23 Jul 2024

AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING

UK robot sales hit an all-time high

According to new figures released by Bara – the British Automation and Robot Association – most of the sales were in the first half of the year, and once again most of the demand came from the automotive sector.

“While this is good news, and the automotive sector has unsurprisingly generated most of these sales,” says Bara chairman, Mike Wilson, “we are witnessing only a modest upward trend over the last few years in the uptake of automation and robotics across other sectors.”

The fastest growing sector is pharmaceuticals, where sales of robots rose by 115% in 2012, compared to 2011. Sales to the electronics sector grew by 76%, but demand from the food and drink industry dropped by 22%.

According to Bara, there is still much interest in robots and automation from the food and drinks sector, but investment is being held back by supermarkets continuing to apply short contracts and wanting to be able to change packaging designs at short notice. The ability to change designs “is not the problem it once was, with the programmability of automation and robotic systems,” says Bara, “but these issues have become an increasingly reported barrier to investing in automation by this sector”.

According to Bara’s head of marketing, Grant Collier, who is also responsible for the Automating Manufacturing Programme – a government initiative to persuade UK companies to automate – “we have seen a tremendous level of interest from all sectors for the use of automation”. The programme’s funds are now almost completely allocated.

“An increasing number of the companies that applied have asked for a further detailed review of their processes,” Collier adds, “but it’s still early days in seeing whether these appraisals turn into actual orders for automation and robotics systems.

“The government has increased the capital allowance ten-fold from £25,000 to £250,000,” says Collier, “meaning there has never been a better time to invest in this technology.”