The president of A3 speaks about the upcoming Automate event and its return to Detroit.

Driven: Please tell us a bit about Automate, as well as about your organization A3?

Jeff Burnstein: Automate is North America’s leading trade show for automation technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, machine vision, imaging, motion control & motors, and related automation.  Coming up in June 2022, more than 500 companies will exhibit their latest products and solutions and over 20,000 current and potential customers from throughout the world are expected to attend.

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) is the world’s largest trade association for these automation technologies.  We currently have nearly 1,100 member organizations, including automation technology manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, consulting firms, and academic institutions. The association dates back to 1974 when it was founded in Dearborn as a robotics group.  We’ve been based in Ann Arbor since 1986 and have added multiple technology groups since that time, all of which will be represented at Automate.  We currently have a staff of 22 in Ann Arbor and one person based in Mexico to work with our members there.

Among A3’s key activities are trade shows and conferences, standards development (we developed the American National Robot Safety Standard among many others), training and certification programs, educational webinars, collecting and reporting industry statistics, and representing the industry to policy makers, the news media and the general public.

Driven: We understand Automate is coming to Detroit after a long run in Chicago – why the switch and why was Detroit picked as the new home of the event?

JB: The Automate Show, (originally known as The Robots Show) actually began in Detroit in the early 1980s. At that time robotics and automation was supposed to be the next industrial revolution. The automotive industry was the largest customer by far. But the auto industry, as well as Detroit, suffered hard times in the 1980s and early 1990s.

We moved the show to Chicago in the mid-1990s to partner with other events and to attract a more diverse set of visitors beyond automotive.  We were successful — the show has grown more than five-fold since 2011 and companies in every industry see this as a “must attend” show. With all of the positive changes taking place locally, we decided it was time to come home to Detroit, a decision met with great excitement by exhibitors and attendees alike!

Detroit now has a great, modern Convention Center, a tremendous team of people at the Convention Bureau willing to work together with us to create a successful event, a more diverse range of major industries in the area and throughout Michigan than ever before, excellent universities that have the talent the industry needs to attract, and an exciting downtown area that has won rave reviews from so many people around the world. The demand for automation is growing rapidly, and our industry and trade show is now realizing the great potential that had been forecast from the start.

Driven: Who should attend Automate? And what kinds of things will they be able to experience?

JB: Companies looking to become stronger global competitors should attend Automate, regardless of what industry they are in.  The show will offer a look at all of the latest automation technologies for factories, warehouses, manufacturers of just about anything, companies producing electronics equipment, food and pharmaceutical products, consumer goods, aerospace companies – you name it!

And, the technologies on display aren’t just for big companies; in fact, the companies that can benefit most are often small- and medium-sized companies looking for automation solutions that can help them increase productivity, improve quality, reduce costs, and get their products to market faster.  They will see technologies that amaze them, of course, but most importantly, that will help their bottom-line!

Driven: Do you see the automotive & mobility industry as leading the way with automation and robotics, or are there other industries that are setting the pace to a higher degree?

JB: The automotive industry continues to be the largest purchaser of robotics, but in 2020 for the first time ever, more than half of the robots ordered went to customers outside of automotive. This says more about the growing number of industries that are automating, since there are also increasing applications for robots in automotive, especially as new manufacturing tools are needed for electric vehicles and batteries.

E-commerce, agriculture, medical, consumer goods, construction, food – these are fast-growing industries in terms of automation.  The costs and complexity of automation have been reduced, making the return on investment case much stronger. Plus, there’s a shortage of skilled workers in many industries, as well as workers who no longer are interested in taking dull, dirty and dangerous jobs (nor should they be, let the automation do those!).  That creates an imperative to automate in order to remain competitive, especially as the entire world is automating.

Driven: Can you give us a sense of future or expected growth in the automation realm?  Maybe paint the picture of how big the market is and the impact it will have on industry over the next 5 or 10 years?

JB: The market for robotics, machine vision and imaging, motion control & motors, AI and the technologies we represent is large and growing.  It is nowhere near as large as it will be in the decades ahead, as companies in every country invest more heavily in automation.  The demographics of aging populations, combined with the fact that there’s a shortage of skilled workers, makes this a certainty.  The good news is that while many current tasks may change due to automation, the new tasks lead to better, safer and higher paying jobs.  The future is people and automation working together.