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20 million robots worldwide by 2029, with the UK playing catch up

New research estimates that 20 million robots could be in place in factories worldwide in a decade’s time, but the rate of automation in the UK is lagging behind global competitors.

The transition has been moving more slowly in the UK. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), Europe has the highest robot density in the world; Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and Italy are all in the top 10 in terms of the number of robots per manufacturing employee. However, the UK currently lags behind in 22nd place worldwide.  

Mike Wilson, Chairman of the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA), believes that Brexit could well unleash new growth in robotics: 

 Over many years, the UK has attracted workers from other countries, with businesses preferring to hire people rather than invest in capital equipment. The consequences of the Brexit vote and subsequent political developments are leading to reduced labour availability as the many workers who have come over from Eastern Europe are starting to return home.  

As a result, businesses have to ensure that they use their workforce effectively and find alternative ways of performing tasks for which they have a shortage of staff - robot automation being an obvious solution.  

According to Oxford Economics, each newly installed robot worldwide replaces around 1.6 traditional manufacturing jobs on average.    

In the North West, the researchers concluded that Cumbria and Lancashire are most vulnerable to job losses due to their relative dependence on manufacturing and replaceable manual jobs.   

Despite this, the overall message is positive in the long-term. The productivity boost from increased automation is expected to create a host of new jobs - including in manufacturing - where human skills such as creativity, teamwork and emotional intelligence are more important.  

In fact, two thirds of manufacturers expect their workforces to increase in the next five years, primarily driven by the introduction of new products, but also through the adoption of new technologies.  

The job creation benefits of automation are already being felt in the North West. A recent project supporting the uptake of Industry 4.0 technologies in the Liverpool City Region is expected to create 1,000 jobs over the next three years. The North Wests Made Smarter programme is also showing how SME manufacturers can drive growth and job creation through advanced technologies.  

Our specialist manufacturing servicescan help decision-makers to understand the rise of digital and automation technologies, how to utilise them effectively, and how to up-skill employees for a more creative and innovative future.  

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