A Zebra machine vision system is used in a clean room environment
By William Corns | December 01, 2022

Industrial Automation Insider: This Is What You Should Watch For – and Do – in the Next Few Months According to a Global Futurist and a Market Intelligence Lead

The growing value of automation – and the confluence of robotics, machine vision, and RFID with other technologies – is driven by much more than labor challenges or compliance requirements.

With the year quickly coming to a close, I thought it would be good to audit different industries in terms of automation progress and overall technology investments. 

We know automation can introduce critical efficiencies during economic slowdowns and periods of high demand. And there’s no doubt that technology innovation – or perhaps I should say greater technology utilization – is going to be key to restabilizing the supply chain, repairing relationships with partners and customers, and restoring confidence in one’s capabilities to deliver quality products on time.  

But how, exactly, technology and automated processes will facilitate much-needed change is still up for debate.  

That’s why I asked Zebra’s Global Futurist, Drew Ehlers, to join me for the latest episode of Industrial Automation Insider, along with Scott Drobner, Zebra’s Senior Director of Business and Market Intelligence.  

These two have a strong pulse on the state of the world and the pressures being placed on businesses and the people keeping them afloat. They understand the pain you’re feeling, the high hopes you have for the future, and the reality of the road ahead. Just as important, they spend their days analyzing and advising on the intersection of business, technology and consumer trends.  

So, I figured they could help us level set on the role technology is playing in businesses’ survival and success today and how easy – or hard – it will be to automate at the level needed to really see a benefit to your business. I think you’ll be a little surprised at what they say about technology’s purpose going forward (and what is even more important for you to assess in the coming months). 


In just a few minutes’ time, you’ll learn:

  • What’s happening in the broader world (besides the obvious inflation and supply chain issues) that could impact your business’s ability to meet customer demands and financial targets in the next 12 months.

  • What business decision-makers should do right now to address the countless issues causing cyclical demand growth and subsequent downturns. (The bullwhip effect is not just something retailers are experiencing. So, Drew and Scott spell out what problem you might want to tackle first, whether you’re in healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, government, or the energy sector.)

  • How many items really need to be tracked and traced every day on this planet – from apparel to food to pharmaceuticals to automotive parts – and how much visibility businesses really have into the location of these items today. (Plus, they talk about how you can gain the baseline visibility you need into your entire operation, to include people, assets, and inventory.) 

  • How Drew would plan for the next several months if he was a supply chain planner.

  • What specifically Zebra is doing to help customers and partners achieve better business outcomes. (Spoiler alert: Providing the right IoT instrumentation is just the first step.)

  • Why you need to change your perspective about technology and its purpose. (If you can’t acquire, analyze or act on the right data at the right time, what good is technology?)

  • Why workflow automation is no longer a choice, rather a question of “when, where and how” it will be deployed. (They also discuss how this is driving a confluence of previous siloed robotics automation, industrial automation, automated data capture, mobile computing and software platforms is starting to increase accountability within operations.) 

  • What business leaders should be doing to mitigate risk and avoid disruption in the future, and why planning too far into the future can backfire.


If you have some strong opinions about the trends and recommendations shared by Drew and Scott or you have questions about how Zebra has either tackled certain issues or helped others do so, reach out to me, Drew, Scott or your local Zebra representative. We’d be happy to continue the conversation.

And speaking of continuing the conversation…stay tuned into the Your Edge Blog and Podcast for our next Industrial Automation Insider episode and other commentary from industry experts around the world. We have a lot of great guests lined up. 

You may also want to check out some of our past discussions if you missed them:


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