UK manufacturing lagsbehind other industrialised nations when it comes to productivity and as we head into 2022, increased investment in and use of robotics and automation is seen as a helping boost this pressing issue as the UK looks to grow the industry.

Manufacturing is contending with a number of headwinds, notably strains on supply chains, a lack of materials, challenges due to Covid-19, Brexit and trade policies, so it is imperative that UK manufacturing raises its productivity and growing the uptake in robotics and automation will help achieve this.

The ‘Made Smarter Review’ identified the application of automation and robotics in UK industry could contribute £183.6bn over the next decade, helping UK manufacturing grow, while the Copenhagen Business School states it would increase UK productivity by 22.3%.

A call has now been made to invest and improve the rate of adoption in a report published by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) (www.bit.ly/30C7uTr) and the Industrial Policy Research Centre at Loughborough University ( www.bit.ly/32izqvZ ) which concluded that speeding up adoption of industrial automation and robotics can “lead to dramatic improvements” in productivity.

The report “Robotics and Automation: A New Perspective” says the slow uptake of robotics among British manufacturers, and a reluctance to invest in automation, has “contributed to the country’s vanishingly small improvements in productivity in recent years”. But investment in automation along with reshoring manufacturing operations, can lead to new opportunities for UK businesses.

Highlighted are key challenges that robotics and automation experts believe adoption can help overcome: solving the productivity issue – as the UK is 16% behind the G7 average; labour shortages post-EU exit; increasing wages; post-Covid working practices; reshoring – helping bring back manufacturing to the UK; and help the industry maintain a competitive advantage.

Using figures from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) World Robot Density 2021, the report says the UK is 24th in the world with 101 units for robot density in manufacturing businesses and trails behind in productivity as a result. This compared to Germany with 371 units, Sweden 289, Italy 224, Spain 203 and France 194 and the world average of 126 units.

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