25 Jul 2024

AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING

Will 2023 be a good year for industrial automation?

The UK industrial automation sector performed remarkably well during 2022 considering the many pressures that it experienced. Can this continue into 2023? Nikesh Mistry*, Gambica’s sector head for automation, looks at what lies ahead for the sector.

At Gambica, during our special interest group and council meetings, we usually talk about market trends and the outlook for the sector, and discuss where we think the industrial automation market is heading. The past three years have certainly been very unpredictable, with so many external shocks and pressures causing our member companies to feel a fair deal of uncertainty.

However, despite this, 2022 saw a significant increase in revenues for all categories of products in the industrial automation sector. Our categories include variable-speed drives, controlgear, PLCs, Scada software, terminals, soft-starters and many more.

This was a very positive sign for our industry. It was evident from the figures that the UK industrial automation market had managed to stay resilient despite the many external pressures, raising the value of the market to nearly where it had been before the pandemic.

But what does this mean for the year ahead? Will the market simply continue to do what it’s been doing? The honest answer there, is no. Instead of carrying on as normal, the New Year’s resolution for the industrial automation sector must be to use 2022 as a benchmark, with the aim of continually increasing the market value over the coming years. By encouraging end-users to automate and digitalise their processes, the knock-on effect will reap huge benefits for our industries.

We are certainly unable to predict what this year may bring in terms of external shocks. As it is, the cost of living and energy prices rises are continuing to impact both UK businesses and our personal lives. However, as an industry, we must prevent ourselves from becoming complacent based upon the successes of the past year.

Last year, I discussed frequently how automation was the “answer” to the pandemic, and how many Gambica members felt that their order books were gaining traction as a result of companies looking to “future-proof” their processes. This is a good sign for large projects, however it doesn’t always mean repeat business. That is another reason to ensure that, as an industry, we are not complacent, and continue to upskill our workforce and find ways in which we can add value to end-users.

Perhaps later in the year I will publish the official Gambica Index for last year, which demonstrates the overall trend of the market, without giving away any valuable commercial data. That would be a great way of illustrating the trends which I am discussing.

In general, I am trying to stress that we needn’t slow down our efforts to encourage businesses to automate, based on the fact that we had a good year last year. In fact, we should aim for 2023 to exceed those numbers, as hopefully inflation begins to balance out later in the year and perhaps the exchange rate fluctuations may start to steady, helping businesses with imports of components.

In six months’ time, I hope to be writing another article explaining how we’ve seen more consistent growth from the industrial automation market in the first half of 2023. Often, it can be the case that certain businesses lack the knowledge about where to get started on their journey to help contribute to this industry boost. This is why it is important for trade associations such as ours, as well as organisations such as the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and Government-backed movements such as Made Smarter, to offer the best advice and to share knowledge to help end-users to embark on their journeys.

* Gambica is the trade association for the automation, control, instrumentation and laboratory technology sectors in the UK.  For more information, please contact Nikesh Mistry on 020 7642 8094 or via nikesh.mistry@gambica.org.uk