A global surge in the adoption of warehouse robots has largely skipped over the U.K., where many industrial workplaces have automated far fewer processes than other countries, according to a study from Denmark-based Mobile industrial Robots (MiR).
Worldwide sales of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) increased 45% from 2020 to 2021, reaching more than 49,500 units sold last year, MiR said, citing the International Federation of Robotics.
But the U.K. ranks 24th on the scale of robot density per 10,000 workers, with just 101 units compared to the world average of 126 units, MiR said. That puts it much lower than most other industrialized countries in Europe and the lowest of the G7 nations, which include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S.
The situation means that in the British manufacturing industry, sectors like the automotive industry still rely on manual tuggers to tow small loads from the warehouse to manufacturing, even though those are not very cost-efficient and involve a lot of manual material handling, MiR said.
“If you are you currently using manual tuggers in your facility, you should explore the alternatives… Businesses of nearly any size and in nearly every industry are looking at automation to help improve competitiveness and employee safety,” Adrian Howe, MiR’s business development manager, said in a release.
"Manufacturing processes were early targets for automation, and advances in cost-effective, safe, and easy-to-deploy collaborative robots quickly made this type of automation accessible even for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). After seeing fast and substantial return on investment from these technologies, business leaders are now looking to automate other wasteful processes within their organizations,” Howe said.