As part of our Insight Informed series, our Industry 4.0 practice lead Joe Lanigan-Smith gives us the low-down on everything Automation.

About our Industry 4.0 specialism… 

As well as recruiting engineering professionals within the manufacturing, pharmaceutical, food and beverages, and automotive sectors, as a team, we’ve narrowed our focus specifically to help our clients expand their automation technologies. Warehouses are a hub of innovation, and many people actually aren’t aware of how forward-thinking this industry can be. Historically though, it’s an area which has embraced change and new technologies to really push boundaries and drive improvements to the supply chain.   

In embracing automation, our clients have gained a competitive edge but the topic has also been a source of real debate from a jobs perspective. There’s the common misconception that these technologies will usher in an age of job losses but as our virtual round table will explore, that’s far from the case.  

In 2013, it was predicted that around 47% of jobs were at high risk of being wiped out due to advances in automation, however, for every robot deployed, productivity has actually increased in those companies. Automation has essentially created an opportunity to upskill employees, streamlining their workload and freeing people up to focus on the human elements. This means more creative solutions to problems but also a more precise and efficient execution of tasks.  


What’s interesting about automation?

There is constant change and evolution within the sector which is fascinating to see. Ocado for instance have completely revolutionised their warehouse distribution through automation in the creation of their hive-grid machine. It’s so advanced that it allows them to process over 3.5 million items and 65,000 orders each week, yet, the tasks the robots actually execute are so fundamentally simple. As a result, massive time and cost efficiencies are made.

It’s exciting to work with clients that are at the forefront of technology, but, as automation becomes the standard within the world of industry, automation requirements in a sense become part and parcel when it comes to recruitment. Our team, in sourcing the best talent, are helping future-proof our clients. 


What’s new? 

The pandemic has reaffirmed that robotics are here to stay. Those with pre-existing automated systems have done incredibly well as they have had the infrastructure to cope with an increase in demand. With the systems being technology-based and having less manual input, these companies have been less disrupted from a logistics point of view – robots afterall don’t need to socially distance! The challenge for the smaller businesses with less scope is that in order to compete with the big names, they need funding and investment to develop the systems. Otherwise, it’s easy for them to get left behind. 

As noted with the Ocado example, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) have really taken off. The elimination of costly and inefficient processes through the automation of routine, repetitive tasks is a big draw for commercial teams who seek to optimise human resources and empower their workforce.


Career successes…

One of my biggest success stories has been in building the engineering teams of two start-ups. We did this by placing the directors of the teams as well as supporting the adhoc recruitment of senior team members. These teams are now 60-strong so have scaled significantly which is fantastic to see. Working with clients from day one and watching them grow means that we support them not just in terms of recruitment, but we can help them meet their business objectives.


And finally, what’s the most creative example of automation in engineering you’ve come across?  

I find Moley Robotics such an interesting company. They have invented the words’ first automated kitchens which have robotic arms integrated into the design. These robotic hands reproduce the entire function of human hands replicating the speed, sensitivity and movement of BBC Master Chef winner Tim Anderson, who’s skills were recorded and replayed through the robotic hands. The consumer version is due to be launched this year so watch this space!


Our Automation and Industry 4.0 practice specialism is led by Joe Lanigan-Smith. The team recruits Automation & Controls professionals across the Manufacturing Sector from safety critical Pharmaceutical projects to Food & Beverage, Automotive Aerospace, Conveyor & Material/Bulk handling systems. These include experts within Full Life Cycle Design Programming of SCADA, PLC systems including Siemens, Allen Bradley, Rockwell, Mitsubishi, DCS, DeltaV, PCS7, HMI, WinCC and scripting, Installation and Commissioning.


Joe Lanigan-Smith is a specialist recruiter in mid to senior level appointments at Insight Engineering and focuses his market around modern manufacturing/industry 4.0. If you would be interested in more information, please email


Interested in Automation? Why not view our Let’s Get Disruptive virtual round table on The Human Element of Automation.

We discussed the human element of automation, installing automation systems, reskilling your existing workforce amidst the ‘rise of the robots’ and The future of flexibility with our experts:  

Lisa Sourbutts – MD of CUBE HR 

Russell J Kinder – Former Business Unit Manager at ABB  

Mike Wilson Chief Automation Officer at MTC 

Access here:


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