Thought Leaders in Automation
LEADING THE WAY IN INNOVATION
Learn from expert industry professionals and read their insight into the growth and opportunities in automation.
Global Vice President of Sales & Marketing
Mr. Joe Gemma has 35 plus years of experience working in the automation industry, 12 years working for a System Integrator and 20+ years working for Robotics OEM’s. Strongly supporting the industry by participating on the RIA Board of Directors and as past Chair and currently serves on the Board of the Association for Advancing Automation. He has served on the Board of the IFR and past President for International Federation of Robotics. Joe recently joined Calvary Robotics as the Global Vice President of Sales & Marketing. Previously he spent 5 plus years as the Chief Regional Officer for KUKA Robotics Division - Americas. Spending 18 years at Stäubli, Mr. Gemma was CEO the Stäubli Group North America. Until 1997, he worked for the US enterprises, Advanced Technology Systems, Crellin Technologies and Corner & Lada, working in engineering, project management, business development and sales management.
Mr. Gemma currently serves on various committees of the Robotic Industries Association, which covers the North American automation industry. Joe is committed to working to get broader visibility of the automation industry in general.
Calvary is a 25-year industry leader. In your opinion, what have been the most significant changes in robotics over the past three decades, and what changes do you expect going forward?
Several things come to mind that have impacted the automation industry in the past couple of decades. The improvements in software had a significant impact on the utilization of automation. In the earlier use of robotics and automation, the mechanics was already quite robust and proven technology, but the software did not live up to the promise and expectations. However, with the development of tools, application modules and more wide spread use, the development advanced quite rapidly and allowed broader adoption.
Vision technology has had a meaningful effect on the utilization of automation in a variety of applications and the tools for use of vision have continued to improve in the last 10 years to take out much of the challenges the technology faced earlier on like lighting for example. In fact, we are using vision technology on more applications than ever before and I believe that to be true for the industry in general.
Due to the wider use of automation technologies and further developments, the overall pricing had decreased and has encouraged other medium size and smaller companies, as well as, new industries to implement the technology in their processes. This has continued to expand into new industries like food preparation and agriculture.
Some more recent developments have already shown much promise like artificial intelligence/machine learning, additive manufacturing and mobile robotics. In fact, mobility is perhaps the most disruptive technology development in the last decade that will allow for automation in areas not accessible in the past.
While there are other improvements, the “ease of use” in software development is having an impact both on the equipment supplier side and the utilization across many new areas. This will have a positive impact for many years in the future.
Why are robot integrators so critical to successful robotic applications? How can integrators uniquely help end-users
While there are many benefits to working with a proven robotics system integrator, perhaps the two most significant are the ability to leverage experiences across many unique applications and different industries and product knowledge, familiarity and expertise with the various tools available. For example, the process problem solved for the feeding and terminating of wire in the electrical industry is the same process problem that many in the medical industry are challenged within handling tubing. Also, not all the robotics OEM offer the same products or portfolios and the experience and knowledge the integrator brings eliminate the need for the user to try to educate themselves on all of the companies and technologies.
Perhaps another important aspect is companies not having to build and manage internal resources to have some of this expertise in house and the challenge of keeping the team on top of the evolving technology. Using integrators will allow the customer to focus on their core business and take advantage of the integrator to be much more expedient in implementing the automation technology.
You’ve been very active in IFR and RIA – how does involvement like this benefit you personally and help your companies?
I have been fortunate to have been part of both these fine organizations for many years and participate in multiple committees and leadership roles. Certainly, I am passionate about our industry and this has allowed me to help engage with industry, government and other industry leaders to ensure that we always work in the best interests of the user. Since I have been invited to many speaking engagements around the world, this has given the associations and the companies I represented enhanced visibility on the national and global stage. Another personal benefit is that I have interacted with leaders in the industry, as well as, leaders of major companies across the globe and I have learned a great deal from these opportunities and the vast knowledge of the individuals. This has also allowed me to meet some extremely talented people that have been kind enough to join me at the companies I have worked for and added to the value of the organization.
How was your experience working in the robotics industry in France and Europe?
This was an experience of a lifetime and I have often encouraged others to take the opportunity if it becomes available during their careers. We were able to delve into a different culture in the community, in the company and in the work environment globally. Since the company was looking to expand its business in Asia, the Middle East and South America, I had the unique opportunity to travel extensively, develop a strategy for the growth plan and begin our operations in China, Turkey, Israel and expand the operations Brazil. Learning another language was a wonderful bonus of course.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many vulnerabilities in areas such as supply chain, business operations, manufacturing processes, etc. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned as we continue to move through this global crisis?
Perhaps the most telling phenomenon was the inability of some companies to scale to meet demand due to the supply chain issues and antiquated equipment. This unprecedented situation has many companies rethinking their position and will review opportunities to automate production and processes.
We will likely see increased investment in both traditional areas of manufacturing like medical device production and non-traditional areas like recycling and fast food processes, especially when it comes to keeping workers and consumers safe. The grocery industry will certainly undergo a change, whether it is disinfecting/sanitizing automation or inventory management.
Another important lesson which has been mentioned often, is the limitations caused by dependence on a foreign supply chain. Many companies will need to continue to have operations around the world to manage demand, but they are also reconsidering local operations to have a more fluid supply chain.
While we all know downtime can help relieve stress, several science-backed studies confirm you actually improve productivity when you take time to enjoy life outside of the office. What are some of your favorite things to do in your free time?
My wife of 40 years and I have 6 adult children and 7 grandchildren, so spending time with family is my favorite pastime. I also enjoy getting together with friends, but of course, the current situation has prevented many opportunities for time together.
Sports is also a favorite pastime, mostly playing golf and softball. Travel and museums are always high on the list, so when conditions improve, we will certainly take the opportunity to travel. Finally, I am an avid reader and will often have 2-3 different books going at the same time. Currently on the nightstand are “Joy, Inc.” and “The Age of Gold.”