https://cdn.mtdcnc.global/cnc/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/01123225/Ariel-Image-scaled.jpg
    Automation

    Automation – The Expert Overview

    • By FANUC UK Ltd
    • March 18, 2020
    • 13 minute read

    Last Autumn, FANUC hosted its first-ever automation and digital transformation event. The engaging and insightful event was aimed at not only selling products but also addressing the issue of the UK’s slow automation adoption. MTD magazine spoke with Tom Bouchier, the Managing Director at FANUC UK to get the insight from one of the industry’s most respected names.

    How far behind the other G7 countries are we in terms of automation uptake and how are FANUC going to help UK industry address the issue?

    Tom says: “We are way behind. I believe that in terms of robot numbers, we are currently 22nd in the worldwide average of robots. We’ve got in the region of 85 robots per 10,000 workers in the UK and the worldwide average is now 99 and places like Germany and Japan are all in the high 300’s to 400 plus. So, the UK is way behind. We are below the worldwide average and only placed 15th in Europe. With 14 countries ahead of us in Europe, that shows we are just not taking-on the technology as quickly as other countries.”

    Why does the UK lag behind other industrialised countries on automation uptake?

    Tom continues: “One of the reasons we’ve done our event, is not just to be the ‘FANUC Show’. We need to grow automation and I thought that if we just do it as a FANUC Show, it’s not going to grow automation. So, we needed to get the machine tool people in here and the robotics companies and the integrators and system suppliers. We wanted to get everyone in here to find out ‘what the problem is’.”

    “I think we all have ideas on what the problem is, but part of our panel discussions have ended with more questions from the participating audience than there were from the panel.

    This is what we want. It’s great to have that interaction and its something that is rarely seen. Everybody taking part in our open panel discussion came to the conclusion that there is no ‘joined-up’ approach in this country. We have a lot of people trying to do a lot of good things. The government is trying to do one thing, manufacturers are doing something else and machine tool builders have their different approach too. Everybody is trying to help local schools, but nobody has the bigger picture on what all the schools are doing.”

    “Each individual institute of technology around the country is trying to address what local businesses need, which is great, but there should also be more of a level playing field. When I was doing my apprenticeship, everybody got the same apprenticeship around the country. So, yes, tailor it, but at least have some standards that are set in place for everyone.”

    “Part of our panel discussions included academics, politicians and manufacturers – all here to stimulate conversation. Everybody has views on automation, and everybody wants to do it, but everyone has a reluctance. There is a huge amount of money going into industry from government, but nobody knows how to access it, or they don’t know that it’s there. We are very bad at getting the message out regarding all the things that are there to help manufacturers, especially the SMEs, who are the ones that need it the most.”

    Large automotive and pharmaceutical companies, for example, can look after themselves.

    “They know what they are doing. It’s the companies with a few people that are making parts and supplying to OEMs, the Tier 2 and 3 companies that are struggling and we need to go further down that supply chain. To do that, we need to engage people. Part of the problem with the smaller companies is that the top-level management of small companies are too busy working ‘in’ the business rather than ‘on’ the business.  We need to start changing that and people need to start looking at the bigger picture of 5 or 10 years on from now, as opposed to the pressing problems they face in the immediate future.”

    With systems integrators, manufacturers, politicians and academics all engaged in discussion at the FANUC event – what is the next step to drive automation in the UK?

    “There has been a government white paper from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and I took part in it, as did Siemens, ABB and lots of others. From this, the government has come up with a series of recommendations that realises that they need to start joining some of the dots together. We have to get the message out that we shouldn’t be afraid of putting robots into our factories, we should be afraid of not putting them in. The less we embrace automation, the further we lag behind. The way that those statistics work out according to the robot’s association in America, we are currently 30% less productive than the German worker because they have the automation. They are growing on the worldwide average and we are slipping further behind.”

    “If they are 30% more productive per hour, how can we compete? We have to do it. The automation genie can’t be put back in the bottle. If we don’t use it, someone else will, and I want to grow UK manufacturing and we won’t do it unless we automate. So, we need Government to get rid of some of the negative perceptions, we need support from the associations that I am involved with, and we need OEMs like FANUC to join together and get that message out there. We need to be selling the same message.”

