Automation, where next?

If there is one area of engineering where I have spent most of my time, both professionally and as a maker, it is automation. Interestingly, if the definition of automation is ‘reduce human intervention in processes’ my work with both physical machines and software applications must count towards my automation experience.

Everywhere I look I see opportunities to automate. However, for the electronics industry to implement an effective long-term supply chain strategy for automation technology it needs to know where future growth will originate. Here are some guesses.

Firstly, as populations age and birth rates fall, logically, the number of older, isolated individuals will increase. Social robots could ride to the rescue. Regardless of their form—human, animal or machine—they could act as a companion, helper, nurse, shopper and more. In fact, at a recent university open day I witnessed just such a project.

Secondly, I can visualise a future where domestic micro manufacturing allows households to become productive assets for the benefit of families and the state. This will be based around additive manufacturing and cobots.

Thirdly, as more businesses confront their Scope 1 and 2 emissions targets, they will need to improve their productivity while simultaneously reducing their energy consumption. This will require the wholesale replacement of old, dumb, energy hungry automation with new generations of smart, efficient systems.

I could go on. These three examples are the tip of a coming automation iceberg, pushed along by diverse individual, local, national and global goals. My guess is that any distributor with a finger in the automation pie is looking at a rosy future.