Robotics, motion control, machine vision, AI

Think Again: Business is strong for automation, as explained by speakers at the A3 Business Forum in February.

By Mark T. Hoske March 12, 2022
Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Following the theme of inspiring, informative and amazing, speakers at the A3 Business Forum provided encouragement, insights and information to help attendees succeed, Jan. 31-Feb. 2. (Association for Advancing Automation (A3) has other upcoming events.) Think again about this advice sampling.

Economic strength in industrial markets

In a “2022 Global Economic Update,” Alan Beaulieu, PhD, president, economist, ITR Economics, sees record high levels for many aspects of U.S. economy (gross domestic product, GDP) and manufacturing with some softness, decelerating growth later this year and beginning of 2023, according to 11 of 12 U.S. economic indicators. That slower growth will give the economy and industry a chance to catch up to the intense demand following constriction from COVID and resulting supply chain challenges. GDP growth continues through 2024, according to an ITR Economics graph of seasonally adjusted annual rate of growth, shown in 3-month rolling averages. A slowdown is expected for the second half of 2025, with a recession in 2026, Beaulieu said. “You provide automation, the answer to most people’s problems. Ask yourself if you’re spending more on yourselves to get more out of every body you have?” He suggested businesses people should borrow now to invest and not spend cash. During inflation, loans are paid back in inflated money later.

In a “2022 Global Economic Update,” Alan Beaulieu, PhD, president, economist, ITR Economics, sees record high levels for many aspects of U.S. economy. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

In a “2022 Global Economic Update,” Alan Beaulieu, PhD, president, economist, ITR Economics, sees record high levels for many aspects of U.S. economy. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Supply chain pressures are easing from the 400% increase in cost to get containers here from Asia. Logistics costs will fall from the peak, but not to where they were. More goods are coming into this country, and 3 of 5 ports are at record high levels.

Alex Shikany, A3 vice president – membership and business intelligence, said A3 research shows record-high robotic orders, with non-automotive robotics orders surpassing automotive in six of the last eight quarters. Annual robotics orders increased in North America by 28% from 2020 to 2021; 2021 also exceeded the prior high from 2017. Machine vision is showing historic levels of growth. Motion control and motors also show record growth, with motors leading, he said.

Alex Shikany, A3 vice president - membership and business intelligence, said that A3 research shows record-high robotic orders, with non-automotive robotics orders surpassing automotive in six of the last eight quarters. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Alex Shikany, A3 vice president – membership and business intelligence, said that A3 research shows record-high robotic orders, with non-automotive robotics orders surpassing automotive in six of the last eight quarters. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Traits of a backable leader

Suneel Gupta, author; entrepreneur and CEO of Rise Labs; former head of product development at Groupon and Mozilla Labs, asked, “How do we get people to believe in our ideas? Traits of a backable leader are:

  1. Flip outsiders to insiders;
  2. Share what could be but not what it has to be;
  3. Steer objections into ideas;
  4. Manage time and energy;
  5. Practice rhythmic recoveries, up to eight per day taking mini rests. The 55:5 model works for many with 5 minutes of rest for every 55 minutes of work;
  6. Build a backable circle to help you measure happiness;
  7. Practice the 4 Cs: Collaborator, coach, cheerleader and cheddar. A cheddar is a person who helps with finding and pursuing the meaning of life, to find a goal and purpose in life, and to help give that away as a gift;
  8. Action;
  9. Play the game of someday now because;
  10. Action leads to courage to do more.
Suneel Gupta, author; entrepreneur and CEO of Rise Labs; former head of product development at Groupon and Mozilla Labs, asked, “How do we get people to believe in our ideas? He offered traits of a backable leader. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Suneel Gupta, author; entrepreneur and CEO of Rise Labs; former head of product development at Groupon and Mozilla Labs, asked, “How do we get people to believe in our ideas? He offered traits of a backable leader. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

5G and industrial automation

Mariah Scott, executive director of Verizon robotics business technology, part of the Verizon New Business Incubation unit, discussed how 5G is powering industrial automation. Verizon Skyward is an enterprise drone software and services company. Verizon incubedIT is an industrial autonomous mobile robot management platform. Scott said Wi-Fi and 4G LTE fall do not support the complexity of plant floor and robotic needs. 5G technologies reduce latency and improve reliability, speed and throughput, helping enable greater energy efficiency, mobility and connected devices. Scott said less than 10% of devices are connected today. Among 5G benefits are mixed fleet management, collaboration and avoiding humans in the aisles, she said.

Automating the difficult successfully

Dean Banks, former Tyson Foods CEO, said custom machines offered some automation, but with more than 150 plants, 140,000 employees and 40% turnover in some positions, more automation was needed, including robots, but helping employees get over fear of robots with job training and redeployment is critical, Banks said. The company nearly quadrupled the amount of automation and increased productivity with the same number of people, he said.

How to persevere with ingenuity and automation

Adam Steltzner, chief engineer, Mars 2020, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), while discussing robotic missions to Mars, gave advice about using Ingenuity* and Perseverance* to succeed (*Mars rover names).

Truths emerge from turmoil. We never thought we could operate a rover with fewer than 46 people. Because of COVID, we did it with six and with one, down from 50 in mission control.

Be optimistic. When working with a great team of innovators, suspend limits of what’s possible. “Let’s pretend you can. What would we need to do?”

Adam Steltzner, chief engineer, Mars 2020, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, while discussing robotic missions to Mars, gave advice about using Ingenuity* and Perseverance* to succeed (*Mars rover names). Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Adam Steltzner, chief engineer, Mars 2020, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, while discussing robotic missions to Mars, gave advice about using Ingenuity* and Perseverance* to succeed (*Mars rover names). Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Sort facts from opinion by finding a balance in a sea of differing perspectives.

Find something you like in everyone you work with. “Yeh, it’s a California hippy viewpoint,” but, he said, instead of being annoyed with people, creating an encouraging environment helps people bring the best of themselves to a problem.

Talk less and listen more. The future is an opportunity to discover greater success. Discovery is ultimately driven by native human curiosity. We were born with a few lines of code and learned the rest because of curiosity.

When we explore, Steltnzer said, we ask questions about ourselves, looking for our potential, going into the unknown.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology at mhoske@cfemedia.com.

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Mark T. Hoske
Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.