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Is now the time to automate?

11 January 2021

The adoption of robotics and automation within the UK food and beverage industry sector has been behind that of its European counterparts for some time. Recent pressures – such as wage increases, and labour availability – mean that more businesses are now turning to automation and robotics, according to Michael Payne

An increase in the National Minimum Wage has resulted in a rise in production costs of some locally produced goods which has seen many manufacturers faced with tighter margins and smaller profits. The pressures of increased labour costs are amplified by the uncertainty surrounding a post Brexit Britain. It is estimated that in excess of 50% of those working in the food and beverage industry are non-UK nationals, many of whom are leaving the UK in response to a fall in the value of the pound and uncertainties surrounding their future. 

Traditionally, companies have hesitated when it comes to investing their capital in automated robotic production, instead choosing to take advantage of low-cost labour. However, as the cost of labour increases the adoption of robotics and automation becomes a more viable solution to maintaining or increasing profit margins. 

It is now easier than ever to modernise production processes, without large capital investments. KUKA UK, for example, has introduced a range of robotic leasing options that empower SME’s as they begin their automation journey. With the ability to lease robots at a cost of less than half of what a minimum wage employee earns daily, there has never been a better time to start to make a transition towards a more productive future. 

It is common practice in the food and beverage industry to see employees working shoulder to shoulder in crowded, confined spaces. As such, it is of no surprise that companies have been forced to temporarily halt production during the Covid-19 pandemic following coronavirus outbreaks among staff and so the benefits of robotic automation have become more apparent.

KUKA’s advice for companies considering the adoption of robotics, is to consider it a ‘multifaceted’ solution. Many companies will embark on their automation journey with a view to solving one production challenge. However, benefits can often also be found in other areas – areas such as reducing waste or increasing consistency. 

Michael Payne is UK food and beverage sector manager at KUKA UK

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