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PPMA is reborn as Automate UK, making automation central

04 December, 2023

The PPMA (Processing & Packaging Machinery Association) Group of Associations is changing its name to Automate UK to better represent the needs of its membership and their customers. The move follows the PPMA’s publication of a Manifesto for Automation earlier in the year, which set out its goals and commitment to make the UK more productive. It also set out the central role that automation has to play in the UK manufacturing sector.

The PPMA was founded in 1987, and in 2009 was joined by Bara (the British Automation and Robot Association) and Ukiva (the UK Industrial Vision Association), broadening the range of automation equipment and services that it represents.

The association's leaders feel that the time is right to widen its range of services. As the leading trade association for automation suppliers and end-users across processing, packaging, robotics and machine vision, it believes it can make great strides in this crucial area of the UK economy. The three associations – the PPMA, Bara and Ukiva – will continue to operate, but will come under the Automate UK umbrella.

“This is way more than just a name change,” says Automate UK’s CEO, Peter Williamson. “It is a fundamental shift in how our three trade associations can impact the manufacturing arena in a positive and meaningful way.

“By driving industry progress, supporting growth of our members and helping users make more informed technology decisions, we are the go-to partner to help members and their clients thrive,” he adds. “And also increase productivity through investments in automation, in the increasingly competitive marketplace.”

The main purpose of the renamed trade body will be to:
• drive the progress and adoption of automation technologies;
• identify future talent and help upskill existing employees to minimise impact of skills and labour shortages;
• support the growth of its member companies; and
• help its members and end-users to make better technology decisions.

“We plan to take an active part in tackling the issues facing all manufacturers today, such as the workforce challenge including skills shortages and recruitment difficulties,” says Williamson, who is also managing director of RARUK Automation. “We will also aim to empower SMEs through clear scaling-up strategies and we want to bust the misconception that robots take jobs.”

The organisation also aims to become a lobbying organisation to put forward industry issues to government and to represent its members’ interests. “There is a clear role for government to play in the drive to a more automated manufacturing sector in the UK,” says Williamson. “We estimate that our members represent a £7bn turnover, which is why our sector should be heard in this critical area.”

The trade body believes that the UK needs an industrial strategy that has automation at its heart. It wants a government-backed scheme to support finance for automation and a tax system that provides incentives for companies investing in automation. It also believes that the apprenticeship levy should be reviewed, STEM should be promoted more in schools, and it is calling for more support for exporters.

Williamson: This is way more than just a name change

“We want a call to action on automation, and along with our members and their customers, the Government has a key role to play in this,” says Williamson. “As an organisation, we are committed to making Automate UK do exactly what it says on the tin.”

Automate UK’s chairman James Causebrook believes that the re-branded trade body will succeed because of the legacy that PPMA, Bara and Ukiva have built up over many years.

“We have years of experience and industry know how that provides the credibility in everything we do,” he says. “Knowledge and technical expertise are our key traits which gives us access to, and influence in the right circles,” he continues. “This is why I believe our focus on pushing the industry forward will reward our members, and their customers in equal measure.”

PPMA, Bara and Ukiva will continue to be divisions of Automate UK. Bara and Ukiva will be represented by their committees, and PPMA by a new innovation panel, providing sector inputs to the Board.

There are no plans to make any changes to the PPMA Show, which will keep its name. Similarly, the Automation UK and Ukiva shows will retain their brands.

The main changes initially will be the new branding and an associated Web site. The trade body’s day-to-day activities will largely remain unchanged, but over time there will be additions to the membership offerings and activities.

Automate UK will offer practical support for pinch points in manufacturing including grants to help reduce the skills shortages, promoting career progression through its charitable organisation PPMA Best, as well as technical support and expertise. A chief technical officer is being recruited to lead the discussion on opportunities, challenges, regulations, skills and more.

The association will continue with its in-house and on-line training, export support, the Machinery Update magazine for end-users, and the organisation and development of the PPMA Show, the Machine Vision Conference and the Automation UK exhibition.

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