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What Do The Bosses Think?

With the end of the decade in sight, and Vision 2018 just around the corner, editor Neil Martin thought it a good time to ask a select number of industry bosses some key questions about the sector in general


This is not so much about product, but about machine vision industry itself.

We chose seven questions which allowed for a look back, as well as a good look forward.

The questions were as follows:

  • if you could wish for one major development for the sector as we enter the last year of the decade, what would it be?
  • what will have been the single most important milestone over the last decade?
  • has the industry received the recognition it deserves from the wider business community, governments etc?
  • has the investment community supported the industry?
  • name one thing you might have hoped for in the industry that has yet to happen?
  • how do you feel about the future (for example, does the prospect of a slowing global economy worry you, or are you more concerned that technology can keep pace with growing demand)?
  • where did you hope your company will be, at the end of the next decade (2029)?

I didn’t ask a direct question about the current trade wars which are being waged around the globe, given that we are a bi-monthly magazine, and that everything might be wrapped up – either way, good, or bad, depending on your stance – by the time we publish.

But, the fact that the US, China, and indeed Europe, is in the midst of very serious trade negotiations, is obviously the very big elephant in the room for many companies. We shall have to wait and see how that pans out.

Who’s included?

  • Christof Zollitsch CEO, STEMMER IMAGING
  • Sam Lopez Director of Sales and Marketing, Matrox Imaging
  • Keith Reuben President, Teledyne Imaging: Smart Vision Solutions
  • Paul Wilson Chairman of UKIVA and CEO of Scorpion Vision
  • Arnaud Destruels European Marketing Manager, Image Sensor Solutions, Sony
  • Michael Beising CEO, EVT Eye Vision Technology
  • Dr Olaf Munkelt Managing Director, MVTec Software GmbH
  • Dr Albert Schmidt Managing Director, Vision Competence Center by Baumer
  • Hilary Briggs Managing Director, Gardasoft Vision & Jools Hudson Marketing Manager, Gardasoft Vision
  • Dr Andreas Franz, CEO, FRAMOS

The fact that the US, China, and indeed Europe, is in the midst of very serious trade negotiations, is obviously the very big elephant in the room for many companies


Christof Zollitsch, CEO, STEMMER IMAGING

Christof Zollitsch
CEO, STEMMER IMAGING

1. If you could wish for one major development for the sector?

A change and development of the mind-set. Too many sectors do not recognise the potential of the digital transformation of their processes

2. Single most important milestone over the last decade?

The acceptance that the digital transformation of industrial and non-industrial processes including industry 4.0 has gained acceptance and is now starting to be delivered

3. Has the industry received the recognition it deserves?

Only in the last few years. The rate of visibility of vision based digitalisation has become a common sight and is no longer seen as very specialized.

4. Has the investment community supported the industry?

Very much so. Three points highlight this. Firstly our own IPO last February was oversubscribed 2.5 times. Secondly, the increased number of M&A transactions in our sector confirms the significance of this market to the investment community and finally our peer group of public traded vision companies are all performing above market indices.

5. Name one thing you might have hoped for in the industry that has yet to happen?

The industry is developing well. is nothing substantial that we are waiting to happen. The move from each new technology development to mainstream revenue contribution continues to take longer than we would like. It would be nice to develop faster.

6. How do you feel about the future?

If there is a market slowdown, this puts pressure on improving efficiency, which drives the demand for automation. If the market booms again to keep up with production automation is needed. Therefore our belief is the machine vision industry will outperform the general economy.

7. Where do you hope your company will be, at the end of the next decade (2029)?

Remain as one of the leading machine vision technology suppliers with strong products and services expanding in to new geographical regions.


Keith Reuben, President, Teledyne Imaging: Smart Vision Solutions

Keith Reuben
President, Teledyne Imaging: Smart Vision Solutions

1. If you could wish for one major development for the sector?

I would hope that the current trade tensions around the world abate, and that we resolve the issue of tariffs. The largest world economies, which also happen to be the largest markets for machine vision products, are currently having trade issues. Today, this is the single biggest threat to growth of our industry which has had a great run so far in this decade.

2. Single most important milestone over the last decade?

Without a doubt, the most important milestone over the last decade has been the advances we’ve seen in CMOS image sensor technology. While the technology advancements have been significant, the net effect has made machine vision cameras more affordable. This, together with standards such as Gigabit Ethernet, has allowed easy connectivity, provided customers with many options, and has helped drive machine vision into non-industrial markets.

