Retailer pressures stifle uptake of automation

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Food firms are still resisting robots
Food firms are still resisting robots

Related tags: Robot

Sales of robots in the food and drink sector rose by 28% last year against a backdrop of strong uptake across the board in the UK, according to the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA).

In 2013 annual sales of industrial robots reached 2,304 units – almost as strong as 2012’s record figure of 2,476, reports BARA.

“Whilst this is good news and the automotive sector has, unsurprisingly, generated most of these sales, we are witnessing only a modest upward trend over the last few years in the uptake of automation and robotics across other sectors,​” said BARA chairman Mike Wilson. “The pharmaceutical industry was the strongest with growth of 116% over 2013’s result and food and drink rising by 28%.”

Tremendous level of interest

Grant Collier, BARA head of marketing for BARA, and responsible for the Automating Manufacturing programme a – government initiative to persuade UK firms to automate, said: “We have seen a tremendous level of interest from all sectors for the use of automation but in particular 37% of the total 367 applications came from the food sector.

“However, when surveyed there is a great deal of reticence to automate the food sector due to the pressure that the major supermarkets apply to supplier margins. The Groceries Code Adjudicator has been appointed to try to sort these issues out, which in turn should help when it comes to investment in robotics and automation equipment.”

Related topics: Ambient foods, Processing equipment

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