Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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Through the years: An evolution of an industry through the pages of Manufacturing AUTOMATION


September 16, 2011
By Mary Del


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For 25 years, Manufacturing AUTOMATION has been reporting on major trends and challenges in the industrial automation industry. Like the industry over the last quarter century, the magazine, too, has evolved – experiencing several redesigns and even name changes. We at MA opened the archives to share some of the highlights with you. Enjoy this walk down memory lane.

1986. When Manufacturing AUTOMATION was first launched in September 1986, it was called Automation Products & Technology (AP&T). Its aim was to help automate Canada’s manufacturing, processing and resources industries.

1987. Major themes in the January 1987 issue were programmable control, global competition and the concept of Just-in-Time – all remain hot topics today. Back in January 1987, these concepts and technologies were not new, but readers were just being introduced to the benefits of these concepts and technologies for their plants.

1990. In the September 1990 issue, Automation Products & Technology changed its name to Automation Systems. This issue also highlighted the results of a survey, which pointed to programmable controllers and computer numerical control equipment as having the most impact within the next five years. The survey results also revealed that training workers on advanced manufacturing technology, free trade, high interest rates and the high exchange rate against the U.S. dollar were the major challenges of the time.

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1993. In the January/February issue, the magazine was once again rebranded, this time with the name Manufacturing & Process AUTOMATION. Breaking news at this time included Lambton College opened a Centre for Advanced Process Technology, and Fanuc purchased General Motors’ 50 percent interest in GM-Fanuc Robotics and renamed the company Fanuc Robotics. Topics covered this year included how to develop a quality barcode; the movement of process and distributed control to open systems; robots using computer path generation to paint vehicles; RFID; and the ongoing PLC vs. industrial PC debate.

1997. The November/December 1997 issue is where we dropped “& Process” and simply became Manufacturing AUTOMATION. This is also the year we joined the worldwide web with the launch of our website – www.automationmag.com. Other highlights from this year included the use of digital cameras for inspecting defective products and assembly line problems – one source said “there’s no way” digital cameras will replace their film counterparts on the plant floor; preparing manufacturers for the “Millennium Bug”; Magna’s move from Markham to its headquarters in Aurora, Ont.; and companies race to be the first to develop flat-panel displays, in full colour, for industrial applications.

2000. The January/February 2000 issue marked the introduction of our annual Automation Education and Training Guide. Topics in this issue included Sheridan College’s new Advanced Manufacturing program; a new pre-apprenticeship program called “Manufacturing Technology for Women” launched out of the Centre for Skills Development & Training; and the proliferation of rapid prototyping programs. Other topics this year included RFID; three- and four-dimensional simulations; the importance of process network security; industry analyst Jim Pinto points out that the automation market is declining, and provides tips on how to address the challenge; and Dick Morley predicts that modelling and virtualization will be the biggest trends of the next decade.

2003. The March/April 2003 cover story, “Brew-Ha-Ha,” won MA its first Kenneth R. Wilson Award thanks to then-editor Alison Dunn’s profile of the Steam Whistle Brewery’s bottle inspection system. Other hot topics this year included the emergence of wireless sensor networks; nanotechnology named as a technology that will change our lives; and developing Ethernet to survive on the industrial shop floor.

2006. This was a year of firsts for Manufacturing AUTOMATION. The January/February 2006 issue marked the introduction of our popular “Top 5” feature, where we ask five experts to list the top five industrial automation technologies they think will make a difference in the coming year. The September 2006 issue introduced readers to our newly appointed editorial advisory board with our first-ever editorial advisory board roundtable meeting, which highlighted Canada’s productivity problem.

2009. The March/April 2009 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION is when Advanced Manufacturing, a former sister publication, became one with MA, expanding our reach from the shop floor to the top floor. From this point on, MA regularly covered Lean manufacturing, and ERP, PLM and CAD/CAM software. 2009 is also the year that manufacturers were hit with the global recession.

2011. This year marks Manufacturing AUTOMATION‘s 25th anniversary. Major news is that many manufacturers emerged from the recession with a solid first quarter. Highlights from this year – so far – include the launch of our Innovation through Automation series, the addition of green manufacturing and energy management to our editorial calendar – a clear trend in the industry – and MA‘s smaller footprint – something that many of our readers have been requesting for years. 

This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.