Editor’s comment for October 2020

Nissan LEAF production in Sunderland
Nissan LEAF production in Sunderland

With our cover story this month being distinctly automation focused, it reminded me of a LinkedIn post I saw recently highlighting some of the many misconceptions about automation in general.

It resonated with me because automation is something that UK manufacturing needs to embrace pretty quickly with COVID-19 and the need for social distancing just adding to the list. Factor in the skills shortage, not to mention keeping up with the rest of the world in the automation league tables and it’s a no brainer. Many have embarked on the automation journey; I suspect many others are giving it serious thought.

Quick stat for you. According to the International Federation of Robotics, there are 2.7 million robots working in factories around the globe. A whopping 73% of total installations are in just five countries: China, Japan, USA, South Korea and Germany.

The LinkedIn post I’m referring to was made by Claire Cassie, marketing manager at Burnley-based DEM Automation & Workholding – a company I visited earlier this year (www.dem-ltd.co.uk). Claire points out some top level truths/misconceptions about automation in general:

  • Robots take jobs away from humans: FALSE

  • Manufacturers have had to send jobs offshore because they couldn’t compete with low-cost foreign labour: TRUE

  • More automation means more jobs created in robotics and associated fields: TRUE

  • Programming, engineering, design, operation, data analysis, robot manufacturing and systems integration are all needed and performed by humans: TRUE

  • Humans are needed to help service the machines: TRUE

  • Robots allow manufacturers to lower costs and bring work back to the UK: TRUE

The other important point to mention is that taking the plunge into the world of automation doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive. Like most things in manufacturing, it’s modular. You can start relatively modestly and then expand as and when the need arises.

The important thing is to engage with a company well-versed in the subject and flesh out a battleplan. Identifying areas where a business can introduce automation is the first challenge to overcome.

In our cover story, I talk to Dr Paul Rivers, CEO of Guidance Automation, a company specialising in autonomous mobile robot solutions. It’s in Q&A format. Take a look on pages 26-27.


PES Media

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