Use the positive effects of automation to plan ahead

Automation helps manufacturing employment, aids exports, and adds productivity. Key concerns include attracting and retaining a quality workforce, price increases in raw materials, trade uncertainties, and rising health care and insurance costs.

By Mark T. Hoske February 13, 2019

Positive economic health of manufacturing because of automation, advice about the need to plan ahead, and expansion plans for an automation trade association and standards group were among views shared at the A3 Business Forum in January. The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) annual meeting covered topics related to its constituent organizations, the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), Motion Control and Motor Association (MCMA), and AIA (Advancing Vision and Imaging).

Manufacturers plan ahead

Automation is the hero of the U.S. manufacturing growth story because advancing technology creates jobs and opportunities as it displaces some people and creates better jobs with higher pay. Automation helps manufacturing employment, (highest in 11 years), aids exports, and adds productivity, according to Dr. Alan Beaulieu, president, ITR Economics, who gave a global 2019 economic outlook and forecast.

Because of carefully tuned algorithms, ITR claims 94.5 to 99.7% accuracy for eight key economic indicators.

Looking at the rate of change for a 12-month average growth rate is particularly useful for organizations. Beaulieu, author of books including “Prosperity in the Age of Decline” and “Make Your Move,” is chief economist for several trade associations and industry speaker, with twin brother Brian, at various events.

He said 2018 growth of 3.9%, while revised upward, is not sustainable because of the large size of the U.S. economy, and recessionary pressure will likely come in the second half of 2019 in some markets.

Economic growth will resume from 2020 to 2022. “What do you need to do to get ready for that?” he asked, or “Competitors will outdo you.”

Preparing for economic downturns

However, continued U.S. deficit spending, inflation, healthcare costs, demographics, and mounting interest payments will lead to an economic depression (with a D) around 2030. Without reductions in U.S. government spending and surplus paydowns of the massive debt by 2020, the 2030 depression is unavoidable, Beaulieu explained, with no way to “spend out of it” as the ability to borrow more ends.

Growth is likely to slow in 2019 and 2020 said Dr. Alan Beaulieu, president, ITR Economics, at the 2019 A3 Business Forum. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media[/caption]

2019 automation market, workforce training

Alex Shikany, vice president of AIA, part of A3, said optimism continues to be very high in the machine vision, motion control, robotics manufacturing industries. Many indicators suggest solid growth, but he noted a softening in the market, slower growth, in the last three months. Among the largest concerns for manufacturers, Shikany said, are attracting and retaining a quality workforce, price increases in raw materials, trade uncertainties, and rising health care and insurance costs.

Humans and automation can add productivity and jobs said Alex Shikany is AIA vice president, part of A3 Association for Advancing Automation. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media[/caption]

A3 association growth

A3 announcements from president Jeff Burnstein included a plan to increase A3 branding beyond the roles of three constituent associations (AIA, RIA, MCMA) and encouragement for attending the Automate show April 8-11.

Think again about economic cycles and how your business is planning ahead by investing in automation technologies, workforce, and other areas as needed to accelerate through economic downturns.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, A3 is a CFE Media content partner.

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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.