You could say that engineers are dreamers; their paths may not look the same, but all are in the pursuit of innovation.

Sean Dotson grew up in an engineering family, so no one batted an eye when he dismantled small, household electronics to explore their inner workings. His inquisitive mind developed further in high school while working in a hardware store and absorbing the foundations of mechanical restoration. Sean earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida and simultaneously supported himself as a self-taught auto mechanic. But his resourcefulness didn’t stop there.

While many of his friends went straight from academia to large corporations, Sean went to work with a small machinery design company that allowed him to participate in the entire process of conceiving, constructing and testing equipment; an experience that laid the groundwork for his professional trajectory.

Sean is now the president and CEO of RND Automation & Engineering, a Sarasota-based custom automation and machine design company. Recently, RND acquired MDC Packaging Machinery, which has added automated loading, labeling, taping and palletizing to the organization’s capabilities. It is a true one-stop shop.

In The Corridor, the advancements of the past 20 years have brought on surges in automation, but none quite so profound as modern demand. Manufacturing companies have come to the realization that automation equals growth, and servicing this demand is contingent upon hiring skilled laborers trained on the latest technology. “With a large aging population retiring, thus widening the state’s skills gap, many automation and packaging companies are operating at full bandwidth,” Sean explained. “Tapping into the incoming workforce from top engineering programs is essential.” With the right systems in place, to find local talent, companies can easily turn to The Corridor’s three cornerstone universities which rank among the top 10 mechanical engineering schools in the state.

Sean believes the more challenging the project, the greater the reward. Customers are established and maintained when automation can be designed to solve high-volume fabrication challenges. One of RND’s clients is The Corridor’s own Tervis Tumbler, headquartered in Venice, Florida, that requires very specific technology to build its products. “We make most of the machinery for Tervis, so when I see one of its tumblers, I know we had a hand in creating it,” said Sean.

Staying ahead of the curve in automation depends on learning about new products being unveiled by robotics companies and having the vision to implement these innovative technologies in practical ways. That is how RND Automation differentiates itself from competitors. Sean believes that building a local, national and international network within the high tech industry is key to maintaining an edge. And being consistently present at tech conferences, trade shows and supplier tours allows him to connect and partner with suppliers that are extremely proprietary.

At the heart of Sean’s drive is the curious boy who wanted to know how things worked. That boy has grown to challenge himself and his team to build solutions that function as efficiently as possible. “That’s the thing about engineers,” he said. “If it’s not broken, we’ll break it; but we’ll put it back together better than ever.”

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