What is advanced manufacturing and what does it mean for Canada?
Advanced manufacturing combines manufacturing and new technology to harness innovative production methods and redefine business models. Canada has a very diversified manufacturing sector that is spread across the country, but the greatest concentration is in Southern Ontario and Quebec. We also have a really well-developed technology sector, whether it is focused on the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), additive manufacturing applications, materials or robotics. The real opportunity for Canada is to bring together its diversified manufacturing and our well developed technology sectors.
Canada currently has 270 manufacturing operations that are big enough to employ 500 people, whereas the US has over 33,000. All of the numbers around US manufacturing in terms of productivity, performance and investment are a reflection of its size, volume and low-cost production technology. While Canadian manufacturers are small, they are more profitable, on average, than American manufacturers. We have a lot of small and mid-sized companies that are highly customized and more specialized than the large-volume producers in the US. Canada needs to develop the ability to individualize and specialize products through technology. So, our advanced manufacturing opportunity is to leverage technology to scale up customization. It will drive greater value for customers and generate more revenue, as a result. Our biggest challenge is to scale up and retain companies in Canada.
What must be done to best position Canada’s manufacturing industry for success in the future economy, and how does NGen fit into the solution?
NGen was formed even before the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster because Canadian manufacturers and technology companies saw a need to work together and position Canada as a leader in advanced manufacturing. In order to do that, we have to do two things. Firstly, we have to speed up the adoption of technology in manufacturing to become more competitive, to help companies grow, and to develop new products and innovative processes. Secondly, we have to scale up the technologies we are developing in Canada to be applied in manufacturing. We are not investing in technology companies just to come up with new technologies, our ultimate goal is to apply those technologies in manufacturing.
Moreover, NGen is focusing on collaborative projects. Manufacturers realize that there are lots of technologies out there but they do not have access to them. Sometimes companies with a specific technology need to work together with other companies to provide the overall solution that manufacturers are looking for. So, NGen wants to connect the dots in the Canadian manufacturing sector.
What approach should be taken with investments into the Canadian manufacturing industry and the technologies revolutionizing it?
Canada has put a lot of effort and many billions of dollars into research, which has created vibrant start-up communities across the country. The next step is to help these companies grow... continue reading