innovative labour organisation

Niko is vertically integrated: it develops its own innovative applications, requiring close cooperation of several departments. The company works according to the principle of an innovative labour organisation, which fully focuses on creating attractive, meaningful jobs and maximum autonomy. Because hiring technical profiles is a challenge, investments are made in training and retraining the people who already work there.

Wondering what a Factory of the Future looks like on the inside? From 21 March to 9 June Agoria will again organise a Factory of the Future Roadshow, which will visit 19 of the winners. This roadshow is your chance to see how Factory of the Future winners operate, to connect with them and test your own challenges against their experience. More information is available in our agenda.