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  • Hugo Walker

Robot technology is increasingly accessible for SMEs



“Many new robot technologies have reached a level of maturity and price point where they can be standardised, meaning lower cost and quicker implementation.”

Robot technology — which has historically been available only to large companies in certain sectors — is becoming increasingly more accessible for SMEs in the food sector. In fact, the food sector is currently the second-highest buyer of robots.


The increasing feasibility for SMEs to use complex technologies is due to three key developments. Firstly, the price of robot technology is decreasing with every year. By 2025, it is forecast that robot prices will have fallen by 76 per cent. Secondly, the suppliers of robot technology have doubled globally over the last twenty years. This supply-side expansion plays into the falling price, and also increases the sheer quantity of robot technology available. Finally, many robot technologies are now mature, reducing the risk of implementation for SMEs.


Chief executive of HowToRobot, Søren Peters, commented: “Automation used to be exclusively for custom machine builders, developing a solution for every project. In the last five years, however, many new robot technologies have reached a level of maturity and price point where they can be standardised, meaning lower cost and quicker implementation. Food and beverage SMEs can now adopt these technologies on a larger scale.”


Technology such as pick and place robots, which used to only be used by production giants, can now process small batches. Similarly, Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) are now able to navigate even small and busy spaces. Nevertheless, a lack of information on the possibilities of technological opportunities means that many manufacturing firms are not taking advantage of robotics.


Mr Peters continues: “Very few businesses are fully aware of what’s available in the market today, hence the same solutions are often reinvented through expensive and time-consuming development projects.


In addition, the technology supply locally is often very limited which has historically held back investments, but we see an increasing trend of companies sourcing robots and related services from the fast-growing global market. The rise of digital marketplaces is opening up the global robot market for SMEs.”


In a recent interview with TechRound, Mr Peters spoke about the relationship between automation and the coronavirus pandemic: “The pandemic has been the perfect storm – with supply chain disruptions and labour shortages going through the roof. So many new companies are now starting to consider robots and automation to make up for these issues. But, at the same time, meeting with suppliers in person at industry expo’s etc., has also been extremely difficult.”