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CEOs Sound Off on Global Vision Market

Machine vision plays a huge role in industrialization in Europe and the US, and it will increasingly affect automation and other market factors in Asia, according to an executive roundtable organized by Vision 2014 and the VDMA.

As manufacturing ramps up around the world, machine vision and automation technologies are becoming more and more important. To highlight the most important issues and themes surrounding the machine vision market in Europe, the US and Asia, organizers of the upcoming trade fair Vision 2014 and the VDMA Machine Vision Association in Frankfurt, Germany, gathered CEOs for a roundtable on Feb. 4. The speakers’ comments were transcribed and compiled by Messe Stuttgart, which organizes the Vision trade fair.


Some of the industry representatives at the recent machine vision CEO roundtable in Frankfurt: Silvia Stoll, Messe Stuttgart; Patrick Schwarzkopf, VDMA; Dr. Olaf Munkelt, VDMA and MVTec Software GmbH; Dr. Dietmar Ley, Basler AG; and Dr. Heiko Frohn, Vitronic.


Europe

The following questions were of particular importance for Europe: What is the status of machine vision today, and how will it develop in the future? What role does machine vision play in the industrialization of Europe?

Mark Williamson, director of corporate market development at Stemmer Imaging in England: [The] machine vision industry is outstripping growth of traditional industrial markets. The growth is driven by the need for efficiency, and we see this increasing, as there’s a higher drive for reducing costs. We’ve seen significant cost reductions in machine vision technology, which is making it more affordable, and that’s driving growth significantly in the use of machine vision and then improving efficiencies in the wider markets.

Going forward, I see this increasing, and we’re predicting growth at the moment of above 10 percent – and I see this growth continuing, if not growing further.

With the low-labor-cost countries taking manufacturing capacity out of the world economy, Europe, to stay competitive, has to use automation to keep costs low and keep efficiency high. Machine vision is a critical technology in automation that allows us to stay competitive in the world market. The quality of our products in Europe is essential, and machine vision ensures that we deliver on that quality.

Donato Montanari, Machine Vision Business Unit general manager at Datalogic Automation in Italy: Everywhere in the world, and especially in Europe, consumers are becoming much more conscious about product quality. Whether they are purchasing a new automobile or whether it is just grocery shopping, they want products which are high quality. They want to look and feel the quality when they see it. Therefore, businesses are required to inspect more and more of these products. This is what machine vision is driving now, and this is what is going to be driving machine vision the next 10 to 20 years.

The other implication of higher quality is that not only the companies who deal directly with consumers, but also the company who supplies to these companies – they have to have inspections in their lines, because traceability of the products and traceability of the suppliers become clearly the key factor.

US

In the US, the talk is currently about a wave of “re-industrialization,” so the questions for American representatives focused on what this really means for machine vision and in what industries the largest growth potential in North America is expected.

Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) and of the Automated Imaging Association (AIA) in the US: We see a tremendous future for machine vision in manufacturing as part of the re-industrialization that’s going on in North America. … More and more manufacturing is returning from overseas to the US. And that is great for anyone in the automation industry, especially machine vision. Because you can’t think of an industry really that can’t benefit from using machine vision technology.

In terms of where we might be headed outside of the factory, I would certainly look at areas like life sciences, medical imaging, surveillance – these are enormous opportunities that are underutilizing vision right now. So we are very bullish on the future of vision. We think North America is going to continue to be a strong market, and we look forward at AIA to working with our member companies all over the world to take advantage of the opportunities.

Mike Cyros, chief commercial officer at Allied Vision Technologies in the US: From our perspective, we see two key areas that are driving this re-industrialization in the North American marketplace. The first is what we refer to as re-shoring, and that’s the migration of labor and production jobs coming back into the United States. And the reason it’s coming back is for higher-quality manufacturing, and all of that is driving the need for increasing the use of automation technologies including machine vision. Secondly, that’s combined with the strong resurgence of our automotive industry. So those two variables alone are really driving, and we see those as big growth drivers for the North American market.

We are also seeing growth in nontraditional machine vision market areas, what we refer to as outdoor imaging. And these marketplaces take advantage of the same technologies that we develop for the machine vision industry but [they are] used in a slightly different setting; for example, sports stadium automation, outdoor imaging, digital cartography, ITS (intelligent traffic systems), as well as high-end surveillance applications.

