the crisis include the surge in demand for thermal imaging cameras to screen people for signs of fever, and the remarkable work using AI to look for Covid-19 pneumonia in CT scans of patient lungs. Tere are now large-scale projects in Europe – the Imaging Covid-19 AI initiative – and in the US with the Radiological Society of North America to build medical image data repositories. Tere have also been stories of factories

repurposing production lines – to turn a beer bottling line into one that bottles hand sanitiser, or, in China, the news of PIA Automation reengineering two abandoned production lines to make surgical face masks. Tis work can only be achieved through

flexible automation, and Yates in his opening statement said that 'we are seeing some of the promises of Industry 4.0 becoming a reality' in these stories.

Views from early in the crisis Flash surveys from the AIA in the US and VDMA Robotics and Automation found that most firms are feeling a noticeable impairment to their business, but that companies are retaining staff, and most assess liquidity as satisfactory at the present time. Automation investment plans also remain in place among the companies surveyed. | @imveurope

‘It will affect business, it will certainly affect our attitudes, but the fundamental drivers of the economy of the [vision] industry remain’

Te VDMA gauged opinion from some

of its machine vision members prior to the webinar on 15 April – Anne Wendel, director of VDMA Machine Vision, said that all companies she spoke to have taken measures to cope with disruption to business, but none have reduced staff. In the USA, the automation association A3 – which includes the AIA covering vision and imaging – found, in preliminary data from a survey of its members, that 65 per cent of firms asked have not made changes to automation investment plans, but that 75 per cent expect a decrease in revenue in 2020 due to Covid-19. Jeff Burnstein, president of AIA, said during

the webinar: 'Coming out of this, we expect to see an increased adoption [of automation] in many industries', but added that the vision industry could be suffering the impacts of

this crisis for a while. Burnstein said that the biggest decisions A3 member companies have made is to put in place a hiring freeze or reduce operational hours – around 40 per cent of those surveyed have done this. Te A3 itself has implemented a hiring freeze at the moment. He said that automation firms are not

laying off staff though as in some other sectors. At the beginning of April, Mark Williamson,

Stemmer Imaging's corporate marketing director, told Imaging and Machine Vision Europe that Stemmer's customers in the food and agriculture markets had brought forward implementing projects. He said there had been an influx of orders from the food and agriculture sector, especially regarding 3D vision. However, he also stated that it would be naive to think the pandemic won't lead to some kind of downturn. Te VDMA has shifted all its activity away

from organising events to supporting its members, such as providing legal advice, or advice about insurance. Wendel said the VDMA, which covers the entire German mechanical engineering sector, was running four to five webinars a day. Wendel said: 'Machine vision is hopefully

the first sector that will come out of the crisis, and we need to get prepared for better times.'



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