BDO launches manufacturing roadshow with Industry 4.0 focus in Toronto
By Will Mazgay, Associate EditorGeneral Manufacturing BDO Industry 4.0 IoT manufacturing Microsoft RBC Tech Toronto
The morning event detailed how manufacturers can leverage technology to beef up their operations.
Accounting, tax and advisory firm BDO Canada LLP is hitting the road to spread the word about its solutions for manufacturers, with its Manufacturing Roadshow 2020.
The first stop on BDO’s cross-Canada tour was Toronto, where the firm hosted a series of presentations at a morning event at Microsoft Canada’s corporate headquarters on Jan. 28.
The theme of the morning event was Industry 4.0: how manufacturers can leverage technology to beef up their operations and get access to the funds to make the transformation.
The first presenter of the day was Andrey Isaev, senior manager, BDO Consulting, who gave an overview of Industry 4.0.
Isaev said the fourth industrial revolution is first and foremost based on information and communications technology like sensors, processors and software.
He noted the key benefits of transforming operations with these technologies to be reduced costs, operational efficiencies and the ability to conserve human resources for highly-skilled tasks.
Isaev said through robotics, cloud communication and storage, and analytics to decipher the effectiveness of operations and detect problems, manufacturers can improve not only operations on their production lines and shop floors, but their administrative workflows as well.
Isaev said in an interview after the event with CanadianManufacturing that the biggest challenges manufacturers face when adopting to Industry 4.0 are, “They don’t know where to start, how to approach it, so the process of actually planning, defining the business case to get all of the investments, is almost close to impossible. So that’s one of the big issues.”
He continued, “Secondly, monetizing the data and mining the data. Imagine a plant with 50 robots. You probably get a massive amount of data from the efficiency, from the margins, from the customer service, and you need to work out approach, you need to work out strategy, to use the data to your benefit.”
The pulse of manufacturers
After Isaev, Scott Atkinson, senior publisher of CanadianManufacturing and PLANT magazine, presented the results of PLANT‘s 2020 Advanced Manufacturing report. A detailed summary of the report can be found here.
Next up was Paul Boucher, partner, Government Incentives at BDO, who talked about government loan and grant programs for technology upgrades available to small manufacturers.
Boucher covered programs like NGen, the Strategic Innovation Fund, the Trade Commissioner Service’s CanExport, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, regional development programs in Ontario and the Scientific Research and Experimental Development program.
While he noted that these programs are plentiful, securing access to funding can be a huge challenge for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Boucher said in an interview, “That’s one of the biggest frustrations for small and medium-sized companies, is these programs exist, but they’re not successful in actually getting the money. That’s why we say ‘it’s a competition for funds and the best business case wins.’”
Boucher continued, “So what do you have to do as an SME to be successful? You have to have a vision, you have a longer-term horizon that people are looking at. You’ve got to go beyond three, six months and one year, and have a three to five-year vision. And then translate that vision into a strategic roadmap, specific activities that you need to do so you’ve got actual timing, to start and to finish, and you’ll be much more successful in accessing those funds.”
Boucher said that BDO can help firms put together the best business case when applying for government funding.
Boucher also discussed BDO’s new energy management service, which includes energy management assessments for manufacturers. This program starts with an analysis of current operations at a company’s plant, then the focus shifts to implementing solutions and monitoring those solutions.
Boucher said of the program, “We won an internal BDO competition and got some funding that we can start up this practice in Canada. It’s going to be the leader for BDO firms in the world about this whole energy management idea: how do you implement from a technology point of view, how do you get the benefits, the ROI, the funding, all of that stuff that comes together with putting this strategy together.”
You can bank on improvement
RBC’s Jane Henderson, director, Transaction Advisory Services, then took the stage to explain what the bank has to offer manufacturers.
Henderson touched on RBC’s Beyond Banking services, its Insight Edge program — a business analytics platform to help clients with information like benchmarking against peer businesses and emerging sales trends — as well as its relationship with Microsoft, which can provide RBC clients with technology solutions.
She also spoke about the value of digital transformations: “Manufacturers are seeing an average of 17-20% productivity gain from smart factories, and 50% of companies that embrace AI over the next 5-7 years may double their cash flow.”
Staking out the future
After Henderson, Cameron Percy, director, Transaction Advisory Services for BDO, delved into strategies for investing and divesting in manufacturing operations.
He said that the move toward Industry 4.0 is a good opportunity for transactions, as manufacturing businesses are becoming more valuable, but the prices for businesses are on the rise, so prospective investors and buyers need to be prepared with a “thoughtful plan.”
Percy also said it’s important to keep in mind that there could be a recession in the next 12 to 24 months, so practicing heightened due diligence is essential.
For business owners who are looking to stay put, Percy noted that investing in technology can allow better control of outside elements and better prepare a business to deal with change.
The bells and whistles
The last presenter of the day was Gladstone Grant, national director of Solution Sales for Microsoft, who talked about his firm’s hardware and software solutions for manufacturers.
Grant highlighted the Surface Hub; an interactive, digital whiteboard he asserted is ideal for busy plants; the HoloLens, an augmented reality headset that allows technicians to plan repairs and assemblies with 3D models of machines and stations; Azure Digital Twins, a service that through sensors can recreate factory floors so they can be visited remotely; and PowerApps, an app creation portal. He also explained how the tech giant can provide mobile-based information with the help of bots, AI assistants that can provide factory data and manual information and manage workflow.
Grant said the goals of Microsoft’s solutions are to empower plant employees and optimize operations.
BDO is also hosting a series of events across select cities in Canada where their speakers will be addressing ways to stay competitive. Next up is Kitchener. Ont. on Jan. 30.
Here’s a list of locations and dates, along with registration information.