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Robotics Industry Forum Paints a Bright Picture for 2012

Held in Orlando, Fla. from January 18 to 20, the 19th annual Robotics Industry Forum offerred up many new announcements, including a new robotic system integration certification program, a name change for its parent association and an overall positive outlook for U.S. manufacturing in 2012 by economist Alan Beaulieu.

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The Robotics Industry Forum kicked off the show by announcing a new name for the parent association, which used to be known as the Automation Technologies Council, now called the Association for Advancing Automation (A3). This parent association oversees the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), Automated Imaging Association (AIA) and the Motion Control Association (MCA) trade association and its mission statement is to be more active on a global basis promoting all three "daughter" associations. Rich Litt, chairman, Association for Advancing Automation (A3), added at the opening of the event, "There's no global spokesman for promoting automation and A3 can provide the "why" for automation while the associations will promote the "how." 

Other news from the forum—co-located with the 20th Annual Automated Imaging Association show and the 4th annual Motion Control Association show—saw the announcement of a new robotic system integrator certification program run by the Robotics Industries Association. Jeff Burnstein, president, RIA, outlined the new program and stated the RIA had been researching a robotic certification program for the last two years. Burnstein added, “We heard about some system integrators (SIs) losing bids based on price to other vendors whom were not as qualified and then finding out the low-cost integrator didn't get the job done. Eventually, the manufacturer went with the more qualified integrator to fix the (first) integration problems. And that's a big reason for the certification."
The certification program does not guarantee that your robot will work everywhere, but focuses on system integrators being able to benchmark their companies against other SIs. The certification will offer benefits, such as a certification logo, feature listings of certified integrators on the RIA site and establishing leadership and visibility in the robotics community. 
System integrators would have to participate in a two-day, on-site audit and team personnel would be tested on specific applications to evaluate their skill level. Some of the objectives would include demonstrating safe work procedures, demonstrate basic robotic setup skills, I/O understanding and the ability to read and interpret robotic manufacturing manuals. 
The audit process—sourced by the RIA—would be wrapped in non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) between system integrator and auditor. And the RIA would not have access to this audited data. Burnstein added a rating system would be part of the new certification program and integrators would be rated in different skill categories and offerings. The different rating categories were not unveiled at the conference session. 
The RIA already has 12-18 companies participating in a pilot certification program. Also, a vision integrator program announcement is coming later this year, but no further details were given at the forum. For more information on the robotic certification program, click here for an upcoming webinar on the topic.  
Kicking off the event was Alan Beaulieu, President, Institute for Trend Research. He cited a rosy outlook for industrial manufacturers in 2012, with a 4.3% growth estimate for industrial production in the U.S. He added that a possible a possible slow down could come in 2014, but overall, it should be a "good decade for automation technologies." He feels that Europe's financial crisis is a threat but sees plenty of liquidity in Europe and the EU is "building a firewall around Greece." 

Alan, a contributing columnist to Automation World magazine, says the real challenge for U.S. manufacturers this year will be finding "skilled" labor. 

See the video below for more comments from Alan Bealieu on the 2012 economy. 


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