Reclaiming the revolution

June 20, 2019 //By Nigel Smith
Until recently, the Industrial Revolution was largely associated with drastic engineering efforts that transformed Britain’s industry. Two centuries later, we are experiencing another shift in global manufacturing, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), Europe is the second largest market for industrial robot sales. Purchasing 56,000 units in total in 2017, Europe reached a new peak for robot sales for the third year in a row. That said, much of this deployment was attributed to Germany, so where does this leave us Brits?


Initiatives for digitalisation

Britain is no stranger to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0 or whatever you wish to call today’s changes in manufacturing. In October 2017, the British Government announced its first major initiative to improve digitalisation in manufacturing, the Made Smarter review.

Made Smarter called to boost productivity by encouraging manufacturers to embrace industrial digitalisation technologies (IDTs) — which includes robotics, automation and intelligent control software. The review suggested that a greater uptake of these technologies could create 175,000 new jobs in the next decade, because of a 25 per cent productivity boost in the sector.

Efforts of the Made Smarter review were bolstered in January 2018, when the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos released its first ‘Readiness for the Future of Production Report’. The report outlined how well-positioned economies are to benefit from Industry 4.0 technologies. The United Kingdom claimed a space in the top 25.

However, six months later in June 2018, the initial findings of the IFR’s World Robotics Report 2018 suggest that as it currently stands, the same nations are still leading robot sales. Germany has remained Europe’s forerunner with a total of 22,000 robot units sold. To put that into perspective, that represents over a third of Europe’s total robot purchases. Much of this success may be due to Germany’s booming automotive industry, where manufacturers have long used six-axis robots in their production. Looking to the future, increasing the volume of robot deployment in Britain will rely on tapping into new markets by introducing small to medium-sized companies to automation.

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