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ABB welcomes positive government response to automation study

22 December 2010

ABB’s robotics business has joined several leading names in industrial automation in a bid to further understand the buying behaviours and barriers to investment in automation in the UK.

The study, titled ‘Application of Automation in UK Manufacturing’ compares the case for automation in four European countries, and identifies the main barriers to take-up as a lack of knowledge and skills, along with the general attitude towards risk.

Commissioned by members of the Engineering and Machinery Alliance (EAMA), with support from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and British Automation and Robot Association (BARA) members, the study confirms UK manufacturers have invested significantly less in modern manufacturing technologies than their counterparts in mainland Europe. As a result, many UK companies aren’t as competitive as they could be.

Despite the fact that manufacturing continues to be an important contributor to the UK economy and provides a significant level of the country’s exports, the report shows that UK manufacturing has fallen a long way behind its European competitors. For example, Germany has an installed base of 144,800 industrial robots and Spain 28,600, whereas the UK records only 15,100.

The growth required, based on sustainable businesses investing in automation, could help rebalance the economy and generate future prosperity within the UK. Automating manufacturing processes not only drives costs down, it improves quality, reduces waste and optimises energy use.

Nigel Platt, Sales and Marketing Manager for ABB Robotics in the UK and Ireland comments: “Comparing UK companies with similar businesses in Europe has highlighted our comparative weakness in automation. Our survey has identified several main barriers to adoption in the UK, including a lack of awareness, reluctance to risk investment and a general shortage of engineering skills at apprentice, technician and engineer level.

Taking these as a starting point, our report provides some key recommendations for moving forward, with a suggested programme to raise awareness, initiatives to encourage uptake by reducing risk and measures to strength the UK’s skills base.”

To help assist in promoting the benefits of automation to UK companies, the UK Government has also provided £600,000 to help fund a two-year automation and robotic programme being developed and run by EAMA and BARA. The programme will better prepare companies to introduce new automated/robotic systems and help them increase productivity, reduce waste and increase precision in their manufacturing process.”

In addition to supporting the automation and robotics programme, BARA with the assistance of members, including ABB Robotics, and other trade bodies such as the Food and Drink Federation, the Processing and Packaging Machinery Association and other EAMA members, is also implementing a regional events programme to help SMEs understand the benefits of automation.

ABB’s involvement in the study is the latest in its drive to promote greater awareness of the benefits that robots can deliver in industrial manufacturing processes. For more information, including ABB’s ‘10 good reasons to invest in robots’ campaign, please visit www.abb.co.uk/robotics.


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