It’s all about efficiency: automation hot topics for the remainder of this year and into Q1 2024

Important Automation Trends Worthy of Your Attention

A robot cell engineered by FPE Automation’s Handshake Solutions division.

By Sandia Harrison, Director of Marketing, FPE Automation

Just a short time ago, it was hard to imagine being in the midst of an automation revolution. Yet here we are. It’s an exciting time to be in manufacturing! Still, as summer winds down, and we approach the fourth quarter of 2023 and start thinking about (wow!) 2024, it’s time for a quick recalibration. Things are moving fast. Let’s slow down for just a moment to focus on the pulse and trajectory of automation in the months to come. 

Staying on Track

Industrial automation trends for the 4th quarter of 2023 are driven by innovative technologies that enhance efficiency, productivity, and safety in various industrial sectors. These trends encompass a range of advancements, each playing a vital role in shaping the landscape of automation.

It’s important to keep our eye on the prize. It really is all about efficiency and the bottom line. We know we need to automate. Let’s make sure we’re smart about it. 

Here are some key trends to watch – and some to move away from.

Moving Toward: Increased Leveraging of Collaborative Robots

Collaborative robots, or cobots, continue to dominate the industrial automation scene. Universal Robots work alongside humans, offering benefits such as flexibility, safety, cost-effectiveness, improved productivity, and ease of use. Equipped with advanced sensors and software, cobots can detect human presence, movement, and touch. This capability ensures their safe interaction with human coworkers, making them an invaluable asset in many industries.

A Universal Robots collaborative robot with a Robotiq gripper operates alongside humans in a Haas CNC environment.

Here are just a few of the vertical markets where cobots are making a significant difference in companies’ bottom lines:

  • packaging automation
  • pick and place
  • welding and fastening
  • sanding and grinding
  • deburring, cutting, trimming
  • CNC and machine tending
  • material handling
  • finishing
  • dispensing

Moving Away From: Dependence on Legacy Systems

Relying on outdated legacy systems can limit flexibility, scalability, and integration capabilities. Manufacturers can greatly benefit from transitioning to modern solutions that offer greater agility, accessibility, and scalability for their operations.

Moving Toward: Vision Systems

Vision systems are another significant trend in industrial automation for 2023-24. These systems utilize cameras, sensors, and algorithmic software to inspect and analyze parts and products in real time. Vision systems, like those made by Zebra Technologies enhance quality control and eliminate human error, as they can inspect products faster and with greater accuracy. They can be seamlessly integrated at various points along the production line, providing valuable insights into the manufacturing process.

A vision system engineered with technology from Zebra performs accurate detection at a much faster rate than the human eye.

Simply put, now and into the future, vision will be used wherever quality matters. You might be thinking, “quality matters everywhere”, and of course, you would be correct. While it would be impossible to include them all, here’s a partial list of industries where vision gained traction this year and where we expect the trend to continue in 2024:

  • electronics manufacturing
  • food and beverage
  • automotive
  • pharmaceuticals
  • aerospace
  • consumer goods
  • metal and machinery
  • textile and apparel
  • plastics and rubber

Moving Away From: Manual Processes

Comparatively, manual labor is unsafe, unreliable, and inefficient. There has been a long-term trend moving away from obsolete practices such as these.

Traditional manual processes can cause errors, slow down operations, and hinder real-time decision-making. In order to stay competitive, manufacturers need to find ways to embrace automation to enhance accuracy, efficiency, and productivity. However, one size does not fit all. Intelligent automation is key.

Moving Toward: Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

AMRs have continued to emerge as a major automation trend in 2023. Robot carts, equipped with sensors and advanced computing capabilities, navigate industrial spaces autonomously. Unlike Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), AMRs offer greater flexibility and adaptability, moving in any direction and adjusting their behavior based on real-time analysis of their environment. Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) are becoming a popular choice for optimizing efficiency in manufacturing and packaging processes.

