Robots active in the UK now number around 2,300 units – an increase of more than 30%, according to figures compiled by the International Federation of Robotics.
The rise in industrial robots coincides with a growing desire from businesses and their employees that machines take over the unhealthy, hazardous or monotonous tasks currently undertaken by humans.
This trend was reflected in a recent survey conducted by automatica which showed the majority of workers, 83%, want robots to shoulder the dirty, dull and dangerous work.
At the same time, survey respondents welcome the opportunity to join forces by working in collaborative human-robot teams.
More than two-thirds, 68%, said that working more closely with robots without safety fences would improve their productivity and manufacturing, noting that human talents such as judgement and fine motor skills would be augmented by those of the robot, i.e. force and precision.
Almost the same amount, 70%, said that such human-machine collaboration would make UK businesses more competitive and profitable. Furthermore, more than half, 52%, noted that digitalisation and industrial robots would bring back work that had previously been outsourced/located abroad.
The greatest driving force for that shift would come from reducing production costs (73%) and providing better quality for products and services (68%).
Almost three-quarters, 70%, believe that industrial robots created greater opportunities for education and training, enabling workers the chance to perform higher skilled and paid roles.
Though these findings paint a largely positive picture, it’s worth noting that the UK still only matches the new global average of 85 industrial robots per 10,000 manufacturing employees , despite installations increasing year-on-year.
The UK currently ranks 22nd in the world and 15th in Europe. With world sales of industrial robots increasing by 114% over the past five years alone, the UK looks to be struggling to maintain the global average, let alone move up the rankings.