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‘A robot’s ability to reduce injuries to the workforce is what matters most’

By Jenny Eagle+

28-Apr-2014

Picture Credit: Syrobo.org at the Innorobo 2014 fair
Picture Credit: Syrobo.org at the Innorobo 2014 fair

A third of British jobs will be automated by 2030 and the food sector has seen a 60% increase in automation adoption since 2000 according to the British Automation and Robotics Association (BARA).

Experts appeared on ITV Tonight’s ‘Man Versus Machines’ programme in the UK recently telling manufacturers to expect change on a scale that hasn't been experienced since the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.

2m jobs

Paul Davies, ITV News Correspondent, said  the process of integrating robotics into the workplace has already begun and the next 10 to 20 years will see a major acceleration.

But Chris Sumner, MD, FANUC Robotics UK, told FoodProductionDaily although robot adoption will impact the number of workers on a processing line, projections suggest 2m jobs will be created in the next eight years because of the robotics industry.

Industrial robots in the food industry are well known for their ability to increase yield, provide repeatable and consistent product pick and placement, and improve a manufacturer’s competitive edge. But for many food processors with arduous, labour-intensive manufacturing processes, it’s the robot’s ability to reduce injuries to their workforce which matters most, particularly within harsh environments,” he said. 

“Re-training staff to operate robots, not only increases a worker’s skill set, it creates renewed vigour and a greater sense of job satisfaction, compared to completing the same task manually.”

£1.4bn expansion

According to the report, ‘Government commits further investment to innovation’ by gov.co.uk over the next five years the government, and industry, will invest £1.4bn in expanding its Catapult Programme, technology and innovation centres to develop technologies and help businesses adapt to the changes - allowing them to grow and take on more employees.

 Paul Wilkinson, business development manager, Pacepacker, which designs and manufactures packing machinery for the food, aggregates and bulk industry, said people whose positions become redundant due to automation invariably are given roles elsewhere within the business. 

“Automation safeguards the roles of the majority, making the business more efficient and enabling it to maintain and hopefully expand its contracts by improved quality and production throughput,” he added.

"Businesses that evolve will keep ahead of the game.  In many cases, automation opens up new opportunities for the business and individuals within it.  

“For example, the technicians who worked on the production line can now be re-deployed to operate multiple lines of automated equipment and to other areas of the business (both up and down stream) to keep up with the automated throughput.

Fast R-O-I

“With fast return on investment and the long-term savings that can be made through automation, other benefits include; improved quality, reduced wastage, greater production levels, less sickness and potentially an increased capacity to expand into other areas."

Davies added the process has already begun but it will accelerate rapidly over the next 10 to 20 years.

Robots, computers and smart technology will change the way we work and do business, they will take over thousands of jobs that are today being done by human beings,” he said.

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