Industrial automation isn’t the most alluring topic to the general consumer, but how it has impacted our lives is pretty spectacular. The rise in internet shopping has coincided with the rise in consumers’ ability to order customized goods and industrial automation has helped make it all possible. Did you know you can customize your very own pair of Nike shoes? Right down to the color of the shoelaces, you’re able to dream up – and have produced – your dream pair of sneakers. Customization doesn’t stop with shoes, we’re seeing customized options offered for everything from Coke bottles to Tesla cars.

Robots have also made a big impact on the industrial automation industry. By taking over tasks that can be dangerous for humans, they allow companies to improve their safety records – an important goal for all companies. Robots are even becoming smarter as data becomes easier to share.  For example, if a change to a product has happened, a robot can import new parameters and adjust on the fly without having to shut down the line for programming. In addition to keeping us safer and improving flow, they are also creating more jobs and opportunities because with more robots comes a need for specialized technical support for robots.

One of the emerging trends for industrial automation is linear track technology. We like to call this a smart super conveyor.  This technology combines high speed with precision and flexibility that truly enables the manufacturing sector to meet the consumer demands for mass-customization.  Unlike a traditional conveyor system, the linear track system provides independent control over every product on the line.  While this technology has been available for a number of years, it needed to go through a series of improvements with multiple iterations to make it ready for a production environment.  Initial adoption has taken place in areas of food, beverage, pharmaceutical, and packaging markets with a growing trend in assembly cells.

Some people may view the increase in industrial automation as a threat to jobs, but it’s important to think bigger. Think of what new opportunities will be brought by the expansion of technology and efficiency. Let’s look to the future and challenge ourselves to use technology to increase our workforce and opportunities – who knows what the future will bring?