    How is the communication with government evolving and what are the strategic steps?

    “Communication is getting better. The one thing I have tried to address during our panel discussion is government perception. It seems like they get the blame for everything. We all have responsibilities and we all have to do it. I think Government is getting the message and I hope it’s not too late, I personally don’t think its too late for UK manufacturing, but others disagree. Government is starting to listen, get people together and the problem with every government is that sometimes pragmatism is needed and that’s not always the easiest thing to get from any government. I’m not criticising any political party; they have a huge task to get the money to the right places. They have a very high-level view on things and there are ten steps between government and industry, we need to bridge that gap. They are now talking about helping OEMs and subcontractors, moving away from the longstanding view that the only bullet they have is tax. If you are a one-man-band with little cash flow, getting money off next years tax bill isn’t much of an incentive to automate.”

    “Government needs to look at how they get funding down the chain to these companies. If you need to get automation into small companies, you could give OEMs a tax break to put robots into small businesses. Don’t give a small company the tax break to invest in automation as they don’t have the money to buy it in the first place. We need to look at doing things differently. One suggestion that has arisen is that the government becomes the banker and they purchase the systems, put it in and get this off the next years tax bill when we increase productivity. It could be done as a tax on the productivity boost and not on the initial cost. So, they need to look at more creative ways of helping industry. They will get there, but there is a negative image and we all need to work on that.”

    Perceptions have to change

    “There were a lot of problems in the ’70s and ’80s with automation when we were losing manufacturing in this country. Some bad automation went into factories and the people that were there in the ’70s and ’80s are now the decision-makers and owners of the companies, so they may have this reluctance because they got stung 20, 30 or 40 years ago. But it’s a different technology now. So, we need to get rid of that negativity and also the negativity that it takes jobs, it doesn’t! Automation creates jobs.”

    It is said that automation creates four jobs for everyone that is lost. Some jobs and functions will have to go, but so they should. If they didn’t, we’d still be sending kids up dirty chimneys – dirty, dangerous and horrible jobs should go.

    How have sales evolved for FANUC in recent years with regards to machine tool automation, not only considering the FANUC ROBODRILL range but for the machine tool industry as a whole?

    “This is the one thing that everybody is talking about. I have been speaking with Mazak throughout the event and it’s true of other machine tool builders also, everybody wants a full automation package and not just a stand-alone piece of equipment. Fortunately for FANUC, that puts us in a very good position because we are probably the only automation company that has injection moulders, vertical drilling machines, wire EDM’s robots and so on. So, whilst we can just add-on the automation package, we can also add our servo platform to the complete solutions of industry. So, for FANUC, it puts us in a very good position as it’s not a mix and match of other people’s technologies and that isn’t whether they are better or worse – they just don’t exist in that same range. That is what people are looking at – a full solution.”

    How is the UK landscape evolving with regard to automation sales for FANUC?

    “The sales landscape is changing. Years ago, certainly with the automotive industry, we took a conscious decision not to concentrate on the auto industry. The sector has been one of the biggest consumers throughout my time in the industry and probably way before that, but they are only good for you once every eight years and poor for the other seven. This is because they will buy 1000 robots in year one and nothing for the next seven years. So, we treat the auto sector as a stand-alone portion of our business.”

    “We rely on base business, which is from every other industry. We are fortunate in the UK that some products like the injection moulders have a large footprint with pharmaceutical industries in the UK and Ireland. We have the product that suits that market, but the smaller customers are increasingly becoming a larger portion of our business. For every business we get something into, there are ten that are not getting that message and that is what we need to address. Once we get talking, get a system installed, the benefits are evident, but it is tackling the issue of the best way to get to a large number of small businesses.”

    How will FANUC help to bridge the gap from strategic government discussion to implementation among SMEs?

    “We are using a lot of our people here as promoters of automation. We are already talking about getting our apprentices out to their former colleges and schools to enforce the message that manufacturing is a viable and exciting career. Personally, I am starting to get more involved in certain institutions and technology establishments, trying to help regional educational facilities on what is needed and how we can ‘raise the bar’.”

