Muller Managing Director Adam Cunningham poses at the manufacturing facility in Redditch. REUTERS/Darren Staples
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At Muller Precision Engineering's plant in Redditch, south of Birmingham, James Gibbs is in charge of three clattering pieces of machinery older than he is.The bank's 30 agents visit 9,000 businesses a year to spot trends.Some catch-up on automation had been expected after several years of falling unemployment.Customs data shows imports of multipurpose industrial robots, which can be reprogrammed to perform new tasks and usually have arms capable of moving in three dimensions, rose to a record 83.2 million pounds in the year to the end of July, up by 72 percent on the previous 12-month period.Guy Michaels, an associate professor at the London School of Economics, said his study of trends across 17 countries suggested rising automation had not cut factory jobs significantly so far, however.Part of that is due to retraining that kept people in work even after they were replaced by robots, strengthening the case that automation could increase U.K. productivity, which lags more than 20 percent behind the United States, France and Germany.Automation at Avara's plant on the edge of Telford, 64 kilometers northwest of Redditch, allows it to handle twice the volume of poultry possible seven years ago for the same 1,000 workers, said operations director Philip Davidson.
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