Manufacturing Automation UK


May 2020

Manufacturing Automation UK

Over the years, there has been much debate with regard to automation and the impact it has on employment in the UK manufacturing industry. Much of this has been brought about by the promotion of Industry 4.0. In reality, it has been with us for years. Automation will take manufacturing jobs, but new types of jobs are evolving through automation, in just the same way that industries such as farming evolved to increase production through automation by using tractors, automated milking etc.


Is Manufacturing Automation New in the UK?

Robots and automation are not new, with the first being introduced in GM in the 1960’s, to streamline the production of cars. This was not just to make more vehicles faster, but to also ensure consistency and the quality was maintained. Since 1984, SP Automation & Robotics has been supplying automation solutions for manufacturing across the UK, to a myriad of clients and industries. The automated systems provided over the years have varied from medical device assembly and testing to packaging and food and drink, with all systems having one thing in common, making our clients process more cost-effective.


Has UK Manufacturing Embraced Automation?

Certain industries have embraced robots in automation, but as a nation, we are still far behind. If we look at the figures for industrial robots sold in the UK, it equates to having around 33 robots per 10,000 manufacturing jobs. If we compare our numbers to those of Germany, who have about 150 robots, per 10,000, the UK becomes dwarfed.


Do We Just Not Want to Spend On Manufacturing Automation in the UK?

In some cases, this is true, and a lot of British companies are stuck in an accountancy only driven approach. Many would like to automate, but with unrealistic expectations of a one to two-year payback this limits it from happening.

The introduction of collaborative robots or cobots ten years ago by Universal Robots, has in some way began to change many companies’ perceptions of the cost of automation. They are designed to work next to humans, carrying out repetitive and often dangerous tasks. They are also very simple to program and install, whilst offering flexibility at a relatively low cost and fast payback of around eight months. This may help in getting some smaller UK companies on their automation journey.



Quality Does Count

The UK has always produced quality, but this comes at a price. Comparing our products with Eastern imports once had a “buy cheap buy twice” view, however, these imports and services from Eastern countries are now becoming much higher quality.

Countries such as China and Korea, have been embracing automation for years. By realising their labour costs were increasing, they evolved into automation nations to overcome this.


What Lies Ahead For UK Manufacturing and Automation?

The only way we can compete against cheaper imports is by making our products more affordable, and this is only achievable through automation. If we automate, we are on a level playing field with the rest of the world, and in many cases ahead.


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