We’re well into peak event season here at Automata HQ. Already this month the team has been out representing at PPMA (the Processing and Packaging Machinery Association’s annual event), the FT’s Future of Manufacturing Summit and the Engineering Design Show.
Despite each of the industry events we attend being quite different in nature, one of the most important factors in us deciding to invest in an event is whether or not it’s going to provide us with an opportunity to learn. We work in an industry that’s evolving faster than ever before and there’s always more to learn from our customers, partners and the wider ecosystem. As relative newcomers in the world of industrial automation and if we’re going to succeed in our mission to democratise robotics we can’t afford to rest on our laurels.
So what are the big themes and trends that have been coming up in conversation whilst out on the road so far this month?
1) Hiring and retaining skilled staff is getting harder
It is becoming increasingly difficult for smaller and mid-sized manufacturers to find and keep good people, something which is particularly problematic for businesses based outside of larger towns or cities. It’s a challenge that has been top of mind for a while now and it doesn’t appear to be slowing as the types of hands-on roles that need filling have become increasingly less attractive to an evolving labour market. Relying on temporary workers to fill vacancies is costly and inefficient, with temporary staff often being more expensive, less motivated and less skilled than permanent employees.
2) Pressure to be mindful about the environment is real and growing
Manufacturers are facing increasing demand from customers to be more environmentally conscious with the materials they use in their products and packaging. From a human perspective, people seem to be in general agreement that this is the right thing to do. However from a unit economics perspective, this shift means costs are going up as new materials - and even new machinery - need to be sourced. To counter this, manufacturers are exploring new automation solutions to ensure they can keep costs down and remain competitive.
3) Manufacturers are facing unprecedented uncertainty and lack government support
With the final Brexit deadline looming just days away and still no clarity from the UK Government on what a deal / no deal exit means in reality for supply chains, regulation, tax duties and movement of workers, the information void is causing more disruption and volatility than Brexit itself. Over the many conversations we’ve had on the subject, it’s clear that whether you voted leave or remain, what unifies all in the industry now is the desire for clarity and guidance from Government. Without it, it’s near impossible to plan and move forward.
4) Ubiquitous “Industry 4.0” is still a long way off
Whilst the high-end of the manufacturing industry is leading the way with the Internet of Things, the promised land of Industry 4.0 is far from reality for most manufacturers. One of our customers told us recently, “to be honest, we're still stuck somewhere around industry 1.5”. The desire for manufacturers to adopt IoT with smart, connected technologies is clear, but there’s a big gap in knowledge, budgets and support. And more than just new technologies and platforms, there’s a need for underlying systems and data strategy to evolve before manufacturers are able to see a return from their investments.
The team is back on the road over the next few weeks, demoing Eva, speaking, sharing and learning at these events:
- Robotics and Automation | 29th-30th October | Coventry | BOOK A DEMO
- Advanced Engineering Show Connected manufacturing Forum | 30th October | NEC Birmingham
- Smart Factory Expo | 13th and 14th November | Liverpool
- Bot Talks | 20th November | Bristol
If you would like to meet to learn more about how Automata is helping small and mid-sized manufacturers on their automation journeys, we’d love to chat. Drop us a note here and we’ll be in touch.