CAN YOU COMPARE THE TURKISH MACHINERY INDUSTRY WITH THE GLOBAL INDUSTRY?
The machinery industry is a labor-intensive sector and requires qualified employees. It is under pressure to always produce newer and better products. Turkey demonstrated its success to the world in machinery and other parts manufacturing in all except one field: machine tools for machining. Turkey is set back. These machine tools were produced in Turkey when I was a child. If those companies that manufactured them weren’t shut down, Turkey would be among the countries that manufacture machine tools for machining like Taiwan, South Korea, Italy, and Spain. Tessan and Taksan, which operated in this field, disappeared in the 1980s due to the pressure of import lobbies and the misguided decisions of politicians. These were giant investments and there were no production plants in the countries that currently export machine tools, at that time. As a result, no one in the country has entered this sector and Turkey has become an importer of these tools. No one was tempted to start mass production in this field until five years ago. But a family that works in the machinery business in Kayseri bought these machine tools and are working to rebirth this sector from its ashes. Turkey has valuable machinery companies which can compete in the international arena. These firms are the real power and treasury of our country.
CAN YOU GIVE SOME EXAMPLES OF THE DEVELOPMENTS IN THE TURKISH MACHINERY SECTOR THAT IMPRESSED YOU MOST?
Retrospectively, there have been enormous achievements. They motivate us. When we said we would manufacture the first laser cutting machine in the sector in 2005, this was perceived as utopic by foreign dealers. Moreover, some stood against this in Turkey. We manufactured those machines, and we produced the laser light source, the most important input of these machines, 10 years later. One of them is machinery the other is optoelectronic. Now, we produce chips for this light source. We set up the country’s first private sector chip production plant. We have a clean room of 800 square meters where we manufacture laser chips and laser diodes. The machinery industry is a multidisciplinary sector consisting of many fields, such as mechanics, mechatronics, CNC (Computer Numerical Control), software, and automation. While we carried out pragmatic engineering in this field at the beginning, we were successful in becoming a manufacturer by making investments over time. That’s why machinery is a strategic sector. Companies that produce the technology of the future will come emerge out of the machinery industry.
HOW HAVE EMBARGOS AFFECTED THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TURKISH MACHINERY SECTOR?
There are some ways to turn the disadvantages that come as a result of embargos into advantages: the domestic production of those products. Thus, embargos will instantly or temporarily disturb the country. Unfortunately, our defense industry depends on imported machinery. There is machinery need for whatever we manufacture. Countries that are aware of this don’t give private production machines or subject them to permission. This is also an indirect embargo. I think that the sanction periods will help Turkish manufacturers. Companies that couldn’t import the products that they need will seek a solution in the domestic market. Many products have been localized with the support of Turkish manufacturers’ skills. However, these achievements must be protected by legislation and production should become permanent.
HAS THE TURKISH MACHINERY SECTOR ACHIEVED TO SHIFT TO THE 5-AXIS CNC MACHINE PRODUCTION?
The 5-axis machinery manufacturing is a field in which Turkey is behind. However, this field remains on the government’s agenda. The government wants this machine to be manufactured and it supports its production. 5-axis CNC machinery production has started and major investments have been made in this field. The number of outputs necessary for Turkey will take time. I believe that Turkey will make progress within five years and that important companies will emerge.
AT ERMAKSAN YOU HAVE TAKEN STEPS TOWARDS CHIP PRODUCTION. WHAT’S THE CURRENT STATUS OF THESE DEVELOPMENTS?
