Manufacturers seeking growth turn to robotics

Posted on 27 May 2016 by Jonny Williamson

UK manufacturers are leading the field in robotics development, with nearly a third (32%) saying they have already invested in robotics, compared to just 18% globally, according to KPMG’s 2016 Global Manufacturing Outlook.

The increased focus on technological innovation comes as fierce competition for market share and economic concerns stimulate more aggressive growth strategies from UK manufacturers.

More than half (59%) of manufacturers surveyed by KPMG categorised their growth strategy as ‘aggressive’, while one-in-five said ‘very aggressive’, compared to only 18% of global respondents.

Stephen Cooper, partner and head of industrial manufacturing in the UK, KPMG.
Stephen Cooper, partner and head of industrial manufacturing in the UK, KPMG.

Partner and head of industrial manufacturing in the UK for KPMG, Stephen Cooper explained:  “UK manufacturers are showing clear progress towards embracing industry 4.0 developments and an integrated manufacturing strategy.

“They are evolving their operating models and investing in new digital and industrial ‘internet of things’ technology. Nearly a quarter of UK manufacturing CEOs we spoke to have invested in 3D printing and digital manufacturing technologies, and more than a fifth say they have already invested in artificial intelligence and cognitive computing technologies.”

Three quarters of those surveyed from the UK reported that growth is a high priority over the next two years as competition for market share intensifies. The majority (61%) also think that Britain’s economic climate will be the most significant mitigating factor on their company’s growth agenda.

This economic uncertainty has also pushed UK manufacturers to focus on protecting current business and cost performance management in the last 12 – 24 months, with 66% and 78% respectively rating these as high or extremely high priorities. Both areas are anticipated by UK companies to continue or increase as a high or extremely high priority in the coming 12 – 24 months.

The full KPMG 2016 Global Manufacturing Outlook can be downloaded at

Cooper added: “It is no wonder that UK manufacturers are concerned about economic disruption.

“Britain has faced strong economic headwinds over the past year and potential concerns over the outcome of the EU Referendum [June 23] could already be impacting both domestic and foreign investment as management teams take a ‘wait and see’ approach before making decisions.

“However, despite uncertainty on this front, fierce competitions are being fought over every scrap of market share available and maintaining the status quo will not drive growth.

“Manufacturers need to do something different in order to win market share in today’s environment, reflected in the higher proportion of British manufacturers investing more in R&D.”

Investing in new services and products

Automation AABTLN Plug & LinkThe report also finds that research and development in existing services and products is firmly on UK manufacturer’s agendas as a means of facilitating organic growth.

More than two-fifths (44%) of British manufacturers intend to spend 6% or more of their revenues on R&D over the next two years, up 10% from the 34% doing so last year.

However this is still lower than the global average, where 49% of respondents globally will be spending more than 6% of revenues on R&D in the next two years.

Cooper said: “The UK has always had a rich heritage of excellence in production design and design capability; many clearly hope they can leverage these skills to drive new competitive advantages through R&D.

“Focusing purely on the bottom line won’t drive the business model rethink needed to capitalise on technology developments – particularly the industrial internet of things [IIoT].

“The UK has always been a strong, innovative and resilient manufacturing nation. Yet it is now at a crossroads: what sort of manufacturing centre of excellence does it want to be?

“My view is that the future is a UK manufacturing industry driven by design capability and innovation, coupled with a strong understanding of digital technology and cyber security. This will take both private and public investment, and an unparalleled focus on building the right skills for the industry to thrive in the UK for the next generation.”