Greater Manchester SME manufacturers, adopting robotics and automation with the support of Made Smarter, are creating new and upskilled jobs.
Since 2019 the North West Adoption Programme, a collaboration between UK government and industry designed to support the increased use of digital technologies, has supported nine businesses with 10 technology projects focused on robotics and automation machinery.
The £371k investment, which combines £176k of grant funding and leverages £195k of private finance, is forecast to create 36 new jobs, upskill 69 workers, and boost the city region’s GVA by £27.4M over the next three years.
Among those businesses adopting robotics and automation are Lancashire Farm Dairies, a natural yogurt producer based in Rochdale, which invested in an end-of-line robotic palletiser to boost productivity, and Bind-a-Tex, a manufacturer of advanced materials, based in Bolton, which adopted a digitally controlled, inline automated slitting and spooling line which uses Artificial Intelligence to monitor quality.
Visual Architects, a manufacturer of creative interiors for events based in Hyde, invested in a 7-axis Kuka CNC machining robot with the support of Made Smarter. The technology transformed its design and manufacturing capability, reducing what would previously have taken seven days down to one, and increased production capacity significantly.
Lefteris Angelidis, Managing Director of Visual Architects, said: “Advanced robotic sculpting technology turns any idea into a reality. Whether a design or new concept, we can now build sculptures, décor, prototypes, models, art or other installations to an unparalleled level of precision. It has replaced the need for products crafted by human hand. This means we will be able to create in the digital 3D space and realise our design exactly as intended. This transforms our process from an art into a science, while retaining our company values of creativity.”
Across the North West, Made Smarter has supported 41 businesses with 45 technology projects focused on robotics and automation machinery valued at £2M, and forecast to create 183 new jobs, upskill 234 existing workers, and increase the region’s GVA by £137.4M over the next three years.
Alain Dilworth, North West Adoption Programme Manager at Made Smarter, said: “These figures are further evidence that robots, cobots, and process control automation technologies are creating more jobs than they displace, as well as a host of other benefits.
“Manufacturers who have adopted these digital technologies are experiencing increased productivity and efficiency, more consistent and improved part production and quality, lower operating costs, reduced lead times, the ability to be more competitive, and improved worker safety.
“The Made Smarter North West Adoption Programme has proven the value that digital technology can bring to the manufacturing sector. By providing businesses with specialist, impartial technology advice, grant funding for projects, digital transformation workshops, a leadership programme, digital technology internships, and skills development, Made Smarter is helping them select the right approach and the appropriate level of investment and tools for their business.
“Ultimately, at the heart of any change are the people, who are fundamental to understanding the need for change, driving that change and adopting that change.”
While the adoption of robotics in the UK is on the rise, it is well behind global competition. According to the International Federation of Robotics, the UK’s ‘robot density’ or the number of robots per 10,000 workers is 71, below the global average of 74, and significantly lower than Germany (309) and South Korea (631).*
Mark Stepney, Director of the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA), part of the PPMA Group of Associations, said: “It is fantastic to see Made Smarter supporting SME manufacturers in the adoption of advanced technologies like robotics to address the UK’s shortfall in productivity.
“The ROI on the use of industrial robots is startlingly clear. Along with faster production comes a long sought-after benefit: the ability to free human workers from the dangers and drudgery of manual work. Human workers can be elevated to roles where their individual skills and cognitive abilities can be better utilised.”
For more information visit madesmarter.uk