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Motion Control Resources

Don Vincent to Retire as Head of Robotic Industries Association

Jeff Burnstein Set to Assume the Reins on July 1

Ann Arbor, Michigan – Donald A. Vincent, who has headed the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) since 1983 and was active in its founding in 1974, will retire on June 30, 2007. He will be succeeded by Jeffrey A. Burnstein, who has served as the organization’s number two executive for more than two decades.

Vincent has been instrumental in the trade association’s growth from a start-up with limited staff and resources to North America’s leading robotics association now representing more than 250 companies served by a staff of 13 full-time employees.

Trevor Jones, current RIA President and Director, OEM Development, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., said that under Vincent’s leadership, RIA has become the leading source for industrial robot statistics in North America; developed the American National Robot Safety Standard; launched Robotics Online, the world’s leading website for robotics information; created a series of successful educational workshops focused on the use of robots in major application areas, and established the International Robots & Vision Show and Conference as North America’s leading event for these technologies.

‘‘These are just some of the highlights of Don’s career, and don’t begin to touch upon the networking links he’s established for the industry, or the role he has played in establishing the robotics industry as one of the critical technologies of the 21st century,’‘ Jones said.

‘‘RIA’s development is an amazing success story, and Don Vincent has been its primary architect,’‘ said Joseph F. Engelberger, known throughout the world as the ‘‘father of robotics’‘ and one of the industry pioneers who helped launch RIA in 1974.

‘‘We had almost no funding, competitors in the robotics industry were reluctant to even sit in the same room, and the chances that RIA would succeed were modest at best.  But thanks to the drive of Don Vincent and the support of industry leaders he enlisted, RIA now is extremely well funded and well positioned to serve the robotics industry as it evolves into the future,’‘ Engelberger said.

In recognition of his outstanding accomplishments, Vincent received the Engelberger Robotics Award for industry leadership in 2002, the industry’s highest honor.

In addition to RIA’s success, Vincent has been instrumental in the establishment of the Automated Imaging Association (AIA) and the Motion Control Association (MCA), trade groups that represent the machine vision and motion control industries.  AIA, which was spun out of RIA in 1984, now represents 280 companies from 26 nations.  MCA, launched in 2006, is off to a fast start with nearly 60 member companies.

To help manage the fast growth of RIA and AIA and to invest in synergistic new associations, Vincent helped create the Automation Technologies Council (ATC) in 1996.  As Executive Vice President of the ATC, Vincent works with representatives from RIA, AIA, and MCA to oversee the development and growth of each of the associations and identify new associations that fit under the ATC umbrella.  

‘‘With Don Vincent’s guidance, the ATC has taken a very unique approach to trade association governance,’‘ said Craig Jennings, current ATC President and President & COO of Motoman, Inc.  ‘‘Because our Board is comprised of representatives of each association under the ATC umbrella, we can take actions that represent the factory automation community as a whole.  ATC represents more than 550 factory automation companies accounting for billions of dollars in sales each year and we know that there are many technologies that robots, machine vision, and motion control work with on the factory floor that could become part of the ATC in the future.  Additionally, we see opportunities outside of the factory in areas such as service robotics, and we are prepared to launch new trade associations to serve the needs of companies involved in these emerging areas,’‘ Jennings explained.

‘‘Don has the innate ability to bring industry leaders together to form and accomplish advancements for the industries as a whole and his leadership will be missed, though we are excited to have his protégé, Jeff Burnstein, as his successor, as Jeff has developed similar abilities under Don’s years of coaching,’‘ added Jennings.

Vincent says he is extremely gratified by the tremendous growth of RIA over the past two decades.

‘‘When I became Executive Vice President in 1983, many people thought robotics was going to be the next industrial revolution.  There were wild projections about how fast the industry would grow and the massive job losses that would result, projections that hurt the industry.  In the mid-1980s, when the robotics market collapsed and major companies such as GE, Bendix, and IBM left the field, RIA and the robotics industry was written off as a failure.’‘ 

‘‘Fortunately, over time, people came to understand that the reality of robotics is even more impressive than the hype.  Companies around the world began having success with their robot implementations.  New companies entered the industry as suppliers of robots, accessory equipment, software, and system integration services.  Our trade show, which had shrunk by nearly ¾, began growing again.  Our members found new markets. 
And slowly but surely RIA, which at one point had fallen to just 90 members, began to rebound, and ultimately prosper,’‘ Vincent explained.

‘‘New applications of robot technology continue to emerge, both inside and outside the factory, some I never would have dreamed of when RIA was founded back in 1974.  It’s really awe-inspiring to see an industrial robot used in surgical procedures or in an amusement park ride or as a bartender – our industry is only limited by its ability to answer Joe Engelberger’s old question – ‘do you think a robot can do this?’’‘

RIA has showcased the latest developments in robotics at its International Robots & Vision Show, which dates back to 1976 and is held every two years.  This year’s show is set for June 12-14 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois, and will feature the 38th International Symposium on Robotics (ISR), held in the United States just once every four years.

‘‘I’m thrilled that my last show as head of RIA will include participation of the ISR,’‘ explained Vincent.  ‘‘My wife, Kelley, and I have immensely enjoyed our involvement in the ISR as it has become the world’s leading annual robotics conference.  I’m happy to have played a key role in helping create the International Federation of Robotics back in 1987.  Bringing together so many industry leaders from around the world, the IFR has been a catalyst in the global growth of the robotics industry.’‘

‘‘Don and Kelley Vincent have been tremendous ambassadors for the robotics industry,’‘ said Stefan Mueller of Kuka Robotics, and current President of the IFR.  ‘‘All of us involved in the international robotics community will miss Don’s day to day involvement as head of RIA, but we know he will remain a key force in promoting the robotics industry throughout the world.’‘

Jeff Burnstein, who joined RIA in 1984 and currently serves as Vice President of Marketing and PR, will take over as Executive Vice President of RIA on July 1.  In addition to serving as Vice President of Marketing & PR for RIA, Burnstein has served as Executive Director of AIA since 1986, helping the association become the world’s largest machine vision trade group.  He also will assume Vincent’s responsibilities as Executive Vice President of the ATC.

‘‘Don has assembled a great staff of people here in Ann Arbor, and we’re all dedicated to continue the commitment to excellence that he fostered,’‘ Burnstein said.  ‘‘Don can’t be replaced – that’s an impossible goal – but I’m looking forward to building upon his legacy in helping our member companies find new business opportunities as the market for robotics, machine vision, and motion control continues to expand.’‘

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