3. Has the industry received the recognition it deserves?

I do not believe so. Unfortunately, our own industry has not been successful in promoting and engaging governments on the importance of our technology. This is the reason machine vision is still viewed as a “technology” and not as a critical solution for quality manufacturing. Without machine vision, products we take for granted would not be affordable to consumers. Machine vision has been instrumental in improving yields in the semiconductor industry, which has had an impact on devices we use every day. As an example, mobile devices that have become ubiquitous for business and personal use, would not be affordable without machine vision.

4. Has the investment community supported the industry?

Though we are seeing more investment, it is not to the extent we are seeing in other industries. Our industry consists of many small companies. There needs to be consolidation in order to attract the investment community.

5. Name one thing you might have hoped for in the industry that has yet to happen?

Machine learning is on the cusp of being deployed in the industry. This will have a profound impact on the traditional methods of image analysis. Deep Learning will not only change the products we produce but also the way we interact with our customers. Our business models will change from one largely dependent on hardware products to one selling services. Customer relationships will be stronger and machine vision companies will become more involved in the success of their customers.

6. How do you feel about the future?

Our industry is not immune to the macroeconomic events that are taking place. The slowing of the global economy is a concern, and companies need to be flexible, responsive and ready to make strategic changes when the need arises. For Teledyne Digital Imaging, we address many markets; from machine vision to medical imaging, to aerospace and defence. We use machine vision technology across our different groups. This is one way to mitigate or reduce the impact of any global slowdown in the industrial markets.

7. Where do you hope your company will be, at the end of the next decade (2029)?

Teledyne has a large portfolio of technologies from sensors (not only vision but also motion, acceleration, pressure etc.) to software solutions. Our parent company, Teledyne Technologies is a conglomerate of more than 60 companies, and we have access to all of this for the development of new products, I believe we will continue to grow as a successful industrial solutions company providing services to many industries.


Dr Olaf Munkelt, Managing Director, MVTec Software GmbH

Dr Olaf Munkelt
Managing Director, MVTec Software GmbH

1. If you could wish for one major development for the sector?

The recognition of embedded vision as a major path to grow the business. This includes addressing new markets as well as developing the classical PC-based machine vision business further. We do believe that embedded vision has a great future ahead thus we already make sure today that our products HALCON and MERLIC both can easily be integrated in embedded vision systems.

2. Single most important milestone over the last decade?

That would be the Industrial Internet of Things, aka “Industry 4.0”, and the corresponding automation of more and more elements within the production process. Machine vision as “eye of the production” is a crucial part of this automation, since the trend towards the digital factory fuels the need for quality data and process knowledge, and machine vision can deliver the necessary input.

3. Has the industry received the recognition it deserves?

The automation industry has received a lot of recognition in the past years thanks to, e.g., artificial intelligence and machine learning. These hot topics pose questions such as how work will change in our production process, what we have to learn in order to secure our jobs, etc. So, yes, the recognition is there.

4. Has the investment community supported the industry?

Machine vision as part of the automation industry has delivered above the average growth rates in the past years compared to other industries. So, there is a high interest from the investment community to participate in this growth. Recent M+A activities prove this, and it is fair to say that such activities will continue.

5. Name one thing you might have hoped for in the industry that has yet to happen?

As we are a provider of standard software products for machine vision, we see a clear demand for both the automatic interpretation of images and the ease-of-use of the software. The first has been addressed by deep learning in the past years and it is obvious now that successful machine vision systems still need a combination of deep-learning and rule-based programming. Ease-of-use is key to achieve a better acceptance of machine vision. The right combination of automatic interpretation of images and ease-of-use is an utmost important topic, which we are working on at MVTec for both HALCON and MERLIC

6. How do you feel about the future?

We can only shape the future, we cannot change the past. In general, I feel positive about things I can change. And these are many: the future in our industry still demands the automation of processes either inside or outside the factory floor. As vision is an integral part of many automation processes we at MVTec see prosperous years ahead of us.

7. Where do you hope your company will be, at the end of the next decade (2029)?

We want to remain and further strengthen our position as technology leader in machine vision. Furthermore, with our products HALCON and MERLIC, we strive to remain the number one provider of standard software for machine vision (incl. embedded vision).


Machine vision as part of the automation industry has delivered above the average growth rates in the past years compared to other industries. So, there is a high interest from the investment community to participate in this growth.


