May 8, 2017

Advanced Manufacturing Sector Research — Initiative on the Automation of the Manufacturing Sector in Canada: Now available

“  Marketplace research to guide and support a comprehensive Canadian advanced manufacturing strategy “ (CATAAlliance)

businessresourcesCanada’s Advanced Manufacturing Sector

CATAAlliance would like to share with members and supporters a comprehensive study on Canada’s advanced manufacturing sector, authored by Jean Guy Rens, acclaimed researcher and VP, CATA Quebec, and entitled  ” Advanced Manufacturing Sector — Initiative on the Automation of the Manufacturing Sector in Canada.”

The 89 page study had five objections, namely, to foster innovation in manufacturing; contribute to the establishment of a national advanced manufacturing strategy; empower enhanced Industry/University collaboration in advanced manufacturing research; foster a more robust environment for the commercialization of advanced manufacturing technologies; and, correct public misconceptions about manufacturing.

Content sections include: Study Objectives, Methodology and Acknowledgements, Technological & International Environment, Industry Pr Trends, National Policies and Practical Approaches, Case Studies on Siemens, Bombardier, Cisco Canada, Festo, Lantic and Medtronics.

You can download this material now (permission required) at
 Please contact CATA CEO, John Reid at  for your password.

Executive Summary

Manufacturing in Canada appears to have stopped its decline. The relocation of activities to Asia or Latin America seems to have been offset by the creation of domestic industry. But it is not a return of the companies of the past.

Around the world, a highly automated, state-of-the-art enterprise is emerging with equipment connected into a centralized IT system. Manufacturing is fast becoming a high-tech sector.

China has become the country with the highest number of robots in 2016, ahead of Japan and the United States. On the other hand, the country with the highest density of robots is South Korea. Canada is well above the world average of 69 robots per 10,000 employees, but with 136 robots, it lags the US (176 robots per 10,000 employees).

As Professor Gosselin explains in his preface, Canada is a world leader in robotic research thanks to massive injections of money into R&D in the 1990s and the adventure of the Canadarm and Canadarm2 robotic arms for the International Space Station. On the other hand, the manufacturing sector is still falling behind the other industrialized nations.

The challenge today is to translate the benefits of Canadian scientific research into commercial applications.

The Canadian Manufacturing Sector

The CATAAlliance / Sciencetech survey revealed the lack of skilled labour as the number one problem facing Canada’s manufacturing industry. This shortage is one of the reasons why companies want to automate their production.

Innovation is omnipresent in the manufacturing sector, but it covers a different reality from R&D. Indeed, only product innovation requires an effort in R&D. Instead, process innovation relates to the management and marketing of the business.

The rise of US protectionism is not perceived as a threat by two thirds of companies. Analysis of responses indicates a certain lack of knowledge of macroeconomic realities. If new tariff or non-tariff barriers are created at the US border, it is clear that the Canadian government will have some information work to do.

Level of automation in Canada

Automation is very widespread in Canada’s manufacturing sector, with an estimated 26,000 robots, representing an investment of $ 5.2 billion. More than two-thirds of this amount is attributable to installation, engineering and programming costs and the purchase of peripherals. If the robots are imported in almost all cases, the related costs are paid to a large extent to local integrators. Indeed, Canada has a dynamic integration industry. These companies have recently formed a trade While manufacturing jobs are high-paying, high-technology jobs, individual career choices are often based on an obsolete view of manufacturing.

In addition to robots, automation includes multiple systems (CNC machines, 3D printers, visions systems, lasers, sensors, etc.). In total, it can be said that 70% of Canada’s manufacturing companies use some form of automation.

Nevertheless, the minority of non-automated companies does not plan to automate in the future.

Some could do so through government assistance, but they are only a small number. There is an irreducible core which considers that their production is not automatable and that no form of government assistance is required.

The main reason for automation is cost reduction, and if we add similar reasons such as workforce reduction and productivity gains, this predominance becomes overwhelming. The other reason is quality control. Indeed, the main effect of automation is the reduction in production costs. There is therefore a perfect match between the displayed intention and the result obtained. The next two effects are increased production volume and quality control. The increase in the volume of production is clearly a surprise since it was only marginally cited as one of the reasons for automation.

The decrease in the volume of the workforce is little mentioned under the effects of automation. This finding contradicts those who perceive automation as a major cause of unemployment. Only a small number of non-automated companies plan to equip themselves with robots and other automated equipment. On the other hand, the majority of already automated companies plan to acquire additional equipment. Eighty-five per cent of companies that are ready to buy robots or other automated equipment are already automated companies: companies that are renewing their equipment or completing it.

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