British industry is at the bottom of an international league table of 17 countries when it comes to investing in plant automation.
Figures published this week by the British Robotics Association show a patchy picture of strong investment by the automotive sector, while in the rest of manufacturing industry the situation remains static.
On Tuesday, Mike Wilson, the association’s president, urged Government and industry leaders to encourage companies to invest in automation.
‘Compared with our western counterparts we are a long way behind. If we want to compete with the rest of the world we must do something about it,’ he warned.
Influenced by global buying patterns British car companies and notably their suppliers last year increased stocks of working robots by 60% to 1,274 units, with 518 robots for the rest of manufacturing industry, which has not increased its stocks.
Wilson said: ‘Our university system produces electrical and mechanical engineers. What we need are systems integrators people who know a bit about everything.’
League tables based on 1996 figures show for each 10,000 people employed in manufacturing industry the UK has installed just 17 robots, and only Denmark comes lower. Comparable figures are 265 for Japan and 79 for Germany. The US is eighth with 38.