A study into the impact of automation on employment in the UK has found that each robot installed in the factories of Britain has cost around 3.6 jobs. This means that the 18,500 robots which have been deployed across the automotive, manufacturing and other industries have replaced 66,000 posts. It is predicted that automation could result in the loss of 15 million jobs across Britain over the next 20 to 30 years.

While this may seem shocking, the truth of the matter is that machines have always replaced people. Since the industrial revolution, advances such as the washing machine have removed the need for human labour. The rise of automation and the use of robots has seen the evolution of new jobs, which have often replaced those lost.

Unfortunately, when it comes to developing new jobs in response to automation, the UK is way behind in comparison to other countries.

Global robot density

A report by the International Federation of Robotics found that the most automated countries around the world include South Korea, the USA and Germany. South Korea has the highest density of robots in the auto and electronics manufacturing sector. Since 2010, the manufacturing industry in the USA has undergone a period of intense modification, which has seen the country climb to number 7 in the global rankings for robot density. It is estimated that up until 2020, the density of robots in the USA manufacturing sector will continue to increase by around 15% per year. Closer to home, Germany is the robotic powerhouse of Europe, ranking 3rd in global robot density. It is estimated that between 2018 and 2020, robot density in Germany will continue to grow at around 5% per year.

The UK has the lowest robot density rating in the G7 and ranks 22nd globally. Low robot density means that British industry needs significant investment, in order to modernise and increase productivity. With this investment, the UK should be able to compete even better with lower cost economies, as the percentage of labour cost in products decreases.

Without continued investment, UK businesses will inevitably become less competitive in the global marketplace.

The need for automation, and the potential impact of Brexit, are just some of the topics we will be covering at our next Claret Club meeting. Founded in 2012, the Claret Club provides an opportunity for owners and managers of leading manufacturing companies within the UK to join us and share their ideas, and to discuss issues in a more informal and relaxed atmosphere.

With good food, good wine, and of course, good company, the afternoon provides vital support for today’s business owners, helping them to overcome the barriers they face – and to enjoy the benefits of looking at their business from a whole new perspective. Please email lucy.ellis@bhp.co.uk for more information.