UK businesses snub cheap robots

A new survey shows that UK small businesses are failing to exploit falling industrial robot prices.

A survey of robot sales in the UK produced by British Automation and Robot Association (BARA), based at the University of Warwick, has revealed UK small businesses are failing to exploit a significant fall in price of industrial robots at a time when US figures are showing record sales of robots to US small businesses.

The BARA/University of Warwick survey shows a continuing trend for robot prices to fall. The majority of units installed last year cost less than £30,000. There is also an increasing trend for robots to be refurbished and reused when their initial function is obsolete. These refurbished units make the technology available at below £10,000 in many cases.

Despite this, robot sales in the UK in 2005 were static with very few sales to small companies. By contrast, data collected in the US is showing record robot sales with an overall 30 per cent growth in robot sales and in particular major growth in sales to small businesses.

Dr Ken Young, chairman of BARA, said, “It seems strange to me that our culture drives us to work hard rather than to adopt technologies that allow us to work smart. It appears to me that we forget what we are trying to do (make money) and think that while we are working hard we will somehow be OK. Unfortunately the rest of the world doesn’t play to those rules.”

Dr Young will be taking part in MACH exhibition of the latest in robot technology at the NEC this week, beginning 15th May. The exhibition will include vision guided robots, twin arm robots and robots with up to 36 joints controlled simultaneously.