Arnaud Destruels, European Marketing Manager, Image Sensor Solutions, Sony

Arnaud Destruels
European Marketing
Manager, Image Sensor
Solutions, Sony

1. If you could wish for one major development for the sector?

Machine vision has to provide the simplest image solution (grabbing and processing have to be more integrated). It means that hardware and software have to be improved to be more convenient for the end customer – so compactness, high resolution imaging in different light conditions or adapted/appropriated output.

2. Single most important milestone over the last decade?

Without any doubt, the switch from analogue to digital technology.

3. Has the industry received the recognition it deserves?

Not at the level that I expected, and of course it depends on each country (France’s situation is different to Germany or the UK or Russia), now the things are changing step by step and really in a positive direction.

4. Has the investment community supported the industry?

More and more. Because they know where the growth in the future is coming (industrie 4.0 or IoT). These domains are a kind of gold mine for newcomers (startup or big companies) or historical players as well, because AI will drive the world and the images are like the fuel of AI.

5. Name one thing you might have hoped for in the industry that has yet to happen?

Wireless industrial cameras (battery-powered and networked for image output)

6. How do you feel about the future?

I have no fears concerning the future. Industrial cameras are in ever greater demand in the modern world (production/ life style). The global economy need this engine, now the maturity of machine vision technology is key for a quick adoption. The unique doubt that I have is how long it will take to be fully deployed in the new world.

7. Where do you hope your company will be, at the end of the next decade (2029)?

Still the reference and the leader of MV technology innovation (hardware / software for use cases such as robotics or IoT).


Sam Lopez, Director of Sales and Marketing, Matrox Imaging

Sam Lopez
Director of Sales and Marketing, Matrox Imaging

1. If you could wish for one major development for the sector?

Our major wish would be to achieve greater global cohesion on the standards governing the industry. The current multitude of standards-from camera interfaces to robot communication to industrial protocols-has led to tremendous market fragmentation. These technology silos may protect their founders but cause wasteful duplication of efforts for those serving these different technology ecosystems. We hope for the day when industry, and in particular, leading hardware/software manufacturers, can come together and establish global unified standards to help defragment the market and further drive growth in the automation sector. Moreover, greater uniformity of standards would provide less industrialized nations with more affordable access to the automation technology used by developed countries; in this way, developing countries could bolster their growth and advancement through greater access to developments in automation. Improved consumer spending will help drive greater demand for manufacturing, which is a huge boon to the sector!

2. Single most important milestone over the last decade?

This past decade has seen major shifts that have reshaped the face of the machine vision sector. Deep learning and its use of artificial neural networks to imitate the way the human brain works for recognition and decision-making has been a significant change that we are only just beginning to see unfold. Increasing automation and digitization is driving the development of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which is transforming the way industries work. 3D vision was another huge disrupter to the market. Growing automation across industry verticals-particularly automotive and consumer electronics sectors-plus advancements in 3D machine-vision technologies, such as cameras and various imaging tools, have dramatically broadened the scope of 3D machine vision in both industrial and non-industrial sectors.

3. Has the industry received the recognition it deserves?

Automation-especially robot-guided automation-has received a lot of attention from the business and government sectors, though not all of it positive. Indeed, there has been considerable negative press focused on how increased automation will contribute to job loss. The truth is, increasingly intelligent technology is helping to replace the demand for low-skill occupations, those that individuals are less interested in doing. Automation will continue to boost the economy as new jobs emerge and existing roles are redefined. Increased automation will naturally propel us towards greater efficiency that, in turn, will drive economic growth, which is surely a boon for the wider business community and governments.

6. How do you feel about the future?

A slowing global economy is a far greater concern than whether technology will be able to keep pace with growing demand. Over the past decade, and even going back further, technology has met and surpassed expectations. Even popular concepts-like smartphones, digital assistants, or autonomous vehicles, concepts that would have once seemed out-of-place beyond the science-fiction realm-are now actual, tangible features of our everyday world. This is not to say that “the future is here”, full stop, but we suspect that technology has far outpaced individuals; it is people and governments that will need to leverage knowledge in policy-making processes and improve the quality of government decisions to keep pace with the change.

7. Where do you hope your company will be, at the end of the next decade (2029)?

Our aim is for Matrox Imaging to remain-and continue to excel-as an industry leader as we enter a new decade. We hope our company helps propel industry growth in terms of fostering social responsibility, economic viability, and environmental awareness within the machine vision sector.


Dr Andreas Franz, CEO, FRAMOS

1. If you could wish for one major development for the sector?

Not to be too dependent on developments in the consumer sector on the technology sector; Joint investments in technology and markets (e.g. own Hardware like Sensors, jointly Co invested)

2. Single most important milestone over the last decade?

Significant price decrease esp. in camera technology that pushed massive market growth / usage.

