France and Germany forge ahead with car industry automation, UK lags
The amount of robots installed by French automotive manufacturers increased by 22 percent over a five year period to 2015, helping it to keep up with Germany and move further ahead of the UK.
According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), France now has more than 1,400 robots working alongside humans in automotive production, a robot density of 940 units per 10,000 workers. This is the second highest in the EU behind Germany, with the UK lagging behind in 10th with roughly half the number of units.
In France, investment in machinery and equipment are accelerating at a faster pace than the overall economy. The frontrunners here are the dynamic showcase industries, such as automotive: annual robot sales to the automotive industry as a whole increased by an average of seven percent per year between 2010 and 2015.
During the same period, the motor vehicle sector ordered on average six percent more robots per year and the demand from automotive parts suppliers increased by nine percent. Since 2010, governmental initiatives to strengthen production in France have resulted in significant investments by the automotive industry. The two French automotive suppliers, PSA and Renault, will further invest in new car models, energy efficient cars, common platforms and also modernise their factories. Both companies have already successfully restructured to insure their position for increased productivity to meet the demand. Automotive parts suppliers will benefit from investments by the automotive industry in France as well as from the improving car market in Europe.
Automotive companies face up to Brexit
According to IFR, “it is not unfair to assume that the decision to leave the EU will influence investment decisions by foreign car companies on production sites in the UK”. For example, Japanese auto makers such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda export more than three quarters of their vehicles built in Britain, and most of these exports go to other European countries.
Were they to have to pay duty on the shipments of goods, they might decide to move out of the UK. IFR assumes, however, that the UK government will develop regulations and supporting measures to avoid this. In any case, there are currently frequent announcements on investment plans concerning capacity expansions and modernisation by foreign and local automotive companies
Robots support competitiveness and employment in Europe
“The positive impact of robots on European competitiveness and employment can be seen in Germany,” said Joe Gemma, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “The country´s automotive sector, for instance, holds the top position for robot density in Europe - with about 1,150 industrial robots per 10,000 employees. As a result of the ongoing trend to automate production, employment in the German car industry rose by about 93,000 jobs to 813,000 during the period 2010 to 2015.”
In France, modernisation and digitalisation of production systems is increasingly likely to involve small and medium enterprises over the coming years. The country´s main strength lies in industrial software and networking objects which could positively impact the implementation of new production concepts and create scope for employing innovative machinery and equipment and likely create new opportunities for skilled labour.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”