AxoNobel is investing in painting robots, warning of a shortage of painters in the UK

Paint from AkzoNobel subsidiary Dulux at a DIY store in Manchester. Britain is facing a shortage of painters.Image courtesy REUTERS

AkzoNobel, headquartered in Amsterdam, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of paints and coatings. When the pandemic hit, multinationals’ sales boomed: people filled their wiped out agendas with around-the-house (paint) jobs during the lockdown. However, as life returned to normal, sales stalled. AkzoNobel may fear that the painter shortage will further reduce turnover numbers.

“We are very worried,” said Jose Antonio Jimenez Lozano, boss of Axonobel’s British branch. For a British business newspaper Financial Times. According to him, the shortage of painters is mainly in the United Kingdom. “Covid obviously played a role in that, because some people changed their careers,” explains Jiménez Lozano. ‘Brexit also means fewer people coming to the UK from other European countries.’

Lack of staff and old painters

According to Dulux, a subsidiary of popular UK paint brand, more than 60 per cent of British painting companies are having difficulty finding staff. Adding to the shortage is the aging of many British painters. Before Brexit took effect, most painting companies in the UK were already dealing with an aging workforce. Now the lion’s share of painters are over 50 years old.

AxoNobel is currently going through a tough time. The company has had to issue profit warnings twice this year. There was even worse news last month: Just before his departure, Belgian CEO Thierry Vanlanger announced that the profit forecast for next year would also have to be scrapped. Van Langer was now succeeded by Frenchman Grégoire Poux-Guillaume.

After the transition of power, AkzoNobel suffered a new setback. Last week it was announced that board chairman Nils Andersen was moving the paint group to the same position at chip machine maker ASML. Generally, the chairman of the supervisory board is the best person to help a new CEO get started in his first year.

The paint manufacturer plays a role in the startup

To overcome the workforce shortage in the UK, AkzoNobel is now focusing more on tech gadgets. The group recently acquired a French startup developing a painting robot. According to the plan, the painting robot will be operational from next year.

Don’t expect machine painters to fully cover the labor shortage, warns Akzo-Nobel boss Jimenez Lozano. For now, the prototype painting robot can only work on flat surfaces. According to Jimenez Lozano, painting is usually ‘very detailed’. “You need a more human brushstroke.”

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