18 May, 2024

Automation advantage

23 August, 2022

We hear more and more about the growing implementation of robotics and automation technology within UK industry. Compared with some other developed nations, we may be slower on the uptake of such technology, but it is increasingly changing our day-to-day lives in the workplace. Indeed, a recent survey done by ABB Robotics found that of 250 SME and manufacturing companies, 81.2% were considering incorporating robotics into their processes to combat issues with workforce shortages and supply chain disruptions.

One predominant question from businesses still on the fence about bringing in robots is ‘what can they do to improve processes?’ To this point, ABB Robotics states that by automating sections of manufacturing processes with robots, companies are given an opportunity to stay competitive within a constantly evolving industry. It adds that substituting traditional labour with robots within processes can help to provide added efficiency. “Robots don’t require breaks, and they’re programmed to carry out specific practices with much smaller margins for error than humans,” adds ABB Robotics. This, it says, results in a more cost-effective output from your business, which could see greater revenue for less paid labour.

The company also comments that robotics can be useful when it comes to tasks that require a steadiness that can’t always reliably come from humans. “Whether it’s handling or removing materials that can be harmful or dangerous, welding, or separating materials from one another, robotics makes those tasks much easier to carry out.” ABB Robotics reflects that the UK’s manufacturing industry has leant into a ‘quality over quantity’ mentality, focusing on top value from each product made, and robotics are now being incorporated into processes. 

Between 2020 and 2021, the UK became one of the top 15 for sales of industrial robots globally. In its World Robotics 2021 Industrial Robots report, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) found that 2205 industrial robots were installed throughout 2020, which brought the total in the country to around 23,000. These robots are primarily found in the automotive manufacturing industry in the UK with around 875, making up 16% of those that were installed in 2020. Several sectors are seeing a benefit in robot application due to a shortage of workers, including the food and beverage sector, which already uses industrial machinery and hydraulic cylinders, has seen an increase to 304 robots in 2020. This is a 96% increase in volume since the previous year.

However, as noted in the report, the newly installed 2205 units in the UK are about ten times less than the shipments in Germany (22,302 units), about four times less than in Italy (8525 units) and less than half the number in France (5368 units). Although the number of installations in the UK continues to rise, the IFR still ranked the UK outside of the top 20 countries with robot density within manufacturing. So, in terms of parity with other leading countries’ update of industrial robots, the UK still has some way to go.

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