I attended the A3 Business Forum at the end of January, and one presentation that really had my interest was “The Latest Automation Statistics, Trends, & Key Market Drivers” presented by A3’s Alex Shikany, Vice President, Membership & Business Intelligence.
What’s happening in automation is important for your businesses and is a good indicator for machine vision’s growth. And, the news is quite good.
The outlook on automation in general is that it is in a growth phase driven by a variety of factors, one of which being labor issues. One indicator of this growth is robotics orders for 2021, which reached record levels in North America. Of interest is that nonautomotive robotics orders outpaced automotive by a wide margin. We are seeing more and more vision systems being employed in robotics systems, often on the robotic arm itself. As the desire for automation increases, there will almost always be a place for machine vision in the manufacturing process—especially with the numbers we're seeing for robot orders. Nonautomotive use continues to increase, so expect to see vision/imaging employed in more and more areas not previously encountered.
Although the outlook for automation’s growth is good, attendees also enjoyed an economic outlook presentation. This presentation was also upbeat, but it is always important to look at the indicators for the future. Growth is expected, although it will be decelerated growth. And, look out for wildcards. A conflict anywhere in the world would impact the economic outlook. Be aware of potential “X factors” as you plan for 2022 and beyond.
Beyond these informative presentations, it was just great to be at a live conference again. I had a chance to meet more leaders of the suppliers serving the vision/imaging industry, and they are excited about what the future holds. It’s an exciting time for machine vision. The market is not yet fully mature, and the number of applications outside the factory continues to increase. While automation is growing in many industries, even if it slows down, vision/imaging's use in more and more nonfactory areas means this segment will continue to grow.
To help you navigate machine vision’s growth across multiple industries, we again offer you our annual Buyers Guide. Our Buyers Guide is a global resource for systems integrators, developers, and manufacturers designing machine vision and imaging systems. Keep it on your shelf, but don’t forget that we also offer you expanded vendor information, company and product news, and videos in the online version at www.vision-systems.com/directory.
I hope you enjoyed last month’s inaugural “On Vision” column authored by David Dechow. This month’s On Vision is by Dr. Daniel Lau, a Vision Systems Design Editorial Advisory Board member and professor at the University of Kentucky. Lau looks back at when he first started presenting Webinars for Vision Systems Design on 3D imaging and also muses about what will drive future machine vision development.
So, there’s a lot going on in our industry today, and it’s only expanding. Buckle up and enjoy the ride but keep an eye on the road ahead and prepare for potential changes—especially the unexpected ones.