Mary Scianna, editorClick image to enlargeThere seems to be a disconnect between where the manufacturing sector should be and where it is today in North America. In other words, “advanced manufacturing” isn’t as advanced in the field as it is in the minds of some people.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting manufacturers in this country are luddites. Indeed, we have published many examples of Canadian manufacturers in the pages of Shop Metalworking Technology Magazine that exemplify the “advanced manufacturing” philosophy of investing in leading edge technologies such as automation, robotics, additive manufacturing and digital manufacturing tools (e.g Industrial Internet of Things or Industry 4.0) to remain competitive.

What I am suggesting, however, is that the move to advanced manufacturing platforms is not progressing nearly as fast as it could or perhaps, it should.

The reality for some manufacturers is that the cost of moving towards advanced manufacturing platforms is price prohibitive.

There is another concern: fear of the unknown. Despite the attention being paid to some of the leading edge concepts of advanced manufacturing, in particular, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0, and additive manufacturing, some still don’t fully understand how these tools can apply to their operations.

What does industry 4.0 mean for the average small to medium production run CNC machine, fabrication or welding shop, and the Tier one, two and three parts supplier? How can Canadian manufacturers move toward becoming the “factory of the future” that is so often referenced by industry pundits?

As federal and provincial governments begin to prepare their budgets, they would do well to consider more polices to encourage advanced manufacturing to help manufacturers learn about, and embrace, new manufacturing technologies. They should consider more policies that reward manufacturers (e.g. tax incentives) who invest in advanced manufacturing technologies.

And if governments want to continue to provide direct funding to manufacturing to encourage such companies to remain in Canada and support jobs growth, perhaps they can look beyond the multi-national OEMs and share more of the available funding with manufacturing SMEs. These are businesses that typically have more invested in Canada than large multi-nationals in that many are family run businesses whose desire to stay in Canada is based on more than just the financial hand-outs they can receive. They have strong roots in the country and want to grow their business, create jobs and help support a stronger economy for future generations.

With the right support, Canada’s SMEs can embrace advanced manufacturing technologies and create factories of the future (and jobs) for the next generation of Canadians. SMT

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