Robots’ starring role in manufacturing

FPE Seals explains why automation is fast becoming a key conversation within British manufacturing industry, with robotics emerging as the solution.

Recent years have witnessed a need to move towards more automated manufacturing environments. An ABB Robotics survey found of 250 SME and manufacturing companies, 81.2 per cent were considering incorporating robotics into their processes to combat issues with workforce shortages and supply chain disruptions.

A key question from businesses still on-the-fence about investing in robots is how can robots improve processes. By automating sections of a manufacturing process with robots, manufacturers are offered an opportunity to stay competitive within a constantly evolving industry.

Substituting traditional labour with robots can help improve efficiency. Robots don’t require breaks and they’re programmed to carry out specific tasks with much smaller margins of error than humans. This results in more cost-effective output which could see greater revenue for less paid labour.

Robots also suit tasks requiring a steadiness that can’t always reliably come from humans. Whether it’s handling or removing harmful or dangerous materials, welding or separating materials from one another, robots ease those tasks.

UK manufacturing industry has leant into a ‘quality over quantity’ mentality and robotics are being incorporated into processes. Between 2020 and 2021, the UK became one of the top 15 for sales of industrial robots globally. The International Federation of Robotics found that 2,205 industrial robots were installed throughout 2020, bringing the country’s total to around 23,000.

These robots are often found in the UK’s automotive manufacturing industry which accounted for 16 per cent of those installed in 2020. Sectors seeing a benefit in robot applications due to a lack of workers include food and beverage which saw an increase to 304 robots in 2020.

Though these numbers continue to rise, the IFR still ranked the UK outside the top 20 countries regarding robot density within manufacturing. Thus, there is still room for robotics in manufacturing to grow on UK shores.

The government itself outlined how much growth was possible in a Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) report, estimating a potential 40 per cent annual growth for robotics and autonomous systems in the UK between 2020 and 2030. This could in turn mean an extra £6.4 billion in value for the UK economy by 2035. If the creation and sale of autonomous robots is set to increase, use of them across a number of industries may increase alongside it.

Automating business processes with robotics is not something to fear. The myth that robots steal jobs has been debunked and there are plenty of manufacturing tasks they can help with. Implementing robotics can help keep businesses competitive in a global market, while providing efficiency impossible to achieve with manual labour. A record number of robots have been installed but there is still room for growth.