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New jobs promised across Lancashire as Preston ammunition firm boosts output using robotics

Posted on - 27th September, 2021 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Business, Preston News, South Ribble News
Alain Dilworth, programme manager for Made Smarter

An ammunition firm has credited robotics for an increase in productivity at its premises in Preston.

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With the support of Made Smarter, Empire Cartridges has invested in a six-axis cobot and process control technology, which upskilled its workforce and increased the manufacturing output of shotgun cartridge shells by at least 50 per cent.

It is one of 12 businesses in Lancashire to invest in robotics and automation machinery through the Made Smarter Adoption Programme in the North West, a collaboration between the UK government and industry designed to support the increased use of digital technologies.

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Andrew Bond, CEO of Empire Cartridges, an ammunition manufacturer based in Preston

The £471k investment, which combines £198k in grant funding and leverages £273k of private finance, is forecast to create 47 new jobs, upskill 51 workers, and boost the county’s GVA by £42.7m.

Andrew Bond, CEO of Empire Cartridges, said: “By adopting Industry 4.0 automation, we have been able to increase quality control, reduce manual handling and upskill our workforce from simple box fillers to cobot programmers.”

Across the North West, Made Smarter has supported 41 businesses with 45 technology projects focused on robotics and automation machinery, valued at £2m, and forecast to create 183 new jobs, upskill 234 existing workers, and increase the region’s GVA by £137.4m over the next three years.

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Alain Dilworth, North West Adoption Programme Manager at Made Smarter, said: “These figures are further evidence that robots, cobots, and process control automation technologies are creating more jobs than they displace, as well as a host of other benefits. 

“Manufacturers who have adopted these digital technologies are experiencing increased productivity and efficiency, more consistent and improved part production and quality, lower operating costs, reduced lead times, the ability to be more competitive, and improved worker safety.

“The Made Smarter North West Adoption Programme has proven the value that digital technology can bring to the manufacturing sector.

“By providing businesses with specialist, impartial technology advice, grant funding for projects, digital transformation workshops, a leadership programme, digital technology internships, and skills development, Made Smarter is helping them select the right approach and the appropriate level of investment and tools for their business.

“Ultimately, at the heart of any change is the people, who are fundamental to understanding the need for change, driving that change and adopting that change.”

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While the adoption of robotics in the UK is on the rise, it is well behind the global competition. According to the International Federation of Robotics, the UK’s ‘robot density’ or the number of robots per 10,000 workers is 71, below the global average of 74, and significantly lower than Germany (309) and South Korea (631).

Mark Stepney, Director of the British Automation and Robot Association, said: “It is fantastic to see Made Smarter supporting SME manufacturers in the adoption of advanced technologies like robotics to address the UK’s shortfall in productivity. 

“The ROI on the use of industrial robots is startlingly clear. Along with faster production comes a long-sought-after benefit – the ability to free human workers from the dangers and drudgery of manual work. Human workers can be elevated to roles where their individual skills and cognitive abilities can be better utilised.”

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