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The robotics guru lists the next three industries to automate

The robotics guru lists the next three industries to automate

A software and robotic machine called mGripAI from Massachusetts-based Soft Robotics sorts artificial chicken cuts into trays for packaging at an Association for Advancing Automation automation conference in Detroit.

Michael Wayland/CNBC

DETROIT – The automotive and logistics industries are no strangers to robots.

They are among the most heavily invested in automation in the US economy, using robots to sort packages, move goods and help build vehicles.

However, other industries where robotics has not yet caught on could represent potential investment opportunities and areas of expansion for automation companies in the coming years.

These emerging areas intrigue Jeff Burnstein, automation industry guru and president of the Association for Advancing Automation. His trade group represents more than 1,000 global companies involved in robotics, vision, motion control, and motors and related technologies.

Burnstein, who recently received a prestigious award for more than 40 years in the industry, believes automation and robotics could be very helpful in doing the “boring, dirty, and dangerous work” that humans don’t necessarily want to do .

Jeff Burnstein (right center), President of the Association for Advancing Automation, after receiving a Joseph F. Engelberger Robotics Award for a career spanning more than 40 years in the industry.

Photo courtesy of Association for Advancing Automation

“If you look at what’s driving a lot of automation in many industries, it’s the lack of labor,” he said on the sidelines of an automation conference in Detroit last week.

Labor shortages, led by manufacturing, are the main drivers of automation growth, he said.

Here are three industries Burnstein predicts will be next for automation:


The agricultural industry is already testing or using various automated, if not autonomous, technologies to make operations more efficient and safer. It also serves to reduce costs

tractor manufacturer Deere & Co., for example, offers a range of automated assistance functions such as turning and guidance for crop row lines. According to its website, Deere is working on an autonomous tractor that “can see, think and work for itself, giving farmers time to do other tasks at the same time.”

Other automated farming technologies include drones that can spray pesticides over crops, remote-controlled tractors, automated harvesting systems, and other farming data and logistics apps.

The Deere 8R Autonomous Tractor


food processing

Harvesting and sorting chicken parts is exactly the kind of boring, messy, and dangerous work that automation could help with, says Burnstein.

At the automation convention, at least two companies showcased food sorting robots whose abilities included recognizing what types of cuts fit into a packaging tray.

Proponents point out that there are health and safety benefits in addition to efficiency benefits.

“The machine cannot sneeze. She can’t rub her face. She cannot cause hair to fall into anything. So she’s really safe. And the fewer hands they touch, the lower the risk of contracting disease,” said Anthony Romeo. a representative of Massachusetts based companies Cognex Corp. and Soft Robotics, one of the companies involved in sorting food and chicken parts, also attended the meeting.

Tyson Foods employees

Greg Smith | Corbis SABA | Getty Images

in 2021, Tyson Foods announced it will invest over $1.3 billion in new automation capabilities through 2024 to increase yields and reduce both labor costs and associated risks – ultimately delivering savings for the meat processor.

Tyson CEO Donnie King told investors last month that the company continues to “invest in automation and digital capabilities with opportunities to improve our returns.”

He said the company has 50 chicken deboning lines that are fully automated.

pilgrim prideone of the world’s largest chicken producers, has also announced significant investments in automation, including more than $100 million for 2021.


Automation in healthcare could make sense in a variety of cases – from transporting goods and personal medicines to a person’s bedside to cleaning and disinfecting tools.

“You can do that robotically,” Burnstein said. “If you’re having trouble finding people, this might be a good solution. There are all sorts of things and then of course drug discovery and other applications.”

A current notable company in this space is Aethon, a Pittsburgh-based robotics company that has made advances in healthcare with an autonomous mobile robot called TUG. According to the company’s website, the robots are capable of navigating through a hospital on their own.

According to the company, the TUG can be programmed to avoid obstacles and even operate elevators.

It’s an example of an AMR, or autonomous mobile robot: a type of vehicle that can perform various delivery tasks, which Burnstein describes as “hot to automate” at the moment.

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