3. Has the industry received the recognition it deserves?

As a supplier for backbone technologies for different applications this industry was a “hidden champion” overall

4. Has the investment community supported the industry?

Recently they come more and more into the market. So far players were quite small for this industry, but this is now changing.

5. Name one thing you might have hoped for in the industry that has yet to happen?

Move of industry into embedded vision. This is a game changer to drive the industry by machines that see and think, it really pushes the industry to be part of new devices in nearly all markets.

6. How do you feel about the future?

Imaging technology is still expanding in new devices and applications. Global trends support all usage of imaging so I see no downside.

7. Where do you hope your company will be, at the end of the next decade (2029)?

That we are the company known in the world for enabling machines to see.


Paul Wilson, Chairman of UKIVA and CEO of Scorpion Vision

Paul Wilson
Chairman of UKIVA and
CEO of Scorpion Vision

1. If you could wish for one major development for the sector?

I think this is a development of resources and skills rather than a technological development. Without this, our industry will suffer.

2. Single most important milestone over the last decade?

The development of GigE Vision and its universal acceptance.

3. Has the industry received the recognition it deserves?

I don’t think so. People don’t really appreciate the value of machine vision and what it is capable of.

5. Name one thing you might have hoped for in the industry that has yet to happen?

Better standards and aligned training and education.

6. How do you feel about the future?

I am excited about the future for the machine vision industry. There is much wider awareness of MV than there was 10 years ago and it plays a more central role in many automation systems. Growth can only go in one direction and that is up. I think technology will keep pace with growing demand but there will be a shortage of skilled engineers within our industry.

7. Where do you hope your company will be, at the end of the next decade (2029)?

Scorpion Vision will be a world leader in 3D robot vision. UKIVA will evolve to become a professional standards organisation, promoting training and guiding policy for the UK machine vision industry.


Dr Albert Schmidt, Managing Director, Vision Competence Center by Baumer

Dr Albert Schmidt
Managing Director,
Vision Competence
Center by Baumer

1. If you could wish for one major development for the sector?

Whatever it is – Let us not wish, let us work to make it happen. On our own and together with partners. But if you press for ONE topic: then I would say we should push our standardization for IoT/Industry 4.0. We all, but especially the customers will benefit from this.

2. Single most important milestone over the last decade?

For machine vision components it was certainly the change from CCD to CMOS imaging sensors. If you are looking for a single date as a symbol, it was the day Sony decided to stop manufacturing CCDs. For machine vision overall it was the rise of 3D. I would consciously not yet list Deep Learning. That will be for the next decade to decide.

3. Has the industry received the recognition it deserves?

If one is in our business for the recognition, then one is probably in the wrong place. Our industries products and services are in growing demand to meet the need for automation, IoT/Industry 4.0 and now also artificial intelligence. Let us be proud and content with this form of recognition.

4. Has the investment community supported the industry?

Even with the abundance of investment capital, the investors still have a choice. The last years have shown that there is a lot of willingness to invest in our industry. The stock prices for the public companies show a steady development and the few IPOs are successful. The very big deals are missing, but this is mainly due to the structure of our industry.

5. Name one thing you might have hoped for in the industry that has yet to happen?

From the user’s point of view, the optical side of machine vision. The illumination, its interaction with the objects to be inspected and the lenses are often difficult to grasp. Apparently small changes have a decisive influence on the systems performance. This is a large field for improvements.

6. How do you feel about the future?

There are always business cycles, protectionism on different scales, new technologies, new entrants into the business – you name it. As long as we accept that changes take place and keep adapting to them, we are in good shape. As for keeping pace with the growing demand: If there is demand, then human imagination will find ways and means to meet it.

7. Where do you hope your company will be, at the end of the next decade (2029)?

We intend to be still one of the leader for high-quality machine vision to shape the market. With a lot of new products and services based on the customer needs and on knowledge acquired and developed along the way with our highly qualified people.


