A software and robotic machine called mGripAI from Massachusetts-based Soft Robotics sorts artificial pieces of chicken into trays for packaging at the Association for Advanced Automation’s automation conference in Detroit.
DETROIT — The automotive and logistics industry is no stranger to robots.
It is among the companies most invested in automation in the American economy, using robots to sort packages, move goods and help build vehicles.
But other industries where robotics has not yet taken root could be potential investment opportunities and expansion areas for automation companies in the coming years.
These emerging areas are of interest to Jeff Bornstein, automation industry expert and president of the Advanced Automation Association. His business group represents more than 1,000 global companies working in robotics, machine vision, motion control, actuators and related technologies.
Bornstein, who was recently awarded a prestigious award for more than 40 years in the industry, believes automation and robotics can greatly help in doing the “boring, dirty and dangerous jobs” that people don’t necessarily want to do.
Jeff Bornstein (center left), President of the Association for Advanced Automation, after receiving the Joseph F.
Image courtesy of the Automation Promotion Association
“If you look at what’s driving a lot of automation in a lot of industries, it’s a shortage of people,” he said on the sidelines of an automation conference last week in Detroit.
He said labor shortages, led by the manufacturing industry, are the main drivers of automation growth.
Here are three industries that Bornstein predicts will be next for automation:
The agricultural industry is already testing or using different technologies that are automated, if not autonomous, to make operations more efficient and safer. It also lowers costs
Tractor maker Deere & Co., for example, offers a host of automated assistance features such as rotation and steering for crop row lines. According to its website, Deere is working on creating an autonomous tractor that can “see, think and act on its own, saving farmers time to complete other tasks simultaneously.”
Other automated farming technologies include drones that can spray pesticides over crops, remote-controlled tractors, automated harvesting systems, and other data farming and logistics applications.
Deere Independent 8R Tractor
Harvesting and sorting chicken parts are exactly the kind of dull, dirty and dangerous jobs that can help do just that, Bornstein says.
At the automation conference, at least two companies were showing off food-sorting bots whose capabilities included deciding what types of pieces would fit in a tray for packaging.
In addition to the efficiency benefits, there are health and safety benefits, too, advocates point out.
“The machine can’t sneeze. It can’t rub its face. Its hair can’t get caught in anything. So, it’s really safe. The less hands touch, the less any disease will come up,” said Anthony Romeo, a representative for the companies based in Massachusetts Cognex Corp. and Soft Robotics, a company that sorts food and chicken parts, which also attended the conference.
Tyson Foods employees
Greg Smith | Corbis Saba | Getty Images
in 2021, Tyson Foods It said it will invest more than $1.3 billion in new automation capabilities through 2024 to increase revenue and reduce labor costs and associated risks — and ultimately create savings for the meat processor.
Tyson CEO Donnie King told investors last month that the company continues to “invest in automation and digital capabilities with opportunities to improve our returns.”
He said the company has 50 fully automated chicken nuggets lines.
Pride of HajjThe company, one of the world’s largest chicken producers, has announced significant investments in automation, including more than $100 million announced in 2021.
Automation in healthcare could be applicable to a wide variety of situations – from moving personal goods and medicines to someone’s bed, to cleaning and sterilizing tools.
“You can do it robotically,” Bornstein said. “If you’re having trouble finding people that might be a good solution. There are all kinds of this stuff and then drug discovery, of course, and other applications.”
One notable company currently in the space is Aethon, a Pittsburgh-based robotics company that has made strides in the healthcare sector with an autonomous mobile robot called TUG. According to the company’s website, the robots are able to move around the hospital autonomously.
TUG can be programmed to avoid obstacles and even operate elevators, according to the company.
It’s one example of an AMR, or Autonomous Mobile Robot: a type of vehicle that can perform several different delivery tasks, which Bernstein called “hot in automation” right now.