Autonomous mobile robot carts are quickly transforming internal logistics of all types. They are collaborative, so they co-exist seamlessly with human workers.

These are a few key areas where AMRs continue to quickly gain popularity due to their effectiveness:

  • distribution centers and order fulfillment
  • warehouses
  • cleaning and disinfection
  • hospitals and healthcare facilities
  • manufacturing
  • safer internal transport of heavy loads
  • loading/unloading

Moving Away From: Dated Approaches to Maintenance Planning

Failing to implement proactive maintenance practices and relying on reactive maintenance can lead to increased downtime and higher maintenance costs. This is a key area where directors, owners, and managers should take note. It is to your benefit to empower your maintenance managers. Encourage them to shift towards predictive and preventive maintenance strategies, leveraging the latest technology to optimize equipment performance and minimize disruptions – before they happen. 

Moving Toward: Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0, often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, emphasizes the integration of technologies like AI, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics. These technologies work together to increase productivity, monitoring capabilities, and flexibility in production facilities. Real-time data monitoring and communication, enabled by interconnectivity, are at the core of Industry 4.0, empowering industries to make informed decisions and respond to market changes promptly. Experts like those in FPE Automation’s Handshake Solutions division are able to combine these technologies to create turnkey systems or intelligent robot cells to help companies leverage the technology. 

Traceability in pharmaceutical manufacturing is one area in which vision systems have become popular.

A “robot cell” or “turnkey solution” in manufacturing refers to an automatic work cell that incorporates one or more programmable robots along with grippers, tooling, programming and other automation. Both collaborative robots (Universal Robots) and traditional industrial robots (Epson, Kawasaki) can be used, depending on the application. By addressing a single production need with an all-encompassing, start-to-finish approach, they enhance the production process overall by maximizing efficiency, speed, and repeatability of product quality. The result is a highly advanced and integrated solution designed to optimize specific manufacturing tasks and operations. 

There are many benefits. 


  • Replaces expensive labor
  • Works quickly, boosts production
  • Economical, when compared to separate equipment or manual labor

Improved Production Rate:

  • rapid and repeatable tasks
  • higher-quality products, more consistent quality
  • satisfies customers, increases revenue

Reduced Downtime:

  • continuous workflow
  • quick application changes
  • minimizes production losses

All-in-One/Turnkey Solutions:

  • customized automation
  • made for your specific manufacturing process
  • simplifies automation needs

Moving Away From: Obsolete Equipment and Parts

Continuing to use obsolete equipment and components can result in higher maintenance expenses, longer downtime, and decreased productivity. Manufacturers should invest in modernizing their equipment, utilizing predictive analytics to identify and replace aging components before they fail.

Moving Toward: 3D and 4D Vision Technology for Robotic Automation

The convergence of machine learning and automation brings unprecedented control over operations. Machine learning applications are groundbreaking. Companies like Apera AI and Mech-mind are advancing robotic automation through the development and implementation of cutting-edge vision technology. They both contribute to making enable robots to perform tasks with human-like speed, sight, and perception, giving them ever-increasing precision and intelligence.

4D bin picking, once considered the “holy grail” of robotics, is now a solid cornerstone of many applications.

The latest innovations have been groundbreaking in areas such as:

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  • bin picking
  • packaging
  • assembly
  • part sorting
  • machine tending
  • kitting
  • palletizing/de-palletizing
  • inline measurement

What You Do is What We Do

These automation trends showcase the continuous evolution of industrial processes, driven by technological advancements that enhance efficiency, accuracy, and safety across various sectors. As businesses embrace these trends, they position themselves to stay competitive and adapt to the changing landscape of industrial automation. At FPE Automation, whatever it is that you need to accomplish, it’s our job to help you achieve your automation goals. 

FPE Automation is celebrating its 60th anniversary; 1963-2023. Imagine how much industrial automation has changed over the past six decades! 

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