Robots Scare Users Less

During the Automate 2013 show in Chicago, I ran into Pete Squires, vice president of Schneider Packaging Equipment in Brewerton, N.Y., at his company's booth. Pete and others at Schneider Packaging have regularly offered their thoughts and ideas in our articles on a variety of automation subjects over the years.

With robots being a topic of discussion both in the recent 60 Minutes piece, and Schneider exhibiting some of its robotic solutions, we talked a bit about the state of robotic projects, particularly for those companies making their first venture into the technology.

The fear factor about robotics is dropping a lot,” Pete said. “We’ll have more people telling us what they want done, and sometimes we’ll realize — and tell them — that a non-robotic solution would be less costly and do the job just as well. But they’ll say ‘No, no I want it to be robotic based.’ So, OK, we quote them a robotic system.”

Pete said that while his company prefers and uses Rockwell controls products — and in some cases, he won’t supply anything else—more potential customers are less concerned about his company’s choice of automation and are quite prepared to leave to them as to how to meet that customer’s performance requirements. “It’s much different than it was 10 years ago,” Pete observed. 

Recognizing that some users are much less internally capable regarding automation issues, Pete said, “I’ve always found it’s more important for them to find a good integrator you can trust than the pieces and parts you choose.” 

Joe Feeley is editor in chief for Control Design and Industrial Networking. Email him at or check out his Google+ profile.