A WIRRAL manufacturer has today announced landmark investment in cutting edge robots in a bid to boost productivity.

Valve manufacturer Heap & Partners has invested £500,000 in new machines and a portable automated robot at its Birkenhead headquarters.

It is one of just four percent of Small and medium-sized enterprises using automation to boost productivity on the factory floor.

The investment will allow the company for the first time to manufacture products overnight unmanned and lights out.

The move comes as the firm embraces the "fourth industrial revolution" - the rise of smart technology in manufacturing.

The firm designed a system with its new 5-Axis machining centre and automated robot as it looks to find flexible solutions to address all requirements of the manufacturing process.

The robot, stationed at the machine, is fully integrated so that it controls every aspect of the machining centre, enabling work to be carried out outside of office hours.

It also has an integrated vision system to ensure it is correctly aligned, allowing it to load and unload the machine.

Heap & Partners plans to invest further in automated technologies in 2021 to enable staff to focus on new product development, all with the view to increasing productivity and job satisfaction.

The move comes despite an increasingly challenging economic climate for manufacturers across the UK due to the coronavirus.

A 2020 study by researchers at MIT revealed companies that move quickly to use robots tend to add workers to their payroll.[ii]

Founded in 1866, Heap & Partners is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers and distributors of fluid control equipment.

Heap & Partners' managing director David Millar said: "We're aware that the companies who adopt new and emerging technologies will be best placed going forward as we get to grips with the challenges presented by 2020 and 2021.

"Countries that embrace automation tend to have stronger manufacturing industries and in turn employ more people in the sector as a result.

"Staff are now free to concentrate on more interesting work while the robot takes on the grunt work.

"As a result of the investment we're expecting to see productivity increase, which is both great for us and for manufacturing in the North West."

Paula Basnett, chief executive of Wirral Chamber of Commerce, said: "A tiny proportion of SMEs have invested in automation to improve their business processes.

"With this investment, Heaps is blazing a trail that other businesses should follow."