Recommendations made in a recent study, Application of Automation in UK Manufacturing 27 Sept 2010, resulted in BIS funding of £600,000 and a two-year BARA Automating Manufacturing Programme that aims to address barriers faced by UK manufacturers.
The study, which polled a broad spectrum of manufacturers of engineered products and food in Spain, Germany, Sweden and the UK, not only aimed to find out why the UK lags behind the rest of the world in the adoption of automation, but also to address the issues with initiatives to stimulate growth. International Federation of Robotics figures on robot density (number of robots in use per 10,000 persons employed) for all manufacturing sectors excluding automotive illustrated the poor position of the UK, which was at 19 per cent of Germany and only 62 per cent of Spain in 2009. Martin Walder, Chairman of the Engineering and Machinery Alliance (EAMA), commented: "By comparing UK companies with similar businesses in Germany, Spain and Sweden, this study highlights our weakness in automation. If UK manufacturing is to remain competitive we have to act now."
Results from the study, which was commissioned by members of the Engineering and Machinery Alliance (EAMA) with support from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and sponsorship from BARA (the British Automation and Robot Association) and its members, concluded that the main reasons for UK manufacturers' lack of investment in modern manufacturing technologies were due to lack of knowledge, skills and confidence. Mike Wilson, BARA President, states: "Although the UK is a long way behind in the use of automation when compared to some other countries, manufacturing in the UK has many strengths including reasonable productivity levels achieved by the widespread assimilation of lean concepts. If the use of automation can be increased, UK manufacturing has the potential to be a significant force in global markets and BARA's Automating Manufacturing Programme looks to aid this."
BARA's Automating Manufacturing Programme will include a series of regional events during 2011, commencing at the end of March, which will help SMEs understand the benefits of automation and provide advice on how to take the first steps in adopting automation. This will be supported by the provision of impartial expertise, part-funded by the government and commencing in the early summer, to provide assistance to companies wishing to progress further.
Wilson continues: "In a relatively high-cost economy such as the UK, the application of automation is an essential ingredient in the sustainability of manufacturing businesses, enabling them to compete more successfully in the global market. Automating manufacturing processes not only drives costs down, it improves quality, reduces waste and optimises energy use. This programme will provide manufacturers with an excellent source of information and expertise to help them overcome the obstacles suppressing their uptake of automation and consequently increase their competitive edge."
Follow the link to read the full findings of the Application of Automation in UK Manufacturing 27 Sept 2010 study and the detailed recommendations identified to address these barriers.