What does 2020 hold for businesses across the machine vision, automation and robotic landscapes?
MVPro has sought to find out by getting the thoughts of various businesses in each sector via the quickfire five Q&A, which offers an insight into how each business views 2020 and what was the highlight of 2019.
Today…Tony Hague, CEO of PP Control & Automation
What will be the biggest trend in robotics in 2020?
The adoption of lower cost robotic handling, used in conjunction with vision systems, is really taking off in food processing and packaging. Tangible benefits and an impressive return on investment (ROI) have been clearly demonstrated as a viable and productive way of replacing manual/repetitive labour.
That’s not to say I believe in the notion that the ‘march of the robots’ will actually lead to job losses, quite the opposite in fact. The UK has lagged behind the rest of the world in the way firms have embraced automation and I’m pleased to see a renewed appetite to invest in technology so we regain our competitive advantage against international rivals.
If done correctly the displaced workers can be retrained to take on more rewarding and higher skilled jobs.
What do you predict will be the biggest challenge in 2020?
Getting over the malaise of Brexit and years of political uncertainty. Whilst it may not have sent us directly into a downturn, it has certainly contributed to projects stalling and some investment decisions being put off until Westminster stopped playing around and got on with the task in hand.
The integration of robotics and automation at a SME level hasn’t moved at the pace many of us would have hoped and I see a change in this approach being one of the biggest challenges facing UK manufacturing.
It’s ok that the OEMs and the large firms are taking the decision and reaping the benefits; we need the rest of the supply chain – across tiers 1, 2, 3 and 4 – embracing the productivity gains this technology undoubtedly provides.
If only we had a coherent industrial strategy that offered support to SMEs to boost the adoption of automation and robotics?
What are the company’s plans for 2020?
We are 18 months into a five-year growth plan that will see us achieve £40m of sales and expand on a current global client base that features 25 of the world’s largest machine builders.
Demand for strategic outsourcing – whether that is for mitigating risk, achieving production agility or achieving complex builds – is growing rapidly and we will look to exploit this in new sectors, including the fledgling arena of ‘electrification’.
Another objective this year is to increase our manufacturing coverage in North America and this could be achieved through a joint venture or a potential acquisition. There’s a lot of exciting opportunities in this territory and we need to have a local ‘world class’ production footprint in place to make the most of them.
What industry event are you looking forward to attending in 2020 and why?
The Future Powertrain Conference 2020. As mentioned above, electrification and its role in powering vehicles of the future is a major growth area for our business and we need to get to know more about it, the current technologies and the new ones just around the corner.
We’ll be exhibiting at this event as part of our involvement in the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN Group), a collective of eight sub-contract manufacturers and a specialist engineering design agency.
This is all about strength in numbers…sharing best practice, resources and collaboratively going after new work.
Looking back over the past year, what have been the business’ highlights?
With renewed financial backing from Canadian investor Ardenton, we secured a record year in 2019, adding £3m of new contracts to take annual turnover to £26m.
The orders have included wins in electrification for the first time and the scale-up of existing partnerships with a robotic milking specialist and one of the world’s largest providers of industrial consumables.
I’m also very proud that we have continued to invest in our world class facility in the West Midlands and in our 220 staff, who continue to be our greatest asset.