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Yorkshire manufacturing expertise turns to robotics engineering


A recent survey of manufacturers by the UK's Manufacturing Advisory Service revealed a growing number of companies are bringing production home in order to reduce costs and improve quality and lead times.

Automation will also be a key component in supporting the effective reshoring of UK, and Yorkshire, manufacturing.  Here’s a quick overview of some of the most innovative applications utilising robotics engineering in the region.

With Yorkshire’s long and distinguished heritage in manufacturing, it’s no surprise that forward-looking businesses in the region are turning to the development of advanced engineering in the form of robotics and automation to further improve their manufacturing processes. 

At Clarion, we specialise in working with entrepreneurial and dynamic businesses.  From advising on contractual aspects to intellectual property and employment advice.  We believe that the growth in this area will play a key part in keeping Yorkshire businesses ahead of global competition.  Whether we’re talking about the emergence of the type of hugely sophisticated, futuristic robots we have seen in Star Wars through to the increased use of relatively simple automated machinery in production and picking processes, automation and robotics is the way of the future.

When we think back to the 1970s, the likes of C-3PO and R2-D2 seemed like a ridiculous science fiction dream and yet here we are with a Yorkshire company pioneering ground breaking robotic technology.  I am, of course, referring to RSL Steeper, a leading provider of prosthetic, orthotic and assistive technology products which are exported to the US and worldwide.  This Leeds-based company has developed ‘Bebionic’, the world’s most advanced prosthetic hand which is changing people’s lives.

The region has also seen the opening of a £4.3m national facility at Leeds University.  The EPSRC National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems gives researchers and industrial partners access to a suite of technologies for robot design and construction that is among the most advanced in the world.

The huge advances in automation and robotics have had a massive impact on many industries, particularly the healthcare sector with the development of surgical technologies for health and rehabilitation as well as prosthetics.  For example, computer assisted surgery using robotic ‘arms’ for precision laser cutting is no longer unusual, but still amazing.

As well as these awe-inspiring applications, robotics and automation are also being embraced by many other industries including the pharmaceuticals and distribution sectors.  In addition, Yorkshire manufacturing businesses are turning to automation as they strive to make their processes and systems as efficient as possible.  With companies focussing on Lean Six Sigma and looking for ways of improving performance by systematically reducing waste, either in terms of materials or labour, automation is of obvious interest.  Market leading companies such as Gripple, the manufacturers of wire joiners and tensioners, are already utilising automation to enable them to achieve their aim of delivering exceptional customer service.  The use of robotic arms to take and assemble components is helping them to ship most industrial orders the same day.

This type of innovation is also extending to smaller owner managed companies like Manrochem, the Huddersfield-based international process engineering specialist.  Rather than focussing on the alleged demise of British manufacturing, the company sees huge opportunities for UK business. 

Another innovative Yorkshire engineering company, Synthotech in Harrogate, has developed a cutting edge system for the oil and gas industry.  The Tier One Replacement System, part of an OFGEM Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) funded project with National Grid Gas Distribution, employs a ‘polymorphic’ robotic platform meaning that there will no longer be a need to dig holes when replacing gas mains to customer service pipe, so reducing the carbon footprint, saving costs and cutting down on disruption to customers and road users.

These are just a few of the opportunities in some of our key sectors and some of the Yorkshire manufacturers who are already embracing them.  The key to future success is the ability to adapt and make the most of technological advances in order to stay ahead of competition from around the world; by enhancing production through automation, Yorkshire manufacturers will be in a position to compete with emerging economies with lower labour costs.  Another important aspect in our increasingly environmentally-aware world, is that automation can also help companies to reduce their carbon footprint by reducing waste.   

If you have any questions or require legal advice in this area, please contact us here at Clarion.  


Disclaimer: Anything posted on this blog is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any general or specific matter. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further information. Please contact the author of the blog if you would like to discuss the issues raised.