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Q2 robot sales came close to the total for 2011

26 July, 2013

Sales of robots in the UK during the second quarter of 2013 were more than double those in the first quarter and almost as large as sales for the whole of 2011, according to figures released by Bara, the British Automation and Robot Association.

Although automotive applications still dominate the UK robot market, the proportion of robots sold to the automotive sector dropped from 87% in the first half of 2012, to 79% in the first half of 2013. Although sales of non-automotive robots were twice what they were in 2009, sales to some sectors are still declining.

“Whilst we welcome the level of robot orders from the automotive sector – largely driven by product demand in global emerging markets – it is an on-going concern that some sectors are still not understanding the potential implications of not automating,” says Bara chairman, Mike Wilson. “Other countries such as China, Germany and most of the major European manufacturing nations – even countries that are not original equipment manufacturers – are investing heavily in automation to create competitive advantage. 

“Part of the problem in the UK,” he adds, “is a short-term approach and the perception that the payback period is considerably longer than it often is.”

In the first quarter of 2013, 374 robots were sold in the UK, and 912 in the second. The half-year total of 1,286 compares with 2,000 robots sold during the record-breaking year of 2012.

The proportion of robots bought by the automotive sector is dropping

Sales may slow again as the Government-funded Automating Manufacturing programme reaches its end. More than 360 manufacturers have taken advantage of this programme, which shows how they can benefit from automation. More than a third of these companies have been from the food sector.

However, Grant Collier, head of marketing for the PPMA Group of Associations, which has been managing the programme, reports that “it is frustrating to hear time and again, that many of the food sector companies are reluctant to automate due to the shortness of contracts and the ability to withdraw them with little notice from the major supermarkets. Hopefully this will improve with the recent appointment of the groceries code of conduct adjudicator – a regulator that will monitor relationships and practices within the grocery supply chain.”

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