Robots, are they an integral part of our industry or just a solution for the lucky few?

A status report by PwC, Agoria and Sirris into Belgium’s industry and ecosystem

"Although advancements in sensor and gripper technology have broadened the range of applications and their flexibility. There’s still a lot of hesitation in companies, especially SMEs, to use robots and cobots."

Robots in Belgian industry

If we want the industry to remain an essential cornerstone of the Belgian economy it is clear that we need to explore the potential of robotisation. Productivity in Belgium is high, but it has nonetheless stagnated in recent years. (https://www.agoria.be/nl/ManuMatters

Automation and robotisation have a key role to play in achieving this objective. The study shows that seven out of ten manufacturing companies deploy or experiment with robots and 17,7% are already using robots as a strategic asset. 

Large companies have been quicker to adopt while small and medium-sized production companies (SMEs) are lagging behind. When it comes to applying robotisation within SMEs the main obstacles are insufficient training and a lack of the right in-house knowledge.

Robot selecting items in warehouse
Woman and man inspecting robot industry

New technologies are making the working environment increasingly smarter. This trend certainly applies to robotisation systems. Production machines and lines are becoming integrated into all operations, so that assets such as robots can operate ever more independently: 

  • Think of 5G speeding up communication between machines significantly 

  • The emergence of cobots means that big steps are being taken in human-machine interaction.

  • Combining data generated by robots with more classic operational data, leading to more automated environments, Industry 4.0 and factories of the future.

The Robotic ecosystem

Only two out of ten companies have in-house robotisation expertise with most companies working with a partner to develop their automation and robotisation projects.

  • 78% of companies rely on outsourced knowledge and expertise for robot integration

  • One third of integrators and users have at one time or another had a negative experience when integrating robots in the workplace.

  • 60% of companies report that the main reason for failed robotisation projects is due to underestimating the complexity of the integration. 

Man inspecting and tinkering robot industry

People and Robots

If there’s one topic that sparks strong debate on the subject of robotisation and automation, it’s the impact of these technologies on people and employment. According to our survey, 75% of respondents believed that the effect of robotisation on employment has been non-existent, or even positive.

Which leaves 25% who are yet to be convinced of the benefits of robotisation. With people freed up from mundane and repetitive tasks, they can use their problem solving skills, adaptability and flexibility on value adding tasks, while robots get on with the dirty work.

Just like humans, robots also have problems from time to time and it’s precisely here that the task of the operator is indispensable

Jérôme MarmignonSales & Business Development Manager, JTEKT TORSEN

Our seven steps to success

Sound preparation is crucial for the success of a robotisation project. At the same time, this project does not stand alone and is part of a broader automation project. Seven steps will help you prepare and implement it. 

Determine the product variants and their evolution over time, then state their differences

Define the job to be done: Determine for which production step you want a robot and the tasks to be robotised

Account for technical and safety aspects, are they available? Include them in the project planning.

Design the layout, accounting for all constraints. Get support if you don’t have the experience in house

Surround yourself with the right partners and involve operators in the entire process.

Choose the appropriate tooling geared to the product to be handled or the task or operation to be carried out.

Integrate the robot into the periphery IT systems, such as applications for production and maintenance.

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Jochen Vincke

Jochen Vincke

Partner, PwC Belgium

Bob Peeters

Bob Peeters

Senior Associate, PwC Belgium

Lieselotte Theuns

Lieselotte Theuns

Manager, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 487 35 53 28

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