Brexit Stories: 'Robots could ease the Brexit uncertainty felt by manufacturers'

Brexit Stories: 'Robots could ease the Brexit uncertainty felt by manufacturers'

Mark Gray. Image: Mark Gray

Friday, February 15, 2019

Mark Gray, 50, has worked at Universal Robots for two years as area sales manager. He lives in Doncaster.

The Danish company, which has offices in several European countries, the US and Japan, makes what it calls ‘collaborative robots’ - small robots that can complete tasks alongside humans, rather than instead of them.

“Brexit has given us a bit of a boost. The robot market has always been slow to be adopted in the UK as opposed to everywhere else in Europe, but Brexit has given most manufacturing companies a motive to do something.

We’ve seen an increase in sales since the Brexit vote. It’s working in our favour because we can offer a solution to a labour gap in the market. Collaborative robots are one solution to the gap caused by fewer immigrants coming in to do lower-skilled jobs.

It wouldn’t replace humans or take away jobs. The thought process that comes with robots being implemented into factories is that it’s either a robot or a person doing the role, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

The human/robot collaboration actually makes for a more productive manufacturing process - they can work as a partnership.

 

'Manufacturers don't like uncertainty'

“I think demand will continue to increase but it’ll become more focused. There’s a lot of uncertainty with manufacturers, specifically in the automotive manufacturing chain.

Management doesn’t like uncertainty, and things like rising labour costs and increased costs for components, they don’t like.

But automation - robotics - is one fixed cost. Once you’ve invested in that, it stays the same, so you can plan ahead and have a work plan for a good three or four years.

It’s the unknown cost the manufacturers don’t like, and this is what Brexit is going to bring to us. After March, we’ll have less and less people coming to work here from Europe, and we’ll have a lot more people leaving.

There’ll be a skilled labour gap in the market, and we’ll have to pay people more money to do those jobs. By putting robots in position, you know what the cost will be over a period of time.”

 

As told to talkRADIO