    “I have also stood for the BARA council, because I cannot complain about issues from the side-lines, I need to help, and be part of the solution. We are doing it here at FANUC, but we are only a small part of the solution. We are helping local schools, colleges and LEPs and we are giving them access to our facilities – inviting them in to have their meetings while also looking at automation. We are opening-up to everybody and asking them to just look at the technology. Since starting this initiative, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from academia, BARA and other industry bodies.”

    How can you take this beyond the local area and to national promotion?

    “We are now sponsoring a competition for World Skills UK and FANUC are sponsoring an industrial robotics installation competition for academia. We have singed a three year deal with World Skills, so we can get a team to Shanghai in 2021 and part of my commitment to that, is to get a number of educational robotic cells to schools and colleges, for them to participate and we will host the final event here. With the help of Catapult, World Skills and others, we want to get as many licenses to as many schools and colleges as possible in the UK that want to participate. This will be done by giving them a virtual project to do, judging the project and then sending them a real robot to do the actual project and then the opportunity to participate in the world skills competition in Shanghai.”

    “We are also taking some of our smaller robots around regional areas and doing roadshows, but maybe we should be making direct contact with schools and colleges. Sometimes the hard part of entering a school is that teachers are often overrun with work and a new project isn’t always feasible. It may be a priority, but they may not always have time to engage.”

    “We work with ‘Primary Engineer’ and when we get primary school kids into FANUC, they are natural innovators. They play with things and figure it out. Then we send them to secondary school and from 11 to 16, we ‘teach’ innovation out of kids, they just have to pass exams. When they then go to technical college or university, we try and instil innovation once again – why do we take it away from the kids for five years? Why don’t we educate and not just teach?”

    Taking Education to Industry as well as Academia

    “The event we have held is about educating the whole company on automation. At our panel discussions, education and apprenticeships kept cropping up, but we need to educate top-level management and the whole workforce. Yes, we need to give apprentices the technical knowledge on how to do the job, but we need to give management and the top layer of staff, the commercial data to be able to do it.”

    “We need to give senior staff the education that they need to ‘not’ fear for their jobs. It’s going to help their business and add to job prospects. So, upskilling needs to be right the way through a business – from MD’s and owners through any stakeholder in that business. Everyone needs educating.

    https://cdn.mtdcnc.global/cnc/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/01123225/Ariel-Image-scaled.jpg

    Automation – The Expert Overview

    Last Autumn, FANUC hosted its first-ever automation and digital transformation event. The engaging and insightful event was aimed at not only selling products but also addressing the issue of the UK’s slow automation adoption. MTD magazine spoke with Tom Bouchier, the Managing Director at FANUC UK to get the insight from one of the industry’s most respected names.

    How far behind the other G7 countries are we in terms of automation uptake and how are FANUC going to help UK industry address the issue?

    Tom says: “We are way behind. I believe that in terms of robot numbers, we are currently 22nd in the worldwide average of robots. We’ve got in the region of 85 robots per 10,000 workers in the UK and the worldwide average is now 99 and places like Germany and Japan are all in the high 300’s to 400 plus. So, the UK is way behind. We are below the worldwide average and only placed 15th in Europe. With 14 countries ahead of us in Europe, that shows we are just not taking-on the technology as quickly as other countries.”

    Why does the UK lag behind other industrialised countries on automation uptake?

    Tom continues: “One of the reasons we’ve done our event, is not just to be the ‘FANUC Show’. We need to grow automation and I thought that if we just do it as a FANUC Show, it’s not going to grow automation. So, we needed to get the machine tool people in here and the robotics companies and the integrators and system suppliers. We wanted to get everyone in here to find out ‘what the problem is’.”

    “I think we all have ideas on what the problem is, but part of our panel discussions have ended with more questions from the participating audience than there were from the panel.

    This is what we want. It’s great to have that interaction and its something that is rarely seen. Everybody taking part in our open panel discussion came to the conclusion that there is no ‘joined-up’ approach in this country. We have a lot of people trying to do a lot of good things. The government is trying to do one thing, manufacturers are doing something else and machine tool builders have their different approach too. Everybody is trying to help local schools, but nobody has the bigger picture on what all the schools are doing.”

