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What will 2024 hold for our sector?

01 January, 2024

There were signs last year that the Government is prepared to offer more support to UK manufacturing – at least to those sectors that it regards as being key. Will this continue in 2024? And what other changes can be expect? Nikesh Mistry*, Gambica’s sector head for automation, gazes into his crystal ball.

Welcome to 2024! Last year saw many pivotal moments for manufacturers and for the industrial automation sector. Early in the year, for example, Innovate UK offered funding to help innovation in late-stage robotics and automation projects aimed at boosting productivity, sustainability and resilience in manufacturing processes.  

Then, in May, the National Semiconductor Strategy unveiled a plan to double down on design, research and advanced chip leadership – hoping to secure the UK’s position as a global science and technology superpower. The plan set out how UK will build on the semiconductor industry’s strengths, safeguard supply chains from disruption, and protect technology against security threats.

In August, we were told – to considerable relief – that the UK would now recognise CE marking indefinitely for placing most goods on the market in Great Britain. The announcement followed a campaign by Gambica and our member companies to inform the government of the industry’s position and experience of this issue. This involved letters to ministers, surveys, reports, formal and informal consultations, roundtables and meetings with government representatives.

And recently, the Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch launched the landmark Advanced Manufacturing Plan to boost UK manufacturing. The government is providing £4.5bn of investment for eight key industrial sectors. The funding will be available from 2025 for five years. I hope that this is the start of a continued approach to supporting our industry. 

So where will 2024 take us? In terms of Governmental and regulatory announcements, we can only speculate.

However, in terms of trends in automation and manufacturing, we would hope to see continued adoption of Industry 4.0 practices ensuring, for example, that artificial intelligence, machine learning, data collection and other advanced technologies are used for the correct applications to help raise production efficiency and optimise resource utilisation.

We are starting to see increasing investment in robotics and I hope that this trend continues. It seems that cobots could gain significant traction in 2024, blurring the lines between manual and automated tasks. These flexible and adaptable machines will work alongside humans, enhancing productivity and reducing the risk of workplace injuries.

It does not seem as though energy prices will stabilise any time soon, so naturally there will be an increased focus on sustainability. As we move another year closer to the UK’s net-zero goal of 2050, manufacturers will continue to prioritise sustainable practices, adopting eco-friendly materials, reducing energy consumption and minimising waste. Circular economy principles should gain traction, promoting resource efficiency and reducing environmental impacts.

So far, automation has been adopted mainly by traditional manufacturing sectors such as automotive and electronics, however in 2024, with support from eternal investments, it would be brilliant to see automation being adopted more widely by sectors such as healthcare, agriculture and construction. More diverse applications will enhance productivity and efficiency across a broad swathe of industries.

And finally, one of the most talked-about topics in Gambica meetings in recent years has been the hope for more upskilling and reskilling of our workforce. With industry needing skilled workers, manufacturers will definitely invest both capital and time into training their staff to help them adapt to the increasing automation and digitalisation of their activities This will require a focus on developing new skills and knowledge of areas such as data analytics, programming, and artificial intelligence. It will allow the creation of a whole new set of jobs, and also allow existing workers to be better prepared for the wider adoption of digital technologies. 

The UK’s automation and manufacturing sector will be characterised in 2024 by continued innovation, increasing automation, and a focus on sustainability. Manufacturers that embrace Industry 4.0 technologies, invest in upskilling their workers, and prioritise collaboration, will be well-positioned for success in this dynamic and evolving world. 

 

* Gambica is the trade association for the automation, control, instrumentation and laboratory technology sectors in the UK. You can get in touch with Nikesh Mistry on 020 7642 8094 or nikesh.mistry@gambica.org.uk, or via the Gambica Web site: www.gambica.org.uk 




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