The UK needs more robots to improve worker efficiency


  • Robotics
  • Wednesday, 04 Mar 2020

Employees work with new robots at Continental's pilot location for industry 4.0 applications in Regensburg, Germany. Highly robotised economies including Singapore, South Korea, Germany and Japan have very low jobless rates, he noted, and sectors like the German automotive industry show that there can be simultaneous growth in employment and the use of robots. — Reuters

The UK needs more robots to help solve economic problems like worker shortages and low efficiency, industry groups said on March 2.

We see "these headlines, some are fear-mongering or alarmist, that robots may take jobs”, Patrick Schwarzkopf, managing director of the VDMA Robotics and Automation Association, said in London. "The reality is that the problem might not be that robots are installed – the problem might be that robots are not installed.”

Highly robotised economies including Singapore, South Korea, Germany and Japan have very low jobless rates, he noted, and sectors like the German automotive industry show that there can be simultaneous growth in employment and the use of robots.

The UK has long relied on imported labour, which some economists say deters firms from investing in new equipment and machinery. That could be one contributing factor to the UK’s abysmal productivity performance, which is now around 20% below its pre-2008 path.

With a new points-based immigration system set to take hold in 2021, British firms will no longer be able to rely on the free flow of workers from the European Union. That will probably force them to automate, according to Mike Wilson, chairman of the British Automation and Robot Association.

Part of the issue for the UK could be cultural. "We tend to be very risk averse, we don’t like to use new technologies, and robotic automation is perceived as risky,” Wilson said. "We should be buying new equipment to be more competitive and more efficient.” – Bloomberg

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