A study of nearly 1,000 small to mid-sized Canadian manufacturers, conducted by the Business Development Bank of Canada, found nearly 40 per cent had implemented digital technology in their factories.
The study called “Industry 4.0: The New Industrial Revolution” was released May 29, 2017. They surveyed 960 companies in Canada, 384 of them from Ontario.
“Sixty per cent of business who have implemented digital technology, they have seen an increase in their productivity,” Pierre Cléroux, vice president and research and chief economist at BDC told CBC.
One example of the technology is using sensors to track a product’s performance after it leaves the factory. A company can also collect data at every step of a production line to identify problems faster.
“If you have sensors on your equipment that you sell to consumers, you can follow the maintenance of this equipment,” said Cléroux.
The study also reported the following:
- Almost 50 per cent of companies say operating costs have decreased.
- 42 per cent responded they improved product quality.
- 13 per cent said they had more capability to innovate.
Are employees qualified to work?
Digitizing a workplace can come with challenges, like cost and employee resistance.
However, the biggest challenge for 42 per cent of companies is a “lack of qualified employees.”
“Because it’s one thing to have the technology, but you have to make sure that your employee has the right training to use the technology in the best way,” said Cléroux.
He suspects companies will be spending more time and energy on employee training in the future.
Cléroux also said people will need to be ready to adapt.
“In order to make sure that we are able to find a job in the future, we’ll have to readjust a few times in our career to make sure that we will be able to use the technology,” he said.
While robots replacing people’s jobs have raised concern, Cléroux doesn’t agree it’s an issue.
“The task that the employee can do is much more complex,” he said.
He thinks that using robots can improve the company’s productivity and allow its employees more freedom to do interesting tasks.
Cléroux used an example of a BDC client in the food processing industry where the number of employees have not changed before and after adding robots to the factory.
“Having automation is actually a guarantee of success for the future,” said Cléroux,”Because companies who are going to able to compete in five or ten years are the ones who are going to adopt these technologies.”