Manual Programming Hinders Robot Utilization in UK Manufacturing

by Anna

A recent study conducted by Visual Components, a leading developer of 3D simulation software, has unveiled a substantial challenge in the UK manufacturing sector. Over 55% of manufacturers in the UK are grappling with the necessity for time-consuming manual programming to enable robots to execute welding, cutting, painting, and other essential tasks on the factory floor.

The study further revealed that 35% of manufacturers require between a week and a month for this manual programming process, during which time the robots remain unable to perform automated tasks. This impediment is consistent across the Atlantic, with 73% of US manufacturers and nearly all 98% of French companies experiencing the same challenges.


The extended time required to set up and program robots significantly impacts their utilization rates among manufacturers. On average, manufacturers reported an utilization rate of 37%, indicating underwhelming efficiency. Consequently, this hinders the prospects of expeditiously bringing products into production, as the robots remain incapable of managing repetitive actions currently handled by humans. Notably, over 34% of manufacturing processes fall under this repetitive category.


Moreover, the situation is exacerbated by the presence of three or more different robot brands on the factory floor, which further complicates the programming process. 26% of manufacturers acknowledge that such multi-brand deployment hampers their operations. This challenge is particularly pronounced in France, where 32% of respondents deploy three or more distinct robot brands.


The study underscores a relatively slow adoption of cobots (collaborative robots) in manufacturing, with only 8% of manufacturers having used them for an extended duration. This hesitation is possibly due to concerns among employees regarding the time required to effectively program these cobots. Despite the clear advantages of cobots in ensuring error-free and consistently high production rates compared to human labor, these concerns impede their broader adoption.


Mikko Urho, CEO of Visual Components, emphasized the significance of addressing these programming challenges. He explained, “Robots and cobots are highly valuable technologies in the factory environment, but manual programming is impacting on the ability of manufacturers to fully utilize their capabilities. Offline robot programming (OLP) allows operators to combine the planning and designing of a new robot work cell in a virtual environment. Offline programming avoids any disruption to production and ensures that robots get to work much quicker, leading to increases in productivity and output.”

This study underscores the urgent need for innovative solutions that streamline robot programming processes, enabling manufacturers to harness the full potential of automation and bolster their operational efficiency.

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