Machine Automation: The Future of the Past

Aug. 1, 2011
Next Year, We'll Celebrate Control Design's 15th Birthday, and We Will Look at What's Happened in the Machine Automation Space During Those 15 Years
By Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

I'll take a moment here to try to impress you with what appears to be diligent forward thinking and advanced planning.

Next year, we'll celebrate Control Design's 15th birthday, so we plan to spend some time looking at what's happened in the machine automation space during those 15 years.

What were you doing in 1997? It's pretty likely that it is not what many of you are doing today.
It was a period fraught with stressful change that included the great unknowns of impending Y2Katastrophe and two nasty recessions.

It's a period that saw the role of many industrial machine builders change from building a machine that did its thing, usually on its own, often with minimal automation, to evolve—or in some cases, morph almost overnight—into building more flexible, more productive, and more networked machines that are much more dependent on machine automation.

So as we begin to plan how we'll dial in the best focus on some of the biggest technology applications in machine automation since 1997, let's start by asking you. By whatever means you'd like—send an email, post to our Facebook page or Machine Builder Forum, tweet an idea, or be a retro-radical and call—tell us how the past 15 years of technology has changed your company's approach to machine and discrete manufacturing automation.

That's a for-better-or-worse proposition, too, because during those 15 years we've seen a few "can't miss" technology applications soar in early adopter use, only to flame out in wider practice.

Let us know what you'd like us to write about. Heck, you can write about it with us if you have the inclination.
Now, one thing you didn't have in 1997 was a smart phone, so you'd have had no use for the QR 2D bar codes you see in a few places in this issue. Quick response codes have embedded website URLs that a smart phone camera app can recognize and display in your phone's browser. They've been showing up more frequently in supplier ads and we're thinking it might be helpful to you to do a deeper, more useful dive into our content.

In fact, since it seems clear that more of you are using smart phones in your jobs, we'll be exploring how that's working out in future stories. So if you have some lessons learned or best practices centered around mobile devices, we want to know about them.

Finally, who's kidding whom? That "diligent forward thinking and advanced planning" bilge water that I opened with looks a little silly as the staff here careens tardily toward another impending deadline. I have a framed saying in my office that reads, "Today is a hell of a time to start worrying about tomorrow." I really wish I paid it more attention, more often.