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26 August, 2019

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Automation product sales in the UK grew by 7.3% during 2018

26 July, 2019

Sales of industrial automation products in the UK grew by 7.3% last year – the third consecutive year of growth – according to the latest statistics issued by Gambica, the trade association that covers the sector. However, despite being boosted by including servodrives for the first time, growth in the sector was slower than the 12.3% it achieved in 2017.

Gambica’s CEO Steve Brambley reports that although a 10% increase in capital expenditure by the food and drink industry helped to drive the growth in the automation sector during 2018, it was not enough to repeat the bumper figure achieved in 2017, which was largely seen as a recovery from pre-referendum uncertainty.

The automation product sales are included in Gambica’s annual Index which also indicates the level of business in the two other sectors that the organisation represents – process instrumentation and control, and laboratory technology. It shows the levels of all three sectors individually and combined, using 2012 as a reference point.

The combined Gambica Index grew by 2.8% in 2018, continuing to expand, but at a much slower rate than the record 8.5% achieved in 2017. Performance across Gambica’s three sectors and customer segments was varied, with uncertainty leading to reduced investment in some areas.

In the process instrumentation and control sector, oil and gas prices remain a significant factor. The positive trend in the price of oil, which began in mid-2017, stalled at the start of 2018 and, despite a significant rise in the third quarter, by the end of the year it had dropped again, finishing well below the price at the start of the year. These oil price fluctuations resulted in more cautious investment in large-scale projects in the North Sea.

According to Gambica's figures, sales of industrial automation products continued to expand last year, although at a slower rate than in 2017.

While the sales of instrumentation and control products have been relatively buoyant for most major industrial sectors – including oil and gas, petrochemicals, food and beverage, and water and waste – the overall effect was a year-on-year decline in the process market of around 2.4%.

A continued growth of 5% in Gambica’s third sector, laboratory technology, demonstrates its resilience, despite uncertainty starting to affect the activity of some EU purchasers. Laboratory companies have become used to significant year-on-year growth and 2018 saw more variability in performance between companies and across the year. However, Brambley reports that exports have recorded strong growth and that this trend appears to be continuing in the next period.

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