A Gift to Our Industry from Don Vincent: A Strong and Growing Association

June 29, 2007

By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR 

How many people get to be with a company for more than 30 years, run it for more than 20, hold it together as staff comes and goes and business ebbs and flows, plus travel the world making new friends, saying goodbye to others who are called to another place, and in the end retire at the top of their game? Don Vincent is one person I know who can claim this feat.

Today, at a young and vibrant age of 65, Don retires.

He has given us a wonderful gift after all these years: a strong business with a bright future. He has made so many good decisions and done so many nice things for us and others, that his spirit and legacy will always be at the core of our Association, and we are so much the better for that.

Our little Association staff will have a quiet, low key farewell lunch with Don and his wife, Kelley, and his daughter Amy, today. His family has been just as important to us as Don has. Kelley has been at Don’s side every step of the way, and she often shares funny little stories with us (sometimes at Don’s expense). Of course, none of us will forget how Kelley wraps beautiful presents in giant, glorious, handmade bows (the highlight of our holiday party in December is choosing from her creations – all of us save the bows!).

Don isn’t done in the industry. He has been invited to functions by our members, and has been appointed to bestow the Joseph F. Engelberger Awards each year if Joe himself cannot travel. He may be involved in other ways, too. He has said he hopes to have a working retirement.

I can’t speak for others, but everyone on the staff has made it known how much they love and honor Don. Most of us have been with him for years. He has helped me grow personally and professionally for more than 10 years, and I’ve seen him invest time and energy into others on staff all throughout that stretch.

Today, we celebrate Don’s retirement. If you are reading this, keep him in mind. I’m sure he’d love to hear from friends and colleagues. Happy retirement, Don!


Show Packed with Demands and Fun

June 15, 2007

By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR (RIA) 

Every day of the International Robots & Vision Show was packed with demands and responsibilities, and with only 10 or so of us onsite from the Association for probably 5,000 attendees plus exhibitors, I am afraid I wasn’t able to keep a running diary on this blog. We had a fun time, though, and thank you to everyone who visited, exhibited, spoke and checked in with us. (And if you are reading this, thank you for taking a moment online!)

We won’t have final numbers from the Show for a while, but all signs point toward the best turnout in perhaps a decade. We’ll know better after any duplicates and non-standard records are eliminated from the data, but we can tell that in the first two days the results are up 35% over the same initial data two years ago, which is the last time we held the Show. Conference turnout is up even more, with more than 450 classroom attendees over the four days of sessions.

Our big Gala Dinner was Wednesday, with at least 250 VIPs on hand to celebrate winners of the prestigious Joseph F. Engelberger and Robots & Vision User Recognition Awards. We also had a celebration for Donald A. Vincent, Executive Vice President of Robotic Industries Association, who retires at the end of June.

The Board of Directors and Don’s long-time right-hand man, Jeff Burnstein, paid tribute to our leader, and his whole family was there to mark the occaision. Even Joseph F. Engelberger, who is in his 80’s and unable to travel like he once did, found a way to be there by video. If you haven’t heard, Don has been selected to take over in bestowing the Engelberger awards when Mr. Engelberger himself cannot make it, so the bridge remains strong between the first years of the industry and the latest developments.

It is my honor to be a small part of the record, and I’m sure Jeff and others in the industry will elaborate. This is just a quick recap, and there was so much that happened, I hope to blog about many other things that happened. (For instance, this Show led to my first-ever experience riding a Segway, and the same can be said for many others who were there, plus we had fun with a racetrack near the booth, and the list goes on.)

A new era is opening up for the Association, and it will only get more interesting from here. See you next time!

Android Twin Comes to Life on the Night Before the Show

June 11, 2007

By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR (RIA) 

Just before stepping up to the keyboard at the Cyber Cafe at the International Robots & Vision Show, I walked past the android “Twin” sitting in a chair at the Xi’an Superman booth. It’s night, and the place is pretty empty, so as you might imagine that adds a surreal quality to the experience.

