Pandemic-proof factory floors are automated

Kirsty Talmage-Rostron, Siemens Industrial Markets, Business Development Manager

Let’s face it - the pandemic has had a major impact on the manufacturing industry. When social distancing measures were first enforced, factories were left with the challenging task of meeting demand while limiting the number of staff on the factory floor at any given time. It certainly hasn’t been an easy year!

 

The hard truth is that labour-intensive manufacturers were inevitably hardest hit by these restrictions. On the flip side, the advantages of having automated assembly lines became more apparent than ever before and saw a growing body of businesses turn to robotics and assembly technology to survive the volatility of the market. Of course, digitalisation has been gaining traction across factory floors for some time now, but the pandemic has definitely sped up the process.

 

The benefits speak for themselves. Machinery that can automate tasks such as washing, peeling, sorting, weighing, tray filling is growing in popularity, allowing manufacturers to reduce human error and variability while keeping the factory covid-safe. Think about it – you’ve got a robot that can work 24 hours a day alongside staff without the risk of exposure that comes from human-to-human contact. Your personnel can now also develop new skills by supervising the robots as well as working in other areas of the business.

 

But in my experience, automation does much more than just protect businesses from workforce disruptions. We’ve also seen businesses deploy automation in the warehouse to ensure their storage needs fluctuate to match the exact volumes they are producing and the raw imported materials they are receiving. No more wasted storage. In fact, our research shows that manufacturers can stand to gain an additional 6.3% - 9.8% of their annual revenues just by digitalising their processes.

The long and short of it is that digitalized factories are better equipped to deal with the challenges the market throws at them. While the vaccine rollout offers hope that the pandemic may soon be a thing of the past, unpredictable fluctuations in the market will never cease to emerge. Automated and digitalized technologies can help manufacturers be prepared for almost anything. Equipped with ‘digital twins’ for instance, manufacturers can now simulate coronavirus impact scenarios and react quickly and effectively to future volatile situations.

 

With all that said, investment in industrial automation in the UK is still lagging behind its foreign competitors. The UK registers a robot density of just 91 per 10,000 workers compared to over 300 in Germany and Japan. So, what’s stopping businesses from automating their processes?

 

Some cautious manufacturers may be tempted to wait and see how much competitive advantage early adopters gain from automation before investing themselves. Many commentators would agree that this is a strategic mistake. Our previous research shows that the window of opportunity to gain a competitive advantage from investing in automation is quickly narrowing – coming to a complete close within an estimated 5-7 years.

 

Challenges to implementing automated technologies tend to pivot around the issue of finance. Thankfully, there are a number of financial solutions available to manufacturers wishing to invest while still in the midst of their post-pandemic recovery. If you choose to work with Siemens Financial Services, cost savings from technology benefits – such as increased productivity - can be used to pay for the investment so there’s no need to make a large upfront capital investment. Get in touch to start your digitalisation journey now!

 

 

Kirsty Talmage-Rostron, Siemens Industrial Markets, Business Development Manager

I focus primarily on the Siemens Industrial markets sector, working with Siemens companies, OEM’s and Solution Partners. I assist them in finding a financial solution for their customer that best suits their needs. This in turn gives them more options for their customer in the sales process. My experience in this sector allows me to offer flexible solutions to difficult questions.

 

Outside work I have two teenage girls in my house who keep me busy! I also coach ladies hockey in my spare time in the Surrey Prem league. I try to stay as fit as possible as well and play a bit of hockey myself when time allows.