“Hilary Briggs, Managing Director and Jools Hudson, Marketing Manager, Gardasoft Vision

Hilary Briggs
Managing Director, Gardasoft Vision

1. If you could wish for one major development for the sector?

Gardasoft will continue to innovate and move into new applications for our advanced control capabilities. We are particularly excited by the new Open Lens Communication Standards being produced by EMVA which will enable many lens parameters to be controlled via GenIcam. Gardasoft is adding products such as embedded lens control to our portfolio to support the demand for increasing integration of machine vision systems. (Jools Hudson)

2. Single most important milestone over the last decade?

One of the most important milestones has been the enhancement of image processing capabilities. This has led to major opportunities for miniaturisation and embedded imaging applications which has opened up new market opportunities for Gardasoft. In particular, we are developing many new applications of embedded light and lens control. (Hilary Briggs)

3. Has the industry received the recognition it deserves?

Innovations such as driverless vehicles have led to automated imaging capabilities becoming much more widely understood and designed into an ever-broader range of applications. This is supported by news from the AIA that sales in North America have grown by 19% in the first quarter of 2018. (Hilary Briggs)

4. Has the investment community supported the industry?

Very large players such as Google and Tesla have entered the industry with enormous amounts of investment in their specific fields. This has generated a lot of excitement about Machine Vision technology which is sure to encourage further investment. (Hilary Briggs)

5. Name one thing you might have hoped for in the industry that has yet to happen?

A broader understanding of the importance of accurate light control would benefit many modern machine vision implementations. Lighting is critical to ensuring that machine vision data is both reliable and repeatable and all sorts of factors can degrade the quality of the measurements if lighting is not wellcontrolled. For example, interference from ambient light or aging lighting can cause measurements to be unreliable. It would save a lot of time and effort if it became more widely understood that quality lighting control can help avoid many common issues. (Jools Hudson)

Jools Hudson
Marketing Manager, Gardasoft Vision

6. How do you feel about the future?

The future looks very encouraging. The market is growing strongly, driven not only by improvements in the technology but also the need for more automation in many sectors of the economy. The challenge is ensuring a good supply of skilled engineers to continue our drive for innovation and growth. Gardasoft has an apprentice programme in conjunction with the local technical college and provides student placements to help with this. (Hilary Briggs)

7. Where do you hope your company will be, at the end of the next decade (2029)?

The need for enhanced connectivity between vision components and control systems has never been greater and the adoption of connectivity standards has the power to transform our industry. I am very excited by the new GenIcam Harvester project that is being developed with the backing of EMVA. I predict that this open-source image-acquisition library will bring machine vision capability to a huge range of new applications and allow full integration of hardware without the past handicap of proprietary protocols and applications. (Jools Hudson)


Michael Beising, CEO, EVT Eye Vision Technology

Michael Beising
CEO, EVT Eye Vision
Technology

1. If you could wish for one major development for the sector?

More and cheaper Sensors in the Thermal but also Multispectral Area. This is one major problem which hinders us in generating more solutions in a wide range of application. Fast DeepLearning Chips which enables also to realize real time image understanding based on DL or ML.

2. Single most important milestone over the last decade?

The ability to use DL and ML in machine vision solutions, first based on NVidea Chips and later based on the Intel Myriad.

3. Has the industry received the recognition it deserves?

Of course not, this is one reason, why we still find new markets where machine vision is widely not known.

4. Has the investment community supported the industry?

There are some which work in this area, but mostly not with the small companies, they don’t see the big markets – so the investment is not so valuable for them as investing in end customer developments.

5. Name one thing you might have hoped for in the industry that has yet to happen?

Cheaper Sensors for the non standard spectrums – like Thermal or Multispectral

6. How do you feel about the future?

The technology can keep pace, there are also many new options which would allow to speed up.

7. Where do you hope your company will be, at the end of the next decade (2029)?

Massively growing to a large company, the market is there.


Marc DAMHAUT Chief Executive Officer, Euresys

The most significant change in the industry is that we now see a renewed interested from the investment community. Not only is machine vision recognized as a major technology that will enable Industry 4.0, but all developments, products and technologies related to computer vision in general are now expected to generate significant returns and are valued at a higher price.

We also see a lot of applications coming from non-manufacturing industries. It is challenging (and also very exciting) to position ourselves in this new ecosystem.


FINAL WORD

So what can we take from these varied and insightful comments? Generally, the mood is upbeat, and the consensus is that the machine vision sector, despite what world events might throw at it, is set for a profitable future. There is also the feeling that investors are generally more interested in the sector, which bodes well for those companies which are considering external funding, IPOs, or trade sales.

The introduction of new technologies is a must, as is the need for common standards and education.

It also comes across that the sector has not always achieved the recognition it deserves from wider industry, but this is undoubtedly set to change.

One year from now, we’ll gauge opinion from leading bosses again, just to see what has changed over the year.

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