Foodex

Clinging to old machines holds back UK automation

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

The UK food industry’s desire to keep old machines running for as long as possible has hampered its progress on automation compared to European neighbours, an expert panel at last month’s Foodex claimed.

Speaking at the Panel ‘Stealing our jobs: Can robots solve the skills crisis?’​, Mike Wilson, business development manager at ABB Robotics, said the UK had a long way to go before it caught up with its competitors across the continent.

“We currently have 39 robots per 10,000 workers in the UK in general manufacturing – Germany has 181,”​ said Wilson. “They’re a long way ahead of us, as are France, Spain, Italy – all of our major competitors.

‘Keep our old machinery running’

“I think the main reason for that has largely been cultural. We tend to keep our old machinery running, rather than investing in new equipment and new technology. So there’s a great opportunity to utilise the latest technologies.”

This gap could easily be closed by utilising machines and automation more effectively, argued Wilson.

“It’s not about doing really clever things that are pushing the edge in terms of technology, it’s about utilising solutions that already exist, simple things like palletising. We still have people on the end of production lines putting boxes on pallets and maybe that’s a job that ought to be automated.”

Upgrading their systems

However, a number of manufacturers are now opening up to the idea of upgrading their systems and machinery in the wake of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing.

Rockwell Automation industry sales manager Gary Kirk said that while manufacturers wanted to make their existing assets “sweat​”, they were now more conscious of newer technologies.

“There seems to be a lot more willingness to look a bit further ahead,”​ said Kirk. “Rather than just upgrading and sticking with a very similar level of performance, they are looking at what can be done, with a view to a much more effective smart manufacturing solution.”

Related topics: Processing equipment

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

How to choose a specialist ERP solution

How to choose a specialist ERP solution

Columbus | 25-Sep-2020 | Technical / White Paper

An out-of-the-box solution isn’t enough for food businesses. You need a specialist ERP system that will cater to your specific industry requirements and...

Food safety metal detector for brand protection

Food safety metal detector for brand protection

Thermo Fisher Scientific | 18-Sep-2020 | Technical / White Paper

White paper explores Selectscan, a food-grade metal detector foreign object detection technology for better food and consumer safety.

Minimise the impact of product recalls Post-Brexit

Minimise the impact of product recalls Post-Brexit

Epicor | 10-Dec-2018 | Technical / White Paper

The impact of Brexit on current legislation is a topic of much conversation and debate. When it comes to product recalls the uncertainty around what may...

Related suppliers

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars