International Confectionery sits down with Jeff Burnstein the President of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), to discuss the role of robotics in the confectionery sector
What is the background and history of the Association for Advancing Automation?
Our trade association was founded in 1974 as the Robot Institute of America (RIA). Over time, we added technology associations focused on machine vision, motion control & motors, and artificial intelligence, as well as A3 Mexico. Each association had its own name, identity, and membership structure. Members interested in more than one technology sector had to join multiple associations. In 2021 we created one association, the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), which now represents some 1100 member companies from around the world. Each member has access to all of these technology sectors.
How integral is the Association for Advancing Automation to the international confectionery sector?
Robots can do a variety of tasks such as picking, packing and palletising confectionery products like candy. Vision systems can inspect packages. Machine learning systems can improve the process. As labour shortages increase, automation is likely to play an even bigger role going forward.
What do you perceive as the most interesting or important industry trend occurring right now in the confectionery and automation sector?
The continued emergence of new technologies that are easier to use, faster, and more accurate are exciting to watch in this space. Smart gripping technology, collaborative and mobile robots, improved vision sensors – there’s so much innovation taking place that can help confectionary companies.
How does your association support its members?
Our mission is to educate companies in every industry on how they can successfully apply automation to solve their challenges. We have a great website, automate.org, that reaches over a million unique visitors per year, all looking for information about companies, standards, market trends, conferences, webinars, trade shows, videos and more. Our staff of 25 people is a valuable resource for potential users as well as members because we are an important link between them. Plus, there is lots of business that takes place between members such as partnerships between suppliers and system integrators, component companies, consultants and research organisations, and start-ups. A3 plays a key role in facilitating these relationships because of our large membership and global reach. We also advocate for the industry to government officials, regulatory bodies, the media, and the general public.
Does your association have any upcoming events or developments and how impactful will they be for your members and the industry?
Our most important event, Automate, is nearly upon us. More than 550 leading companies occupying 250,000 square feet will exhibit at Automate 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. Some 20,000 registrants are expected, it’s the largest robotics & automation trade show in North America.
Can you tell us more about the resources, training and certification programmes that you offer?
We do a wide variety of training on topics such as robot safety, since we have developed many standards in that area. We have certification programs for Robot and Machine Vision system integrator companies. We also do individual certification for machine vision professionals at the Basic and Advanced Level, as well as offer a Certified Motion Control Professional program. Many of our programs can be taught in person at conferences or on-site at a specific company. We also offer online training.
How do you see robotics and automation further shaping the confectionery market and confectionery production lines in the future
Every industry is being reshaped now by automation. This is a global phenomenon, and it’s in the early stages despite how much attention automation is currently receiving. The reality is that companies in the confectionery industry are just like everyone else, they need to take advantage of the best tools available to increase productivity, product quality, and time to market.
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