Automation and robotics provide the biggest opportunity for manufacturing to close the productivity gap between the UK and its industrial competitors, delegates at a major automation conference at the Manufacturing Technology Centre were told.
Delegates heard that the wider adoption of industrial robots and automation presented UK industry with a major opportunity to improve competitiveness and drive the opportunity to reshore operations from overseas..
The two-day Robotics and Automation – A New Perspective event at the MTC was designed to enable attendees from a range of industries from aerospace and agriculture to food production, infrastructure, nuclear and defence, to share insights into the transformational benefits of cutting-edge robotic technologies and encourage take-up of automation.
Participants included academics, equipment vendors, integrators and government as well as representatives from a wide range of industry sectors.
Among the speakers was leading economist and entrepreneur John Mills, founder of consumer goods company JML who highlighted the need to increase investment to grow manufacturing and so ensure the future prosperity of the country.
In his keynote speech he said, “We need to increase the levels of investment in machinery, technology and power. If we foster these vital industries, we will increase the levels of prosperity for everyone living in the UK by making goods we can be proud of. We must create the right environment for manufacturing, and organisations like the MTC are vital to achieving just that.”
Rosa Wilkinson, director of policy at the High Value Manufacturing Catapult told the conference that it was the ambition of the HVMC to double the contribution of manufacturing to the UK economy.
Mike Wilson, chief automation officer at the MTC, said, “This conference was aimed at instilling confidence in our manufacturers to transform their future. It enabled delegates from SMEs and supply chain companies explore innovative industrial robotic solutions to help them understand how their manufacturing operations would benefit. Experienced robotics users and developers were on hand to highlight successful projects and demonstrate the benefits of intelligent automation,” he said.
“It was a dynamic event with great energy and participation. It strengthened relationships between attendees, and with the MTC,” he added.
The conference built on the recommendations of a report compiled by MTC robotics experts and the Industrial Policy Research Centre at Loughborough University. The report, entitled Robotics and Automation: A New Perspective: https://www.the-mtc.org/media/bdba0ls0/automation-and-robotics-research-paper-a4-pages.pdf
The report called for more knowledge-sharing between robotics users and an emphasis on skills, as well as a greater understanding among the investor and finance community of the business benefits of automation. These themes formed the basis of discussions at the conference. Speakers included Charlotte Horrobin, Midlands and East of England director of Make UK, Simon Pearson, director of the Lincoln Institute of Agri-Food Technology, Adam Vicary, chief executive of Castings plc and Sarah Huntingdon, head of innovation at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
As well as traditional manufacturing the conference was aimed at the construction and infrastructure sectors, utilities, the food and drink industry, agriculture and sectors which involve hazardous environments including nuclear and space.
The MTC was founded by the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and TWI Ltd. The MTC’s industrial members include some of the UK’s major global manufacturers.
The MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy. The MTC is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK.