Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Editorial: Changing our investment climate

September 19, 2019
By Kristina Urquhart

September 19, 2019 – This issue marks a year since I’ve been editor of MA, and what an informative year it’s been!

I’ve talked to a lot of folks in the Canadian industrial automation community about their challenges and opportunities for growth as the world’s manufacturing giants continue to push us all forward into the fourth industrial revolution.

There’s been a common sentiment shared by just about everyone I’ve chatted with about what’s setting Canada back from fully diving into Industry 4.0: a reluctance to invest in new equipment and technology. One robotics company founder in Quebec recently told me that he finds American manufacturers more willing to test new automation solutions, whereas Canadians are much more risk-averse.

He wasn’t wrong. The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Industrie 2030 report indicates that Canada has a negative investment climate compared to other leading manufacturing nations. The U.S. experienced 58 per cent global growth in manufacturing machinery and equipment investment between 2002 and 2014, whereas Canada was sitting at a five per cent decline for the same period.

The winds of change may be upon us – in the years since that report was published in 2016, upping manufacturing investment in Canada is becoming more of a priority. Half of the study’s participants had cited a lack of federal and provincial government funding support as chief among the reasons why they don’t invest.

The federal government is now trying to fix that perception – in 2018 Canada announced $230 million in funding opportunities for manufacturers via an Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster in Ontario. It’s not enough money to turn the province into a Silicon Valley–type incubator, but it’s a start.

NGen, a not-for-profit organization that runs the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, pairs government funding with industry-led ventures. They’ll be hosting a call for project ideas on October 3 at the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show (CMTS). If nothing else, attending the event will be a good way to get inspired on what you might be able to do at your own company. (I’ll be at the show, too, and hope to see you there!)

Canadian manufacturer Calstone has found that investments in automation indeed can translate to a booming business. With additional equipment leading to more production capacity, the family-owned industrial furniture maker has capitalized on an emerging market. Read the Calstone story here.

Others seem to be following suit. PLANT magazine’s 2019 Manufacturing Outlook study indicated that 75 per cent of manufacturing execs in Canada are prioritizing investments in machinery, equipment and technology this year, with the average investment sitting at more than $1.7 million.

My inbox is filled with interesting stats like this, so I’m pleased to put them to good use with our brand-new back page. Every issue, The Smart Factory will be a roundup of research and applications that you should know about as you continue your digital transformation journey (which, of course, requires considerable investment). If you need more help prioritizing what to invest in, tune in to our Cloud & Edge webinar next week on September 25.

This article originally ran in the September 2019 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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