With a manufacturing output of £183 billion, the UK ranks ninth in the world, but due to its slow adoption of industrial automation, its position at the top is in jeopardy. Even countries such as Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland and Hungary are catching up with the UK in the use of robots. The UK automation community must unite to help UK companies adopt robots and maintain its status as a manufacturing nation if it is to remain competitive in the global marketplace.
With a record 517,385 new robots installed by 2021, robotics will play a vital role in defending businesses against global catastrophes. This encompasses companies such as warehousing and transportation, as well as more modern adopters of automation, such as the automotive, electronics, metal and equipment industries. Many industries are now able to use automated solutions thanks to advances in digitisation and AI.
Robotics is essential to help companies remain flexible, cost-effective and internationally competitive, with 2021 seeing the highest number of new robot installations in history. Meanwhile, the average robot density in UK manufacturing fell by 7% year-on-year to 111 robots per 10,000 employees. This is well below the top-ranked Korea (1,000) and Germany (141), as well as the global average (397). As the only G7 country outside the top 20, the UK now ranks 24th in the world in robot density.
Although UK manufacturing accounts for 10% of GDP, productivity rates are lower than in other nations because of greater investment in automation. A German worker, for example, is 30% more productive than a British worker, which means we will be unable to compete globally until we automate.
Several national and international crises in recent years have increased the need for automation. The labour drain from Europe caused by Brexit and the Covid epidemic resulted in 97,000 vacancies in the manufacturing sector in January 2022. The nation is also experiencing a cost-of-living issue, which has left companies struggling with the rising costs of raw materials, transport and energy. Automation can help companies make better use of their human workers, empowering them to increase production while boosting recruitment and retention rates.
During 2015, Fanuc UK saw a 56% growth in the number of robots in the UK, with 111 robots per 10,000 employees. This can be seen in our strong order book for 2023. We need to help companies deploy world-class automation technologies if we are to maintain our status as a world-class manufacturing nation.
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