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OPINION: Technology moves fast

Mario Cywinski   

General

Are you keeping up with the advances?

The days of sticking with the status quo, and expecting to be competitive, are long gone. Today’s customers are just a click away from comparing your company to the abundance of competitors on the market globally. Years ago, the baseline was if a company did not have a web site it would lose customers, as people would say in a surprised tone, “wow, you don’t have a web site?”

Today’s customers expect a lot more than just having a web site. Your web site has to be the gateway to your company and showcase what it can offer them. Including having the most advanced manufacturing technology available on the market.

Recently, Plant magazine and Canadian Manufacturing surveyed their audience for the annual Advanced Manufacturing Outlook report, to gauge where Canadian companies are when it comes to adopting Industry 4.0 technology. We also conducted a roundtable to discuss the findings of the survey with industry experts. The overview is found on page 14 of this issue, while the polybagged report goes much deeper into the findings.

I won’t repeat the insight found in those write-ups; however, I do want to point out some highlights.

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The survey found that 26 per cent of respondents applied IIoT capabilities this year, while another 26 per cent are in the process of evaluating its relevance to their operations. A further 14 per cent have a plan and are investing in technology for deployment in the next year. This is very positive, and the numbers certainly appear to be moving in the right direction.

However, on the flip side, a total of 34 per cent of respondents said they are either not familiar with IIoT capabilities (20 per cent) or it is not applicable to them (14 per cent). This result brings me back to my initial point about companies sticking to what they have been doing, and expecting to remain competitive. Customers today want more and can seek solutions globally to achieve the results they need.

The one caveat of jumping into the deep end of advanced manufacturing, and making your operations fully advanced, is to make sure you are updating in the right areas, and for the right reasons. Nothing is worse than spending a plethora of money on new equipment and technology to later find out it did not help your operations to better compete and was simply a drain on resources.

The report and subsequent roundtable discussion reiterates, that if you are updating your operations you should try to achieve the following (which survey respondents said they are applying): improving efficiency/productivity (43 per cent), providing more visibility into production processes (28 per cent), improving maintenance functions (28 per cent), analytics functionality (24 per cent), tracking materials or shop floor assets (23 per cent), tying in business data from shop floor to top floor (20 per cent), developing new services/revenue streams (14 per cent), consolidating control rooms (14 per cent), and developing smart products (12 per cent).

For many small to medium sized companies, it is challenging to know what to update with the limited resources and where to start, planning is certainly key.

We trust you will find the Advanced Manufacturing Outlook Report and supplemental articles in this issue helpful in your journey to automate your operations.

Read full report here.

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