The bank made the claim in a report this month in which it argued that, across all UK manufacturing sectors, long-term underinvestment in robotic technologies is one of the main reasons that productivity levels are lower than in other European countries.
Barclays’ survey revealed that although UK automation spending has increased since 2012 – 58% have of companies have bought production robots – the country still lags neighbours like Germany where 68% of companies have made such investment.
This shortfall is significant according to the authors, who say the majority of companies that have invested report increased productivity.
UK drugmakers are among the biggest investors in manufacturing robots with 63% of those questioned reporting they have spent money automating production processes.
But while the drug industry may be doing better than most in terms of automation-based productivity gains, pharmaceutical firms still recognize they could benefit from further investment according to Mike Rigby, Head of Manufacturing at Barclays.
He told us "When asked about the remaining potential for robotics/automation investment, 64% said there was “a lot of potential”, compared to the overall average response of 34%. This was the highest sector response by a significant margin, again medical devices was next, at 53%.
“Together, these responses gave us confidence that the appetite for automation and robotics was significantly greater in the UK pharma sector than across manufacturing as a whole” Rigby said.
Greater investment in automation also makes sense in terms of the number of products UK drugmakers make, which is increasing more rapidly than other industries according to Rigby.
He told us that: “Of the 13 sub-sectors we made economic growth forecasts for in the Report, Pharma had the joint third highest expected annualized growth rate over the 2015-2025 period.
“So, a potentially higher propensity to invest in robotics and automation coupled with an above average expected growth rate meant that the potential output boost for UK Pharma was one of the highest of the sectors included.”