EMVA President Chris Yates in panel discussion of Covid-19 impact on machine vision industry

EMVA President Chris Yates discussed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the machine vision industry in a live panel webinar on April 15 hosted by IMVEurope together with Jeff Burstein, Allan Anderson, and Anne Wendel, from the AIA, UKIVA, and VDMA associations.

In his opening statement Chris strongly acknowledged the contribution and efforts made by front line staff to the people directly and indirectly affected by this pandemic.

With regards to industrial production he highlighted the ability for manufacturing supply chains to more rapidly reorganize to provide necessary goods to address the crisis; thanks to the flexibility in automation as one of the promises of Industry 4.0. Looking at the vision industry the panelists stressed the positive role of vision technology in fighting the pandemic, be it in automated lab systems for example in vaccine processing and testing; in thermal imaging to control the body temperature in highly frequented places; or in the multiple camera based inspection systems of pharmaceuticals and medical goods.

Chris noted: “Several initiatives have been started with the goal to leverage recent developments in AI/deep learning to rapidly make a classification of CT scans of patient chest and lung areas; amongst them the European Imaging COVID-19 AI Initiative.”

Quite a few EMVA members reported that demand remains strong and projects are continuing for the time being. Nevertheless, Chris said out that the Corona epidemic will without doubt have negative business impacts on the wider economy. While clear picture of the impact is not yet to be seen, Chris Yates pointed towards two major areas to have in focus during the crisis. One is liquidity:

“Certainly impacts will be different across companies since the vision industry serves many different customer sectors, hence a reasonable entrepreneurial decision would be to set a focus on conserving cash as a rational response to uncertainty.”

The second area Chris highlighted is to have a close look at the supply chain.

“Machine vision has the advantage to normally order in relatively low to medium volumes. However, bearing in mind that one large unknown still is the lockdown period one has to keep good contact to the suppliers and, if the liquidity allows maybe raise stock to buffer future shortages.”

Chris also joined in with the other panelists in highlighting the importance to retain the workforce as long as possible in order to be able to serve rising demand quickly after the crisis.

Chris outlined the overall goals for the EMVA as an association during this period to support the EMVA members and the wider vision community in whichever way possible during the crisis; and that the vision industry is well placed to emerge strongly and able to quickly support the needs of wider markets. Immediate reactions of the EMVA include the transformation of the EMVA Business Conference to be held online in virtual form on 26 June; but also online training seminars and exams to acquire the EMVA1288 standard certification. In addition, the EMVA will release a series of videos of previous conferences and events so that can catch up on recent events and insights in quiet spells – particularly the second embedded vision Europe conference held last November.

“Most importantly, we will highly intensify our direct contact to the members in order to directly understand their needs and start with market research activities in order to grasp the dimension of the Corona crisis for the vision community”, said Chris Yates.

In his closing remark the EMVA President said:

“Overall I see that on the macro scale the proposition of automation in general and vision sensing for automation is undiminished. Whilst the effects of the crisis will certainly affect us all, our businesses, and attitudes, the fundamental drivers of the industry remain, and in many cases are strengthened.”