Five Automation Industry Trends We Saw at Automation Fair 2023
Earlier this month, the brightest minds in automation gathered for a week at Automation Fair 2023 in Boston. With powerful keynote speakers, interactive exhibits, advanced training and an entire expo floor full of the latest automation technology, there was a lot to learn and experience. What do you need to know heading into the new year? Here are five trends that will make an impact on the automation industry in 2024.
1. AI WILL BE EVERYWHERE
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is trending across many industries, and automation is no different. Why is AI in manufacturing so exciting? For Josh Reitz, Smart Manufacturing Business Consultant, a couple things stood out. One was Fiix Asset Risk Predictor, a computerized maintenance management system that uses AI to predict and prevent asset failure before it happens. Instead of relying on human eyes to collect and analyze data, AI can more quickly detect anomalies and diagnose problems, so you can increase uptime with predictive maintenance.
The other was using AI for voice activated assistance. Think of having your own Siri or Alexa for manufacturing. You could ask the AI assistant for an update on the plant operation from last night and get the rundown in seconds or ask it for a graph of production from the last few days on a specific line. The result would be no more creating dashboards that eat the time and talent of data scientists and IT.
Everyone wants to start using AI, but have a good use case established first. It is important to begin with a problem you want to solve instead of forcing a solution. Not following this strategy can be costly. Begin by understanding your value streams, so you can find the right problems to solve and start by eliminating the low-hanging fruit.
2. DIGITAL DESIGN TOOLS WILL LEAD TO GREATER OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCY
You wouldn’t buy a brand-new car without taking it for a test drive, right? FactoryTalk Twin Studio is available via FactoryTalk Hub, Rockwell Automation’s cloud-based solution for applications, and it essentially allows users to test drive their systems before deploying equipment on the plant floor.
Using design solutions within Twin Studio, like FactoryTalk Logix Echo and Emulate3D, users can simulate system performance with different combinations of components and settings. With this ability, manufacturers can test, troubleshoot and optimize designs to make systems more efficient and quicker to implement.
3. COLLABORATIVE ROBOTS WILL ALLEVIATE SKILLED WORKFORCE SHORTAGES
According to Rockwell Automation’s 2023 State of Manufacturing report, a lack of skilled workers was the number one reason manufacturers believed they couldn’t outpace the competition in 2023. Those concerns aren’t going away in 2024. Collaborative robotics (cobots) can aid in workforce augmentation by replacing a human worker for tasks that are repetitive and physically demanding, allowing the human workers to perform other tasks. The result is more consistent throughput with fewer people.
Nick Bargrain, Account Manager, was most interested in the Doosan and beRobox solutions that were showcased on the expo floor. There were demos that showed why cobots are an excellent solution for palletizing, machine tending, product manipulation and more.
A Doosan robotics demo on the Automation Fair expo floor
4. ROBOTS WILL LIGHTEN THE LOAD
For Kirsten Ruf, Account Manager, the biggest takeaway was that whether items are small or large, there might be a more efficient way to move them. Repetitive lifting and twisting causes wear and tear on the body, and carrying items across a facility can be strenuous. Another advantage of industrial robots is that they reduce the risk of injury for your people.
Certain types of robots can handle payloads from a few kilograms to a thousand kilograms. There are even Autonomous Mobile Robots that can transport materials across your manufacturing facility. Ruf said, “You can save time, save money, save man hours, keep workers safe and keep equipment running. There are a lot of opportunities when you use automation to keep things moving.”
5. THE AUTOMATION INDUSTRY WILL BE MORE DIVERSE (AND BETTER FOR IT!)
While new technology and solutions presented at Automation Fair were exciting, there were also powerful speakers who are proving that the automation industry is a place where everyone can succeed. For Brett Barker, Smart Devices Specialist, it was cool to see how others are inspiring future automation professionals around the world.
Industry leaders like Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian woman in space and CEO of XPRIZE, and Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and creator of the FIRST® Global Challenge, spoke about how they are inspiring innovation through worldwide competitions that encourage technological development to solve real-world problems. Initiatives like these that encourage a larger, more diverse workforce are a step towards creating a more globally connected and innovative industry.
Do you want to see all the newest technology and trending solutions? Join us next year at Automation Fair 2024 in Anaheim, CA! If you want to learn more about any of these trends or discuss your goals for 2024, reach out to your Van Meter account manager. Let’s partner together for another successful year.