25 June, 2024

Change is not an option – it’s a necessity if we are to continue to thrive as an industry

29 April, 2015

With the introduction of the UK Motion Control Alliance (UK MCA), BFPA CEO Chris Buxton examines British businesses and what he sees as their resistance to change against a growing need to embrace it.

Einstein stated: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” I was recently at the German Motion Drives & Automation Fair in Hanover where I was speaking with our European colleagues about the current technical and business trends in the Fluid Power Sector. As much of the Hanover event was dominated by Automation, robotics and wider motion control technology, we were comparing notes on the extent to which automation has been adopted in the fluid power industry.

To my concern and the surprise of our European colleagues, the UK is ‘way-behind’ the rest of Europe in terms of adopting this technology. When they asked me why this was the case I recalled a survey that was undertaken back in the days when I ran the British Automation & Robot Association (BARA), which showed very clearly that whilst there was understandable risk aversion at investing in the capital equipment and an equally understandable lack of relevant technical knowledge, there was no denying that there was also an inherent resistance to change, even in the face of irrefutable evidence and substantial benefits.

Obstacle to growth

I concluded, as did my EU colleagues, that there is something in the British psychological make-up that doesn’t warm to change and this stubbornness or suspicion of all things new is undoubtedly an obstacle to business growth. We are of-course generalising. We all know successful companies who have made their name on the back of a reputation for innovation and forward thinking – but all too many companies cling desperately to the familiar – to what makes them comfortable. Perhaps it is a consequence of the ever increasing age profile that we see in the UK Engineering sector and the shortage of young people moving into the sector. There is no doubt that as we get older our ability to embrace all things new, generally diminishes.

Take publishing for example. There is no rational argument for not adopting digital publications in preference to hard copy and yet, whilst accepting that hard-copy is slowly declining, there is still a huge hard copy following. It is more expensive to produce, more expensive to distribute, it is out of date the minute it comes off the print run and it is environmentally unfriendly – and yet – we still like to read a paper magazine. Even the old arguments about needing to have it readily available in the absence of a PC have been nullified by the introduction of tablets and iPads. Admittedly, it has a more obvious presence sitting on a recipients desk than on his or her PC but if access to information as oppose to PR and marketing is the aim, (and that is the aim of the reader if not the publisher), there is no rational reason for wanting a hard copy – accept that we ‘like it’. It is familiar and we don’t like the change.

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