What you don’t know is how realistic the Twin is. I’ve seen pictures, and maybe you’ve seen them, too, but that is not at all like the actual experience. As I leaned in to check out the whiskers on its face and in its ears, the mole on its forehead and all the other details, I was amazed by the detail (like a figure at Madame Trousseau’s Wax Museum).

Apparently the union guys that unpacked the crate were not quite prepared for what was inside, which (I’m told) led to a funny little incident.

So, tonight the hall is empty and it is fun to let your imagination wander, but tomorrow it will be full and exciting, and the reality of “what can be” is just amazing. 

This is probably the best robot show I’ve been to yet given all the new technology. Each time we do this Show that has been true in one way or another, but now there are two armed industrial robots that have a distinct resemblance to a torso. Machine vision allows industrial robots to be more interactive with the environment. Huge robots more than a story tall can lift whole cars, and small robots are grabbing candy and bolts from random positions. It’s all here, and I am very lucky to see it from the inside. 

Chicago Fox News in the Morning is going to be here in the morning to get footage of the different service robots and industrial arms, so you might get a chance to see that on TV. Other media teams are expected, too, so coverage will be pretty good locally. Maybe nationally if we’re lucky. 

Meanwhile, I am having a terrific time. In fact, as I was typing, Mr. Zou and his daughter, Becco, walked in and I was introduced to the Twin’s creator live and in person. It felt amazing to stand there with him, and even though he doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Chinese, it was a very warm and genuine moment. I’ll tell this story many times in my life, I am quite sure.  

I’ll try to keep you posted on the Show, so stay tuned to this blog. I’ll be at booth 1771, so look me up and let me know if you saw this little posting online. Or leave a message below. Either way, in the words of the rock group, Saliva: Ladies and Gentlemen … welcome to the show! (I hope you can be here – it’s going to be great!)

Exciting Secrets and Good Times at Robots & Vision Show

June 8, 2007

We can’t wait to see everyone at the International Robots & Vision Show. I’ve never seen quite so much excitement built into this event, and soon we’ll be in the middle of a whirlwind of activity with lots of exhibitors, a good crowd and plenty of action.

Our biggest and worst kept secret is that Don Vincent, who has been Executive Vice President of RIA since 1983 (and helped found it in 1974) will be honored at the Gala Awards Dinner on Wednesday. He retires at the end of the month, so you can imagine how huge this is for all of us. But unless you go and see for yourself, you’ll have to wait for me to blog about everything that happens. (You can still get tickets online or at the Show.)

One thing that is not a secret is how this Show pulls together friends and business associates who, like Don, are great sources of knowledge and expertise about technology that has been around for only a few decades. (We often tag the launch of the industry to 1961 when Joseph F. Engelberger sold the first industrial robot to General Motors.)

This is a tight industry, and if you use the Association you will meet some of the most interesting and amazing people. Events like this Show and our many regional events are incredibly valuable networking opportunities where you make friends, learn about new technology and discover new ways to make it work for you. In fact, as a token of our appreciation for your time at the Show, we have some great membership offers for first-timers (full details are at our booth – 1771).

It’s great if you can come see us, and sometimes I have the good fortune of seeing RIA members with little trips to their facilities. I just found this picture from February 29 when I went across Michigan to visit Dane Systems, an RIA member for eight years. It was 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the snow was piling up near Lake Michigan when I stopped there. I got to see first hand several systems they had going – they do such a great job of making small enclosures packed with equipment, I was really impressed! Dane has served the automotive market for years, and says they have seen more and more demand for robots over the last two years. Be sure to see them at booth 2014 in the Robotics Integrator Pavilion, where they might treat you to lunch or you could win an iPod (click here to see their special offer to Show attendees).

On that same snowy trip in January, I saw Dick Hewitt at Hammond Machinery, who along with Skip Erlbacher of Pushcorp and John Barry of 3M, are helping to plan the Robotic Grinding, Deburring & Finishing Workshop which is September 17-19, 2007, in Minneapolis, MN. If you are interested in this event, please see me at booth 1771.