    “Each individual institute of technology around the country is trying to address what local businesses need, which is great, but there should also be more of a level playing field. When I was doing my apprenticeship, everybody got the same apprenticeship around the country. So, yes, tailor it, but at least have some standards that are set in place for everyone.”

    “Part of our panel discussions included academics, politicians and manufacturers – all here to stimulate conversation. Everybody has views on automation, and everybody wants to do it, but everyone has a reluctance. There is a huge amount of money going into industry from government, but nobody knows how to access it, or they don’t know that it’s there. We are very bad at getting the message out regarding all the things that are there to help manufacturers, especially the SMEs, who are the ones that need it the most.”

    Large automotive and pharmaceutical companies, for example, can look after themselves.

    “They know what they are doing. It’s the companies with a few people that are making parts and supplying to OEMs, the Tier 2 and 3 companies that are struggling and we need to go further down that supply chain. To do that, we need to engage people. Part of the problem with the smaller companies is that the top-level management of small companies are too busy working ‘in’ the business rather than ‘on’ the business.  We need to start changing that and people need to start looking at the bigger picture of 5 or 10 years on from now, as opposed to the pressing problems they face in the immediate future.”

    With systems integrators, manufacturers, politicians and academics all engaged in discussion at the FANUC event – what is the next step to drive automation in the UK?

    “There has been a government white paper from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and I took part in it, as did Siemens, ABB and lots of others. From this, the government has come up with a series of recommendations that realises that they need to start joining some of the dots together. We have to get the message out that we shouldn’t be afraid of putting robots into our factories, we should be afraid of not putting them in. The less we embrace automation, the further we lag behind. The way that those statistics work out according to the robot’s association in America, we are currently 30% less productive than the German worker because they have the automation. They are growing on the worldwide average and we are slipping further behind.”

    “If they are 30% more productive per hour, how can we compete? We have to do it. The automation genie can’t be put back in the bottle. If we don’t use it, someone else will, and I want to grow UK manufacturing and we won’t do it unless we automate. So, we need Government to get rid of some of the negative perceptions, we need support from the associations that I am involved with, and we need OEMs like FANUC to join together and get that message out there. We need to be selling the same message.”

    How is the communication with government evolving and what are the strategic steps?

    “Communication is getting better. The one thing I have tried to address during our panel discussion is government perception. It seems like they get the blame for everything. We all have responsibilities and we all have to do it. I think Government is getting the message and I hope it’s not too late, I personally don’t think its too late for UK manufacturing, but others disagree. Government is starting to listen, get people together and the problem with every government is that sometimes pragmatism is needed and that’s not always the easiest thing to get from any government. I’m not criticising any political party; they have a huge task to get the money to the right places. They have a very high-level view on things and there are ten steps between government and industry, we need to bridge that gap. They are now talking about helping OEMs and subcontractors, moving away from the longstanding view that the only bullet they have is tax. If you are a one-man-band with little cash flow, getting money off next years tax bill isn’t much of an incentive to automate.”

    “Government needs to look at how they get funding down the chain to these companies. If you need to get automation into small companies, you could give OEMs a tax break to put robots into small businesses. Don’t give a small company the tax break to invest in automation as they don’t have the money to buy it in the first place. We need to look at doing things differently. One suggestion that has arisen is that the government becomes the banker and they purchase the systems, put it in and get this off the next years tax bill when we increase productivity. It could be done as a tax on the productivity boost and not on the initial cost. So, they need to look at more creative ways of helping industry. They will get there, but there is a negative image and we all need to work on that.”

    Perceptions have to change

    “There were a lot of problems in the ’70s and ’80s with automation when we were losing manufacturing in this country. Some bad automation went into factories and the people that were there in the ’70s and ’80s are now the decision-makers and owners of the companies, so they may have this reluctance because they got stung 20, 30 or 40 years ago. But it’s a different technology now. So, we need to get rid of that negativity and also the negativity that it takes jobs, it doesn’t! Automation creates jobs.”

    It is said that automation creates four jobs for everyone that is lost. Some jobs and functions will have to go, but so they should. If they didn’t, we’d still be sending kids up dirty chimneys – dirty, dangerous and horrible jobs should go.

    How have sales evolved for FANUC in recent years with regards to machine tool automation, not only considering the FANUC ROBODRILL range but for the machine tool industry as a whole?

