Investment in manufacturing robotics could boost the UK’s economy by £60bn within a decade, with the food and drink industry one of the most likely to profit, according to banking group Barclays.
An investment of £1.2bn could lead to sector growth of £38bn by 2025 and safeguard more than 105,000 jobs across the British economy. For every £1 invested, that represents a return of £49. Almost 60% of British manufacturers already invested in automation, and 76% believed there were opportunities for further investment, the research revealed.
The report, Future-Proofing UK Manufacturing, also suggested that investing in automation technology will help to increase the international competitiveness of the UK’s manufacturing sector through increased manufacturing productivity and efficiency.
Furthermore, increased investment in automation will help to soften the expected long-term decline in manufacturing sector jobs by safeguarding 73,500 additional workers in 2025, due to the creation of a larger, more productive and competitive UK manufacturing sector. This is in contrast to many fears over the impact of automation in the sector.
Mike Rigby, head of manufacturing for Barclays, said: “This report highlights the importance of investing in robotics and automation for manufacturers as a potential solution to the on-going ‘productivity puzzle’. By investing an additional £1.2bn in automation technologies over the next decade, the UK manufacturing sector is forecast to create an additional £60.5bn of economic output and safeguard more than 105,800 jobs throughout the wider economy.
“However, to reap these rewards we need to address some of the barriers to investment including the need for more user-friendly and flexible technology, addressing skills barriers within the sector and supporting manufacturers to access the funding and information already available to them for robotics investment.”
Barclays said that the food and drinks industry was more likely to benefit than other sectors because of its comparatively large existing base in terms of size and take-up of automation technology, as well as the relative ease with which robotics can be applied across the industry. A survey of manufacturers found that there was particular room for growth for automation technology in the manufacturing, assembly and packaging processes.
The banking group asked companies what was most likely to impact their decision to install, or not to install, automation technology. The most popular answers were the availability of both internal and external funding (23% and 15% respectively), competing demands for capital expenditure (26%), limitations with current technology (18%), concerns about return on investment (16%), and workforce morale (11%) and fears for a shortage of relevant skills (10%).
In addition, to help increase investment further, 28% of respondents also highlighted the need for more flexible equipment, where one piece of equipment can accomplish multiple tasks, greater access to external funding, support with technology implementation, and increased education and information on the benefits of automation adoption.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2023
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