Manufacturing Wales have claimed that Covid has accelerated the introduction of automation in industry. They have said that its members and other businesses were adopting robotics two or three years faster than expected. The Unite union said new technology should not replace workers' jobs.
Port Talbot's Rototherm has produced industrial measuring instruments, like pressure gauges, since the 1840s. It had planned to introduce automation and robotics in the next three years, but the pandemic has been a catalyst for change.
Tarkan Conger, Co-Director of Rototherm, chats to Business News Wales about the recent acceleration:
“We rose to the challenge [during the pandemic] and set up a new division called Roto Medical that started manufacturing face shields and face masks. Through that process, we had to recruit in excess of 200 people.”
As a founding member of Manufacturing Wales, the company said businesses were realizing the benefits of automation.
Tarkan furthered by saying that Rototherm had “invested quite heavily in a state of the art ERP System” and that “having people working at home, didn’t affect [Rototherm.]
During the past 18 months, social distancing guidelines and self-isolation rules have presented challenges for business, including frequent staff shortages.
But is there any chance that the human workforce could be replaced by robots?
Tarkan said that this was “definitely not” going to happen and instead, the introduction of robotics was more likely to lead to job creation.
The Welsh government have commented, saying:
“We are helping businesses overcome key challenges of the future, changing our support mechanisms to help them develop and adopt new products and technology to remain competitive in the fourth industrial age.”
It added it wanted technology to help “make fair work a reality for more workers across Wales”.
The UK government said it had committed £175m to accelerate integrating new technologies into manufacturing.