At Ermaksan, we manufacture chips that cast light and rays out. Our specialization is in producing chips that operate at the laser wavelength. We then make them into diode modules at our packaging facility. We made a facility investment of EUR 40m in this field. 100 physicists, electronic engineers, and mechanical engineers, all of whom have master’s and doctoral degrees, are employed in our optoelectronics group. We manufacture high-power continuous pulse laser resonators. We meet the need of the manufacturing and defense industries. Laser is also used in our daily lives in different fields. For example, it’s a necessary device for the healthcare industry. Important surgeries are performed with lasers. Our R&D studies in the medical lasers field have reached the laboratory experimentation level. We’ll launch new products soon to meet the need of the medical sector. CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) processor chips are one of the technologies into which investments have been delayed in Turkey. Computer chips were a product group that was considered cheap and weren’t considered profitable until the crisis emerged. Complicated structures along with continuously developing technologies have created production difficulties. Increasing demand for technological products has increased the chip crisis during the pandemic. Around USD 200bn in investment has been initiated around the world for chip production. The majority of these chips will enter into service in 2022. This is a field that requires the government’s support. I don’t know if there is a capital group to invest USD 10bn in high technology in the first stage in in Turkey. However, Turkey has sufficient intellectual capital if the investment is made.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE STATE OF THE UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY COLLABORATION IN TURKEY?
University-Industry Collaboration (UIC) is better than it was before. Our companies’ innovative approaches are driving this collaboration forward. The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) supports this. Turkey has valuable academics. This process will accelerate if support and consultancy are received from expert academics in their subjects. This culture was minute in the past; however, it has expanded today. Technology transfer is lacking. If there is regulation and bureaucratic factors are implemented in favor of entrepreneurs, technological development will pave the way in Turkey.
WHY DO SOME MACHINES CONTINUE TO BE IMPORTED EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE MANUFACTURED IN TURKEY?
Turkey can’t overcome its love of foreign brands. Some think that these machines provide more value-added production at production plants. Some think that they can increase the value of their companies by stating that their machines are made in Germany or Switzerland. Turkey won’t get rich unless we prevent money from going abroad. Company owners should examine reports and compare products to buy the best. However, they should question if there are no domestic product included in the report. There are conscious companies that buy domestic products. We understand their growth due to the fact that they repeatedly make investments. We’ll use our country’s resources right and support our employees and R&D if we trust each other and buy domestic machinery when we make investments.
WHAT DOES THE TURKISH MACHINERY SECTOR DO IN TERMS OF THE INTERNET OF THINGS?
Industry 4.0, the internet of things (IoT), digitalization, these are all important and part of a whole. Production and manufacturing plants evolve with technology. Digital transformation is on the table now. All departments, from production to management, from human resources management to R&D, should start digital transformation expediently. Companies that don’t invest in digital transformation in the next 10 years will have serious profit issues. Time will be valuable in the coming period. We’ll see that companies that don’t have the right production and management will not be given a second chance. We are entering a period where excellent products and companies will emerge.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE TURKISH MACHINERY SECTOR IN THE NEXT 10-15 YEARS?
We have serious actors in the sector. There are major investments and new investments are on the way. Machinery production is strategic and essential for Turkey. If the sector grows with innovation, the possibilities are endless. Supporting factors, especially education, are important. We should increase our educated labor force. New industrial fields are necessary for growth. However, lethargy in this field will lead to us falling behind the competition. The cheap and easy access of companies to industry will carry Turkey to the top of the league. Unearned income is being wasted in these fields as we wait.”
WHICH STEPS WOULD YOU TAKE FOR THE MACHINERY SECTOR IF YOU HAD LIMITLESS POWER?
If I had limitless power, I wouldn’t permit the import of foreign machinery already produced in Turkey for 10 years. I would remove this machinery from the incentive system.
HOW DO RAW MATERIAL, INTERMEDIATE GOODS, AND SUPPLY PROBLEMS AFFECT THE SECTOR IN TURKEY?
Turkey has taken a historic opportunity in this respect. The shift in the logistics sector has brought orders to the country. If Turkey takes advantage of this opportunity, these orders will continue. To do so, it’s important to keep promises and abide by the standard of quality and determined delivery dates. We should turn this situation into a permanent opportunity. This applies to all sectors. Moreover, abnormal price discounts as a result of foreign exchange rates are a big mistake that should be avoided. The biggest mistake that Turks make in exports is to reduce prices for competition. This is wrong.