Published on the 13/10/2016 | Written by Beverley Head
A survey has revealed rising enthusiasm for robots in manufacturing…
Almost two in three (57 percent) Australian manufacturers plan to install robotics solutions in the future – many more than the one in four considering Internet of Things solutions.
Canvassing the views of the members of several of Australia’s leading manufacturing associations the survey also revealed that 49 percent had invested in some form of automation in the last 12 months.
A manufacturing robotics roundtable organised by Universal Robots in Sydney yesterday heard that in the last year 700 robots had been imported to Australia as organisations sought to boost productivity and improve their ability to compete.
Speaking at the event, manufacturing sector analyst Peter Roberts said that the industry continued to grow in Australia – but at a pace slower than the rest of the economy. The sector was worth $106 billion a year, he said, however a rising tide of imports generated a $100 billion annual current account deficit in manufactured goods.
Robotics are touted as an opportunity to reduce costs, and boost quality and efficiency, allowing local manufacturers to compete with international rivals. However Shermine Gotfredsen, APEC general manager for Universal Robots, said that despite the survey results showing interest in robotics Australian manufacturing lagged other nations with a lower awareness of new technologies, and a perception that robots introduced cost and risk. She said that there was still a degree of scepticism about what robots could deliver to SMEs.
Victorian based injection moulding business Prysm Industries however has overcome that scepticism and found that its $1,000 a month cost to lease a robot was recouped rapidly through daily labour cost savings of $500. Production manager Matthew Murphy said that a total investment of $45,000 was recouped in a year and also delivered flow on workers’ health and safety benefits and had lifted production quality.
“The investment was worth the risk,” he said.
Jason Furness, managing director of consulting business Manufactureship, said that for most SME manufacturers; “The big opportunity isn’t cost reduction it’s the technical capability I can create – that’s where you get a faster ROI and support the growth of the business.”
He said that the final advantage Australian manufacturers had over their international peers was the relative geographic isolation of Australia and the speed at which overseas products arrived.
When local manufacturers were part of a supply chain, if they were able to embrace new technologies and innovation to make them more cost effective and able to respond to changing demand, they would be better positioned to compete for small flexible manufacturing tasks.