According to a survey conducted by Barclays, 68% of British manufacturers recognise the potential of increasing investment in automation in the future.
The same survey, Future-proofing UK Manufacturing, also revealed that manufacturing businesses that have invested in robotics and automation are seeing clear benefits. As a result of automation, 65% of respondents have seen their productivity rise, 60% have improved their product consistency and 54% say their staff now have more time to complete other tasks.
This survey is just one of many examples that illustrate just how much interest in automation, and the impact it can have on established economies, has considerably ramped up in recent years.
Not only has the Government issued a paper that specifically focuses on automation, Chancellor Philip Hammond has pledged millions of pounds to develop solutions to high-tech challenges, including artificial intelligence and robotics, in the Spring Budget. Meanwhile, Bill Gates recently hit the headlines for speaking out about his views on whether or not robots and automation should still be taxed at a similar level as human workers.
Although automation may have existed for decades, with the e-commerce and technology sectors being among the first pioneers, it’s an area that most certainly hasn’t stood still.
Take online retailer Ocado, for example, who has perfected the use of robots over the years to enhance its customer proposition and enable its workforce to provide the best and most efficient service to its customers.
The rise in automation is something we’ve also experienced first-hand here at Ayming too. Many of our clients work for companies such as Jaguar Land Rover and Airbus, where they design, create and automate parts of the manufacturing process, as well as write the software that controls automated functions and integrates existing systems.
Wide-ranging benefits – from operational efficiencies to R&D tax
While the impact automation is predicted to have on people’s jobs has been, and will always continue to be, a key topic of conversation, there’s no denying the fact there are numerous ways workforces can benefit from it too. In the case of Ocado, staff spend less time on picking and packing people’s groceries and operating vehicles that move the products around as part of the process, and more time on other jobs.
Obviously, this is just one basic example, there are literally hundreds-upon-thousands of examples of the value artificial intelligence and robotics can bring to workplaces all over the world and across multiple sectors, with benefits, including the creation of faster processes and safer, more reliable and cheaper systems. From Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs) to Supervisory Control Data Acquisition (SCADA), the list is endless.
But operational efficiencies aren’t the only type of benefit to be generated by automation. There are financial benefits to be had too. Any new product development; modification; or integration of PLCs, HMIs and SCADAs into old or new systems, can potentially be eligible for R&D tax relief. Here’s a snapshot of just some of the automation projects to have recently been delivered by our clients that have been classed as eligible activities for R&D relief:
PROJECT 1 – The development of a high performance dual lane water test system
Aim – To design, develop and commission a two-lane water test platform for a final trim facility at one of the UK’s largest car manufacturers.
Work – Our client was engaged to develop this bespoke leak-testing system for the assembly line for different models of cars. The development of this facility was a significant addition to our client’s capabilities in leak-testing systems.
PROJECT 2 – Improving a First In First Out (FIFO) door delivery system
Aim – To improve a car manufacturer’s existing FIFO process.
Work – Our client helped the car manufacturer ‘appreciably improve’ its existing process, so that its conveyor system had multiple new lanes where doors can be stored and called out in different orders, instead of FIFO.
PROJECT 3 – The creation of fluid bulk storage and distribution facilities
Aim – To design, develop and commission a turnkey storage and distribution solution.
Work – Our client developed a solution for new integrated facilities that enabled the bulk storage and distribution of a variety of different fluids used at car manufacturing plants at three different sites.
We live in a digital world. And it’s a digital world where the rise in automation shows no sign of letting up anytime soon. Like most rapidly-expanding advances, there are benefits to be had and challenges to overcome, regardless of the size of your business, sector in which you operate or whereabouts you are on the worldwide map.