Greg Hollows, director of machine vision solutions at Edmund Optics in the US: We’re seeing a lot of opportunity for re-industrialization in the Americas from the advancements in automation technology. What’s really sweet about that: It’s going to allow more jobs to be re-created in America, not just for the automation companies, but also for the manufacturing that’s being done. That’s everything from making the product all the way through servicing the automation that’s come in the door and keeping up the speed – this is kind of creating better-paying, more-robust jobs for this market.

Another interesting thing as the automation technology continues to improve and advance is that costs are coming down, and it’s going to allow us to actually put that into other marketplaces. In things like life sciences, what we’re going to have is an opportunity to do more margin limitation at lower prices. That’s going to allow us to get better test results and more information back to people that need this information very quickly so they can make decisions about their personal lives. It’s going to improve the quality of life and make things better and add more jobs to this market as people have more needs that come up that can be addressed. A lot of beautiful things coming out with [medical] and machine vision and automation technology [are] going to allow us just to continue [to] improve the way we live.

Asia

In Asia, the situation looks completely different from that in Europe and North America. The central questions are: How big are the requirements for automation technology and machine vision in Asia in the coming years? Which factors are driving this development? High-ranking industry representatives from China, Japan and Korea weighed in.

Hersem Yang, general manager at Azure Photonics in China: Machine vision has undergone faster growth in China, where the economy is in need of automation … in the coming years. First, the whole market has become mature. Second, [the] labor fee in China is increased year by year. More and more companies are building up automation systems to reduce production cost. Certainly high-quality standards changes led companies to introduce factory automation.

Sungho Huh, director of technical marketing at Envision and a board member of the Korea Machine Vision Industrial Association (KMVIA) in South Korea: As labor cost [is increasing] in Asia territory, [an] Asian country is not so attractive for labor-intensive industries anymore. Many OEM companies want to increase price-performance ratio and quality control as well. They are trying to increase use of robot systems and vision technology. Korean players are also seeing opportunities in Asian countries, including China, as the Korean factory automation market is at [the] mature stage.

Sachio Kiura, director and secretary-general of Japan Industrial Imaging Association (JIIA): How big are the needs for automation in Japan and Asian countries? [They are] quite big. In China, labor cost is going up rapidly, and then the working population is really decreasing due to the one-child policy. So, on the other hand, Southeast Asia is also growing rapidly, so they also have a big demand for automation technologies. Then in Japan, also, we can see the very new innovation of technology for the automotive industry and then also the new TV standard like 4k or 8k. So that’s why there is very big demand for automation in Japan and Asian countries this year.

Eric Chen, overseas marketing supervisor at OPT Machine Vision Tech in China: From the current market situation, the automation in China will be increased more and more in the coming years. I think this quickly increased demand is driven by China’s industry transformation and upgrade. And, of course, labor cost increases in China – and, at the same time, there are more and more applications in other industries apart from [the] semiconductor industry, automotive industry and electronics industry. So we [expect high] automation demand in the coming years.



Vision 2014

The biennial Vision trade fair for machine vision will take place at Messe Stuttgart in Germany from Nov. 4 to 6. The organizers announced in December that 260 exhibitors had confirmed their registration nine months ahead of the event; their goal is to surpass 400, which would set a record, by the start date.

A full program of additional events will once again accompany the main exhibition in 2014. The VDMA’s forum Industrial VISION Days will provide visitors with inspiration for very specific production solutions, state-of-the-art applications or the capabilities of machine vision.


Photo courtesy of Messe Stuttgart.


The International Machine Vision Standards show – organized in conjunction with the Automated Imaging Association (AIA), the European Machine Vision Association (EMVA) and the Japan Industrial Imaging Association (JIIA) – will help clarify standardization issues. Findings from global standardization efforts in the machine vision industry will be presented and discussed.

“Research Meets Industry” is the motto of the VDMA Technology Days, during which institutes and universities will present research projects with promising user potential as well as opportunities for tapping into new markets. The event will include new 3-D technology, innovative methods of object classification, high-speed machine vision algorithms to concrete applications, and more.

The Vision Award 2014, a prize that demonstrates the power of the machine vision industry, will be presented for the 21st time. Special attention is paid to entries that set high technological standards, display a particular innovativeness and demonstrate the importance of the development for the machine vision industry and the end user.


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