Canadian manufacturing companies are adopting Industry 4.0 and implementing smart technologies throughout operations. The industry is undergoing a digital transformation, paving the way for continuous advancement in Canada’s manufacturing sector.
A range of innovative technologies are being used within Canadian manufacturing to help solve or alleviate industry issues and prepare for predicted future needs. Smart manufacturing is no longer a strategy only for large industrial companies. Manufacturers of every size need to have smart tech or risk getting left behind.
With small- and medium-sized enterprises accounting for 93% of Canadian manufacturing, it’s important for the industry to embrace these advanced technologies while ensuring they can be scaled.
IIoT and AI
The industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) work together to connect and direct smart technologies. IIoT uses smart sensors to connect machinery and production lines to a central hub, providing insights and data. AI uses this data to enhance operations in a number of ways. From implementing improved processes to increase production, to predicting maintenance needs to minimize machinery downtime, AI helps manufacturers improve their bottom lines.
Adopting these smart technologies will help Canadian manufacturing compete in the global economy. However, there are barriers to expanding IIoT and AI. Many Canadian industrial companies that would benefit from these technologies don’t fully understand how they can improve their operations. This causes AI organizations to spend a lot of time educating potential customers and further pushes out the lead time for adoption.
Limited capability is another barrier to adoption. Some Canadian manufacturing companies aren’t far enough along in their digital transformation journeys to effectively utilize smart technologies. Without connected operations there is a lack of data, and AI requires data to be effective. Once Canada embraces IIoT and AI through increased funding, incentives and expanded learning opportunities, the country can compete globally while improving operations in key industries such as chemical, oil and gas, and power distribution.
Canada already has a variety of industries successfully using additive manufacturing, such as aerospace, medical, and metal and powder. However, as with AI, there is a slow adoption rate. Additive manufacturing could be a significant player in the future of Canadian manufacturing, but this hinges on how much the country is willing to invest in the technology.
Additive manufacturing, along with other smart technologies, has a significant presence in graduate programs and research departments within Canadian universities. Canada only makes up about 2% of the global additive manufacturing community, but these higher education initiatives are helping to increase the prevalence of this technology.
University programs coupled with the Canadian government’s support will lead to greater adoption of additive manufacturing. In addition to investments, the government is key to influencing the perception of this technology. Helping companies realize the potential of additive technologies, from the return on investment to the product production aspect, will drive growth in the Canadian manufacturing industry.
Many manufacturers today are looking at automation as a way to solve the significant labor shortage within the industry. Companies partnering with manufacturing suppliers don’t just prefer automated operations, they expect them. Not only is automation a way to mitigate the current worker shortage, but it will also help with increased production needs in the future.
Since availability of labor is already an issue, it will only get worse in the next few years. With predictions that 25% of Canada’s manufacturing workforce will retire by 2030 and that no one will be available to replace them, the only way to maintain productivity is through automation.
Robots can take over the repetitive production tasks and bridge the gap in the labor force. Meanwhile, a new generation of manufacturing employees will have time to advance their skills while focusing on more value-added tasks. They’ll continue advancing the Canadian manufacturing industry without sacrificing productivity.
To learn more about the future of Canadian manufacturing, attend CMTS — the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show.