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Covid has been ‘game-changing’ for UK manufacturers

01 September, 2021

A survey of 250 large and SME manufacturers in the UK has revealed that almost all (90.8%) believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has been “game-changing” for their businesses, and that 81.2% are considering investing in robots because of recent events.

The survey, conducted by ABB Robotics as part of as part of the launch of its GoFa and Swifti collaborative robots, finds a growing interest among UK manufacturers in the potential of robotic automation to help address the impact of Covid and to protect against future worker shortages. Almost half (45.6%) of the manufacturers surveyed report that their businesses have had to make some adjustments because of Covid, and a similar number (45.2%) say that their business and industry sector has been “completely impacted”.

Half of those surveyed (50.4%) believe that robots could help them to comply with social distancing requirements and avoid cross-contamination, while 40.4% say that robots could help them to meet health and safety rules, and 32.8% see the potential for using robots to help compensate for staff short shortages and staff illness.

Of the 142 manufacturers surveyed who are already using robots, 57% report that the robots have helped them to cut their running costs, 42.3% say that the robots have improved their product quality and consistency, and 37.3% believe that the machines have improved the quality of work and job satisfaction for employees. Almost a third (32.4%) say that their robots have boosted output, with 31.7% adding that they have improved workplace health and safety, 23.9% that staff turnover has dropped, and 23.2% reporting that their use of space has improved.

Almost a third (32%) of the companies report that robots have helped them to boost their manufacturing flexibility, and 25% say they using robots has helped them to develop new business models and revenue streams.

According to ABB, the survey suggest that robots are increasingly being seen as a way of addressing a lack of contingency planning among UK manufacturers, with 48.8% of respondents saying that they are likely to invest in robotic automation within the next five years.

The ABB survey suggests that UK manufacturers are increasingly seeing robots, such as the new Swifti model, as being a way to address a lack of contingency planning

“The huge impact that Covid-19 has had on the economy will be felt long after the virus has gone and will permanently influence the way businesses conduct themselves moving forward,” says Nigel Platt, general manager of ABB Robotics and Automation in the UK and Ireland. “The inherent flexibility and high performance of today’s robots, coupled with the expanding range of options on offer, from small cobots through to heavy-duty industrial robots, enables manufacturers to better prepare themselves against future uncertainties caused by impending pandemics or economic instabilities.”

“While the UK has lagged behind other countries when it comes to embracing robotic automation in manufacturing applications, those companies that have made the switch to robots have reported a range of benefits that underline their ability to transform productivity, efficiency and competitiveness,” adds Julian Ware, sales manager for ABB Robotics and Automation in the UK and Ireland. “The results of our survey provide hope that these benefits will be realised by a growing number of companies in the next few years as robotic automation becomes recognised for its ability to provide a greater degree of certainty in challenging times.”

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