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28 May, 2024

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A little acceptance goes a long way

01 May, 2023

If the UK automation industry is to thrive and expand we need to accept the inevitability of certain changes, argues Nikesh Mistry*, Gambica’s sector head for automation.

The topic of this month’s article is the importance of acceptance.I like to start these articles with a quotation and one which resonates with me in regard to this subject comes from the Harry Potter novel, Goblet of Fire. The quote is: “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”

I believe that this quote has many parallels in our industry. At Gambica, we are constantly discussing the growing skills gap and the lack of skilled workers in our industry. Automation and engineering, without a doubt, require a particular skillset to fill the roles available. For a long time, there have been a gaps between those who are able to work, those who are skilled and able, and those who are skilled and able but decide to go into other industries for a variety of reasons.

This is something that we must work to prevent. We need to keep our engineers in our industry! Far too often, I come across people who have studied an engineering discipline and then gone on to work in another sector.

We need to accept that there is a higher requirement, or even a higher level of competitivity, required to attract and retain skilled workers. Whether it is salaries, flexibility or career progression, we need to accept that these are the things that are sought after in other industries. We need to see where we can improve these factors in our own sector. Some areas we simply cannot change – such as the requirement for manufacturing work to be done on-site – however accepting that this is the case, and improving the attractiveness of other areas of the job, might be enough to attract future generations of workers.

We need to accept that there is always going to be an apprehension over automation. The “robots taking over” fear plays constantly on human minds, and will continue to create barriers. As well as this “robophobia”, there is also a reluctance to invest in automation because of unknown ROIs (returns on investment). It is not always easy to visualise how Industry 4.0 technologies will affect efficiency and profitability, and there have always been barriers to investment.

Business leaders need to accept that advances in modern technology do not always have an immediate return, but they almost certainly guarantee long-term benefits. Automation also has knock-on benefits, such as reductions in carbon emissions. This is about accepting what it is, and once accepted, using it to recover – as suggested in the earlier quote.

My final observation on acceptance is slightly broader. There is a great deal more than we can learn to accept and, with that acceptance, improvements will be made. It’s the acceptance that the world is changing, and that we must adapt to preserve it for the future.

It’s easy to think that “my one small step, won’t change the world”. But if everyone acted in the same way, nothing would ever change! I’m mentioning this mainly because of the climate change argument. Even small steps towards making factories and homes greener will benefit the greater good, and help to achieve net-zero. Too often we think it may be OK to continue burning non-renewable energy sources without accepting that it will cause major damage in the future. Alternatives are required if we are to maintain the same level of output, however, as I mentioned before, small steps which we have seen in our member companies – such as standardising on electric cars for company fleets – seem to go a long way in this journey.

Let’s learn to accept, understand and build knowledge. Only then will our industry will prosper. The post-pandemic and post-Brexit UK has seen vast improvements in the areas I have mentioned above, and we are continuing to see more acceptance and improvements within our industry.

If you would like to speak with like-minded businesses who are at different stages of their “acceptance”, please get in touch with a Gambica via our Web site.

 

* Gambica is the trade association for the automation, control, instrumentation and laboratory technology sectors in the UK. You can get in touch with Nikesh Mistry on 020 7642 8094 or nikesh.mistry@gambica.org.uk, or via the Gambica Web site: www.gambica.org.uk




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