Manufacturers increasingly ready to embrace robotics

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

More than 80 percent of U.K. manufacturing companies say they are considering an investment in robots because of recent events, including Covid-19.

Robots are increasingly seen as a way to deal with worker shortages.

A survey of 250 U.K. manufacturers of all sizes shows how the impact of the pandemic has been widely felt by many businesses across the U.K., with many affected by restrictions on workforce availability caused by lockdowns and strict social distancing measures that have reduced their production capacity.

Asked whether the Covid-19 pandemic has been “game-changing” for their business and industry, 90.8 percent of respondents replied yes, with 45.6 percent stating their business has had to make some adjustments and 45.2 percent saying their business and industry sector has been completely impacted.

Physical distancing

Half of the survey respondents reported that robots would enable them to comply with social distancing requirements and avoid cross-contamination. There was also recognition of the value of using robots to help improve workplace safety, with 40.4 percent stating that robots could help them to meet health and safety (H&S) rules, while 32.8 percent saw the potential for using robots to help compensate for staff short shortages/ staff illness.

“The huge impact that Covid-19 has had on the economy will be felt long after the virus has gone and will permanently influence the way businesses conduct themselves moving forward,” says Nigel Platt, general manager – robotics and automation UK and Ireland with ABB Robotics, which carried out the survey.

“The inherent flexibility and high performance of today’s robots, coupled with the expanding range of options on offer, from small cobots through to heavy duty industrial robots, enables manufacturers to better prepare themselves against future uncertainties caused by impending pandemics or economic instabilities.”

The survey results also underline the benefits that can be achieved by using robotic automation.

Reduced operating costs

Asked “what have been the main benefits of robots or robotics to your business”, 57 percent of the 142 companies that are currently using robots in their operations responded by stating that robots reduced operating costs in their business.

Other benefits mentioned were:

  • improved product quality and consistency (42.3 percent)
  • improved the quality of work and job satisfaction for employees (37.3 percent)
  • increased production output (32.4 percent )
  • improved workplace health and safety (31.7 percent).
  • reduced staff turnover (23.9 percent )
  •  improved the use of space (23.2 percent).

The contribution that robotic automation can make towards increased flexibility was also highlighted, with 32 percent of respondents stating that robots have helped them to increase their manufacturing flexibility and 25 percent using them to develop new business models and revenue streams.

“While the UK has lagged behind other countries when it comes to embracing robotic automation in manufacturing applications, those companies that have made the switch to robots have reported a range of benefits that underline their ability to transform productivity, efficiency and competitiveness,” said Julian Ware, sales manager – robotics and automation UK and Ireland.

“The results of our survey provide hope that these benefits will be realized by a growing number of companies in the next few years as robotic automation becomes recognized for its ability to provide a greater degree of certainty in challenging times.”