AIA Business Conference foresees business turnaround

MARCH 15--The Automated Imaging Association (AIA; Ann Arbor, MI; www.machinevisiononline.org), the North American trade group of more than 230 machine-vision member companies, held its tenth Annual Business Conference in Las Vegas, NV, in February.

Mar 15th, 2002

MARCH 15--The Automated Imaging Association (AIA; Ann Arbor, MI; www.machinevisiononline.org), the North American trade group of more than 230 machine-vision member companies, held its tenth Annual Business Conference in Las Vegas, NV, in February. Attendees numbered nearly 130, and the event attracted international visitors from Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, and Japan. They represented companies that spanned all aspects of machine-vision and image-processing technologies, products, applications, and research. As usual, this event continued to provide networking opportunities for industry executives, technologists, and professionals and offered them new business insights, contacts, and relationships on both national and international levels. The major business stance of the conference was that the high-technology marketplace would begin to increase during the third quarter of this year.

Declaring that the recent business recession was not a consumer recession, Don Reynolds, founder and principal of 21st Century Forecasting (Dallas, TX; www.donreynolds.com), listed a dozen reasons for market optimism in his presentation "The Outlook for the US Economy," but also tempered them with some possible problems. He claimed that the overall economy was stronger than most people thought and would get stronger before the end of this year. According to Reynolds, low interest rates, high technology (which he paraphrased as being in the fourth inning of a nine-inning game), globalization, and customer attention were the key market driving forces. In sum, he predicted that all market conditions were in place for a 1.5% high-technology growth period beginning late this summer, but that the recovery process would be slower than previous economic downturns. Among the problem areas, he included terrorism, consumer and corporate debts, telecommunication sector weakness, and OPEC policies, among others.

Also forecasting a third-quarter high-technology economic upturn was Moshe Handelsman, president of Advanced Forecasting Inc. (Cupertino, CA; www.adv-forecast.com). Based on total semiconductor equipment bookings, Handelsman stated in his paper Forecasting Turning points of the Silicon Cycle, that August 2000 was the last month of the 1999--2000 market upswing and that the 2001 recession (-46%) was deeper than the 1985 recession (-31%). However, forecasting the recent recession was flawed, said Handelsman, because many companies used optimistic allocations, extrapolation, and overbooking techniques without considering economic "turning points."

Instead, says Handelsman, quantitative or "hard-number" techniques are required to predict market changes. His quantitative market model includes the detailed analyses of economic factors, end equipments and users, distribution channels, integrated-circuit (IC) and peripheral vendors, and semiconductor equipments and materials. As a result, Handelsman declared that October 2001 was the last month of the recent recession and that November 2001 was the first market turning point. He foresees about a 19-month slow recovery period, but the market will not rise in a symmetrical curve over time. At mid-2003, says Handelsman, the underlying demand for ICs is expected to decline substantially and weaken the economic recovery.

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