The food and drink industry is among the UK manufacturing sectors that have the most to gain from investments in automation and robotics, according to a report by Barclays.
It said that a £1.2bn investment by UK manufacturers had the potential to add as much as £60.5bn to the UK economy over the next decade. This would support a near-20% increase in the value of the sector. For the food and drink industry this would mean an increase in output of more than 10% between 2016 and 2020, close to a 25% rise between 2020 and 2025, and generation of more business in the supply chain, which would create 32,300 new jobs.
The report, entitled Future-Proofing UK Manufacturing, said that increased investment in automation was currently quashed by availability of funding, competing demands for capital expenditure and technology limitations.
More than half (58%) of British manufacturers already invest in automation, and 76% believe there are opportunities for further investment. As identified in British Baker’s 13 November 2015 issue, Délifrance was the first in the UK to incorporate robotic scarification, having invested £30m in its bakery in London. This enabled it to produce large-scale ranges of rustic bread utilising the latest technology in dough lamination, weight regulation and control systems.
Mike Rigby, head of manufacturing at Barclays, said: “This report highlights the importance of investing in robotics and automation for manufacturers as a potential solution to the ongoing ‘productivity puzzle’… To reap these rewards we need to address some of the barriers to investment, including the need for more user-friendly and flexible technology, addressing skills barriers within the sector and supporting manufacturers to access the funding and information already available to them for robotics investment.”