This IDC Manufacturing Insights Perspective discusses the 20th annual Automation Fair, held in Chicago, Illinois, presented by Rockwell Automation, an industrial automation vendor headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There were over 12,000 attendees from various segments of the manufacturing industry and over 125 different vendors on the show floor.
The show kicked off with the usual "setting the stage" for growth in the economy — including how the middle class will expand (and hopefully buy more) and the increasing contribution of emerging market countries. Bill Strauss, senior economist and economic advisor for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, also spoke, specifically regarding how the manufacturing sector has recovered nearly half of its output loss since the peak of the recession in 2007. However, he went on to discuss that improved output does not mean an increase in jobs — unemployment still stands at 9% and will likely only improve to 7% by 2014. I think this sets the stage well for Rockwell Automation and other vendors in its partner network to help those manufacturers that are increasing their workload with the same number of or fewer workers — automation is key to making this happen.