Robotics, the convergence of semiconductor and automotive, and why finding and cultivating engineering talent may just be the biggest industry challenge of all.
Editor’s Note: this story is part of an ongoing series of blog entries in which Motion Solutions partners discuss opportunities and challenges facing the automation industry.
Q: What are some of the most important, emerging technologies in your industry?
Matt Trowbridge: Today, the big buzzwords are all around the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 – basically, being connected to everything and making sense of the data to drive productivity. If you’re in automation today, you’re working on technology to make this a reality. IBM thinks they have it with Watson. Some think I-O Link is one answer. There’s time and space for multiple solutions and there will be many.
We need to focus on being open, yet, being secure. Companies collect plenty of data today but lack the processes to seamlessly use that data to drive efficiency in real time. The companies that bring that home first have a huge head start.
Q: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges in motion control today, and what is your company doing about it?
MT: Efficiencies and cost are always a challenge. Customers want plug and play devices. They don’t want systems that take multiple pieces of software to program together and use valuable time and space. Omron concentrates on running our motion, and all our technologies, seamlessly on one software suite, or, plug and play. We also focus on streamlined hardware that reduces costs not just on the units themselves, but in terms of cabinet space.
Q: What industry trends are you seeing that are likely to have the biggest impact on your business?
MT: I think the trend that is shaping up to have the biggest impact is the accelerated movement towards robotics. The numbers show usage of robotics is up dramatically and will continue that pace globally. China, Europe, the U.S., and Japan are all investing. Robotics technology continues to push the envelope in demanding speed, accuracy, and ease of use. Because robotics interacts with motion control, vision, sensing, and other automation technologies, the increased usage will help accelerate our industry technologies and drive production efficiency for years to come.
Q: What are you most excited about, and that you think will have a major influence on your business?
MT: Well, again, I could say robotics, but, I’ll try another direction. Since part of our global focus is around the automotive and semiconductor/digital industries it’s exciting to watch as these two industries continue to converge. Semiconductors have changed the automobile of today dramatically and that trend will continue to accelerate over the next decade. 40% of registered attendees at Semicon West are related to the automotive industry. Automation in all forms will play a critical role in the advancement of those industries.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
MT: Every business in every industry has concerns about talent to match changing technology. With the rapid advancement in automation related to robotics, networks, IoT, motion, and sensing, the need to find and develop enough talent to stay out in front is critical. We, along with others in our industry, have to be creative in how we develop this pipeline. Partnering with the right universities to train students and provide them the tools needed to succeed right out of college is imperative. Sharing resources globally to expand internal depth and knowledge is also a big part of our strategy. Offering self-paced online training courses as well as expanded hands on training is another effective way to manage talent development. With so much rapid advancement in automation technology happening now, as well as what’s coming, we continue to apply more energy in talent development.
Matt Trowbridge is Vice President of Marketing, Americas at Omron.