    “This is the one thing that everybody is talking about. I have been speaking with Mazak throughout the event and it’s true of other machine tool builders also, everybody wants a full automation package and not just a stand-alone piece of equipment. Fortunately for FANUC, that puts us in a very good position because we are probably the only automation company that has injection moulders, vertical drilling machines, wire EDM’s robots and so on. So, whilst we can just add-on the automation package, we can also add our servo platform to the complete solutions of industry. So, for FANUC, it puts us in a very good position as it’s not a mix and match of other people’s technologies and that isn’t whether they are better or worse – they just don’t exist in that same range. That is what people are looking at – a full solution.”

    How is the UK landscape evolving with regard to automation sales for FANUC?

    “The sales landscape is changing. Years ago, certainly with the automotive industry, we took a conscious decision not to concentrate on the auto industry. The sector has been one of the biggest consumers throughout my time in the industry and probably way before that, but they are only good for you once every eight years and poor for the other seven. This is because they will buy 1000 robots in year one and nothing for the next seven years. So, we treat the auto sector as a stand-alone portion of our business.”

    “We rely on base business, which is from every other industry. We are fortunate in the UK that some products like the injection moulders have a large footprint with pharmaceutical industries in the UK and Ireland. We have the product that suits that market, but the smaller customers are increasingly becoming a larger portion of our business. For every business we get something into, there are ten that are not getting that message and that is what we need to address. Once we get talking, get a system installed, the benefits are evident, but it is tackling the issue of the best way to get to a large number of small businesses.”

    How will FANUC help to bridge the gap from strategic government discussion to implementation among SMEs?

    “We are using a lot of our people here as promoters of automation. We are already talking about getting our apprentices out to their former colleges and schools to enforce the message that manufacturing is a viable and exciting career. Personally, I am starting to get more involved in certain institutions and technology establishments, trying to help regional educational facilities on what is needed and how we can ‘raise the bar’.”

    “I have also stood for the BARA council, because I cannot complain about issues from the side-lines, I need to help, and be part of the solution. We are doing it here at FANUC, but we are only a small part of the solution. We are helping local schools, colleges and LEPs and we are giving them access to our facilities – inviting them in to have their meetings while also looking at automation. We are opening-up to everybody and asking them to just look at the technology. Since starting this initiative, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from academia, BARA and other industry bodies.”

    How can you take this beyond the local area and to national promotion?

    “We are now sponsoring a competition for World Skills UK and FANUC are sponsoring an industrial robotics installation competition for academia. We have singed a three year deal with World Skills, so we can get a team to Shanghai in 2021 and part of my commitment to that, is to get a number of educational robotic cells to schools and colleges, for them to participate and we will host the final event here. With the help of Catapult, World Skills and others, we want to get as many licenses to as many schools and colleges as possible in the UK that want to participate. This will be done by giving them a virtual project to do, judging the project and then sending them a real robot to do the actual project and then the opportunity to participate in the world skills competition in Shanghai.”

    “We are also taking some of our smaller robots around regional areas and doing roadshows, but maybe we should be making direct contact with schools and colleges. Sometimes the hard part of entering a school is that teachers are often overrun with work and a new project isn’t always feasible. It may be a priority, but they may not always have time to engage.”

    “We work with ‘Primary Engineer’ and when we get primary school kids into FANUC, they are natural innovators. They play with things and figure it out. Then we send them to secondary school and from 11 to 16, we ‘teach’ innovation out of kids, they just have to pass exams. When they then go to technical college or university, we try and instil innovation once again – why do we take it away from the kids for five years? Why don’t we educate and not just teach?”

    Taking Education to Industry as well as Academia

    “The event we have held is about educating the whole company on automation. At our panel discussions, education and apprenticeships kept cropping up, but we need to educate top-level management and the whole workforce. Yes, we need to give apprentices the technical knowledge on how to do the job, but we need to give management and the top layer of staff, the commercial data to be able to do it.”

    “We need to give senior staff the education that they need to ‘not’ fear for their jobs. It’s going to help their business and add to job prospects. So, upskilling needs to be right the way through a business – from MD’s and owners through any stakeholder in that business. Everyone needs educating.