Robotics lead the agenda for UK manufacturers as CEOs turn to aggressive growth strategies

Robotics lead the agenda for UK manufacturers

UK manufacturers are leading the field in robotics development, with nearly a third (32 percent) saying they have already invested in robotics, compared to just 18 percent globally, according to KPMG’s 2016 Global Manufacturing Outlook.

Also on

UK manufacturers are leading the field in robotics development, with nearly a third (32 percent) saying they have already invested in robotics, compared to just 18 percent globally, according to KPMG’s 2016 Global Manufacturing Outlook.

“UK manufacturers are showing clear progress towards embracing industry 4.0 developments and an integrated manufacturing strategy. They are evolving their operating models and investing in new digital and industrial ‘internet of things’ technology. Nearly a quarter of UK manufacturing CEOs we spoke to have invested in 3D printing and digital manufacturing technologies and more than a fifth say they have already invested in artificial intelligence and cognitive computing technologies.” says Stephen Cooper, Partner and Head of Industrial Manufacturing in the UK for KPMG.

The increased focus on technological innovation comes as fierce competition for market share and economic concerns stimulate more aggressive growth strategies from UK manufacturers. More than half (59 percent) of manufacturers surveyed by KPMG categorised their growth strategy as ‘aggressive’, while one-in-five said ‘very aggressive’, compared to only 18 percent of global respondents. 

Three quarters of those surveyed from the UK reported that growth is a high priority over the next two years as competition for market share intensifies. The majority (61 percent) also think that Britain’s economic climate will be the most significant mitigating factor on their company’s growth agenda. 

This economic uncertainty has also pushed UK manufacturers to focus on protecting current business and cost performance management in the last 12 – 24 months, with 66 percent and 78 percent respectively rating these as high or extremely high priorities. These areas are anticipated by UK companies to continue or increase as a high or extremely high priority in the next 12 – 24 months (88 percent for business protection and 80 percent for cost performance management).

Stephen Cooper added: “It is no wonder that UK manufacturers are concerned about economic disruption. Britain has faced strong economic headwinds over the past year and potential concerns over the outcome of the EU Referendum on 23 June could already be impacting both domestic and foreign investment as management teams take a ‘wait and see’ approach before making decisions.

“However, despite uncertainty on this front, fierce competitions are being fought over every scrap of market share available and maintaining the status quo will not drive growth. Manufacturers need to do something different in order to win market share in today’s environment, reflected in the higher proportion of British manufacturers investing more in R&D.”


Investing in new services and products

The report also finds that research and development in existing services and products is firmly on UK manufacturer’s agendas as a means of facilitating organic growth. More than two-fifths (44 percent) of British manufacturers intend to spend six percent or more of their revenues on R&D over the next two years up 10 percent from the 34 percent doing so last year. However this is still lower than the global average where 49 percent of respondents globally will be spending over six percent of revenues on R&D in the next two years.

Stephen Cooper said: “Whether investing in incremental improvements for existing products or inventing entirely new products and services, what is clear, with organic growth hard to come by, manufacturers recognise an urgent need to increase their investment into innovation and R&D. The UK has always had a rich heritage of excellence in production design and design capability; many clearly hope they can leverage these skills to drive new competitive advantages through R&D. 

“Focusing purely on the bottom line won’t drive the business model rethink needed to capitalise on technology developments – particularly the Industrial Internet of Things. Many manufacturers, including automotive, have had a largely unchanged business model for years, yet now face a paradigm shift: how to embrace and harness the new connected technologies and deliver customised product features, with increased service opportunities or remain as more basic "metalbashers.” 

“The UK has always been a strong, innovative and resilient manufacturing nation. Yet it is now at a crossroads: what sort of manufacturing centre of excellence does it want to be? My view is that the future is a UK manufacturing industry driven by design capability and innovation, coupled with a strong understanding of digital technology and cyber security. This will take both private and public investment, and an unparalleled focus on building the right skills for the industry to thrive in the UK for the next generation.”


Media contacts

Alastair Henry, Citypress (on behalf of KPMG)


T: 0161 235 0320

About KPMG’s 2016 Global Manufacturing Outlook

KPMG’s 2016 Global Manufacturing Outlook is based on a survey of 360 senior executives conducted in early 2016 by Forbes Insights. Respondents, who represented six industry sectors (Aerospace & Defense, Automotive, Conglomerates, Medical Devices, Engineering and Industrial Products, and Metals), were fairly evenly distributed between the Americas, Europe and Asia. 46 percent of respondents have revenues of over 45bn (with 12 percent more than $25bn) and 54 percent of respondents have global annual revenues of between $1bn and $5bn.

The full GMO can be downloaded at

For more information, please contact:

Carolyn Forest, KPMG International 

T: + 1 416 777 3857


About KPMG

KPMG in the United Kingdom, is member of a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. KPMG operates in 155 countries and has more than 162,000 people working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

Connect with us


Request for proposal



KPMG’s new-look website

KPMG’s new-look website