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The rise of the machines

Interesting to see how SME manufacturers in the north of England who have been helped in the adoption of robotics and automation by Made Smarter have benefitted.

The project has been able to create over 400 hundred new and up-skilled jobs – suggesting that robotics rather than costing jobs actually help to create new and more varied roles

The Made Smarter North West Adoption Programme has supported 41 businesses with 45 technology projects focused on robotics and automation machinery.

Funded by a combination of grants from the UK government and private financing the project has demonstrated that robots, cobots, and process control automation technologies are able to create more jobs than they displace, as well as bringing a host of other benefits.

Alain Dilworth, North West Adoption Programme Manager at Made Smarter made the point that manufacturers who had adopted these digital technologies have been experiencing increased productivity and efficiency, more consistent and improved part production and quality, lower operating costs, reduced lead times, had improved their competitiveness and improved worker safety.

While the programme has proven the value that digital technology can bring to the manufacturing sector, the adoption of robotics in the UK is still well behind its global competitors.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, the UK’s ‘robot density’ or the number of robots per 10,000 workers is 71, below the global average of 74, and significantly lower than Germany (309) and South Korea (631).

Those figures often overlook the fact that the majority of manufacturers in the UK tend to be smaller than the behemoths in Germany and Korea, but robots and automation can play an important role in boosting productivity and performance no matter the size of business.

The work of Made Smarter and its support for SMEs should be applauded and the result of that support in the North West has demonstrated just how robotic technology and automation can bring new opportunities and create jobs.

Neil Tyler

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I worked for a sub-contract manufacturer in late 80's and 90's and there was a race to automate in the mid 90's. That included automatic inspection using video machines, ultra-sonic recognition, and even simple PCB stacking and PCB handling machines. Even with this drive for automation, most electronic sub-contacters could not compete with Chinese low wages.
The reality is, and must be spelled out, is that Robots must be cheaper than human labour. Not cheaper than UK wages, but cheaper than Chinese labour. To invest in an automatic machine, a company must have a secure long term future. Because of globalisation ther is an increased risk in investing in long term equipment, so it may be simpler to "Off-shore" production.
I believe that there is no race or "rise of the machines".

Posted by: Konrad Bamford, 03/10/2021

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