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Kuka Talks Important Topics in Robotics

Kuka Talks Important Topics in Robotics

Added to MTDCNC by Kuka Robotics on 07 July 2017

Why is the UK slow to adopt robots in comparison with other European countries?

The take-up of robotics within the automotive and Tier One sectors within the UK is comparable with its peers; but it’s outside of these sectors that a significant difference is exhibited. One factor being the UK's less-restrictive employment laws, resulting in an environment in which the acquisition and disposal of labour to cope with surges in demand are easier to achieve than elsewhere in mainlined Europe; thus meaning it can be possible to throw manpower at any given conundrum. It’s also the case that in countries like Germany, where the use of robotics is more prevalent across all sectors, banks are aligned and involved with the mid-term industrial strategy of the government and local governments too; which produces a climate in which lending into industrial sectors is more readily undertaken. The UK has moved inexorably torwards a service sector based economy over the last 40 years, and there are easier, less costly returns for investors to realise in those areas.

Do you believe greater use of robot automation would address the UK productivity puzzle?

Without question. The correlation between the Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index and published data for robot density in manufacturing makes the case for robotics uptake giving rise to enhanced productivity.

What support/initiatives from government would be beneficial?

A true mid-to-long term industrial strategy needs to be set out, implemented and adhered to by successive governments – irrespective of political leaning. This will provide security for investment by companies of all sizes and serving all sectors, and the banks a confidence in supporting such activity. Such a strategy needs to facilitate a clear, low-risk export pathway for SMEs; so that innovative smaller enterprises can capitalise on extended markets, in the same way Italian machine builders seem to achieve so successfully.

Does the Industrial Strategy green paper or other government announcements provide any indications of positive support for robot automation?

It gives reason for optimism; but it has to be followed through aggressively. The global success of companies such as JLR has given a level of bullishness to UK manufacturing, and the timing is now perfect for the green paper to springboard this confidence into something tangible – at last. CATAPULT Centres, and some excellent universities have been shining lights in recent years, and this network needs to be allowed to flourish further still – and in no way curbed by Brexit talks and the potential for EU-routed monies and/or academic talent to run dry. Our post-Brexit proposition in this regard needs to be even better than its current level, and in no way jeopardised by the political landscape. That’s a clear message many would appreciate hearing right now.

What are the implications and issues for the UK regarding the development of collaborative robots?

Statistics show us the UK did not invest as significantly as its peers in industrial robotics over the last few decades, and we now sit with a productivity dichotomy as a function of this lack of investment. However, new technologies, including CoBots, mobile robotics, Smart Factories and the operational advantages of Industry 4.0 give the UK the chance to be early adopters and leap-frog countries who have made historically more traditional robotic investments to become genuinely world-leading. As a country, we missed the metaphorical bus once; and future generations wouldn’t not forgive us if we missed it again.

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