Our National Robot Safety Conference is gearing up for October 1-4 in Indianapolis, Indiana, so if your are interested in that event, stop by and talk with me or Jim Adams in booth 1771, or see Jeff Fryman at Robot Safety booth 1854.

For association news on motion control and machine vision, look for Dana Whalls either at booth 1771 or in the Motion Control Pavilion.

You can do a lot of business at the International Robots & Vision Show, and you can have a lot of fun, too. It’s worth it to make connections with experts and people that can help your business and your career. I know the Association staff is excited to be there for you and for all the big milestones this Show represents. This Show is only every two years, so please come if you can!

International Robots & Vision Show Segways Into New Era

June 5, 2007

by Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, RIA 

blog-segway-picture.jpgIf you haven’t heard yet, the Keys to Success Sweepstakes Grand Prize is a Segway at the International Robots & Vision Show. We’ll even cover the first $500 in shipping – that’s practically to the moon. You can win other prizes, too, including some “nitro” gas powered RC Cars, a TomTom ONE GPS navigational unit for your car or bike, and even a Guitar Hero / Playstation 2 game pack (includes the Playstation).

We’ve got games and more prizes, and the Show will be a pretty fun place to be, plus the exhibitors are getting into it. Some are doing hands-on demonstrations for the Hands-On Highway, and others are announcing new products, and they all are bringing out their best stuff. Robots and vision products are absolutely amazing these days.

What you see at this Show is approaching the cool factor you hear about at the Consumer Electronics Show. We even have a hard charging act out of Asia, where a robot “Twin” will make his big debut outside of China. ABC in Chicago wanted to do an in-studio interview with our new friend, Mr. Zou and his android double, but the pair are landing in the U.S. barely in time for the Show after a long struggle for a visa.

Meanwhile, everyone at the office is going full bore to get ready for this Show and Conference. Dana Whalls is heading up the Conference and arranging onsite details. Jim Adams is coordinating a Career Center jobs board for our booth and generating important PR – plus he got us the cool NASCAR track with remote control cars. Sarah Le Couffe is handling everything for registration and loose ends all over the place for the Show and Conference.

Here’s a little tidbit few others know: Saroj Motwani, our Member Services Administrator, is expecting her first baby on June 24 and is not going to the Show. We probably should have tried to sell a sponsorship for that. (Tune in later when we all find out her baby’s name and preference for pink or blue.)

There are so many unsung heroes at work to make this Show and Conference a success. Arika Iles handles millions of details and is pulling together a terrific bookstore where you can visit her. Sharon Adams, who remembers more Shows than most of us, makes sure all the bills get paid and will step in for Saroj when the time comes.

Jeff and Don, who have guided the Association for years, are masters of the big picture, and will paint a new scene at the end of June that has Don riding off into the sunset while Jeff gathers up the reins and takes us to new destinations.

Whatever course we chart, you’ll hear about it on the ‘Net, and that wouldn’t be possible without Carrie Warolin and Suzanne Worsham, our Webmasters and designers of all things online (and sometimes in print).

As for me, I send out a lot of messages and get a chance to work with a lot of truly good and remarkable people in the industry as I take care of marketing and PR issues for the Show.

When I started with RIA more than 10 years ago, one of the first things I learned is that robot safety is a hallmark of the industry and the Association. We owe a lot of that to Jeff Fryman, who will be at the Show and Conference helping spread the word about important standards and safety issues.

Paul Kellett, of Kellett’s Corner, is another secret to our success, and he oversees studies and gathers facts and figures to help you interpret trends and situations in our industries.

One fact you can’t ignore is this is our last International Robots & Vision Show with Don Vincent as Executive Vice President and, who along with his wife Kelley, are the most liked people I know. You may have seen or heard about his tribute at the Robotics Industry Forum, where one person after another stood up and emphasized how nice Don is when they spoke about him. And everyone included Kelley in their comments – she is admired by all and as wonderful as they come.

It’s a big year for us. One of change, yet stability. A strong Show on the rise, and prospects for even more success. Technology that is blurring the lines between industrial and service applications. It’s a good time to be part of the Association. Please join us as we move into a new era. See you at the Show..!