Shop View: Robotics, yes; robotic thinking, no
- November 1, 2011
Far too often, Canadian industry tends to take a wait and see approach instead of delving first into new technologies.
Over-shadowed by a dominant neighbour - some would argue a big brother - Canadian businesses often look to the US to take the lead in adopting innovative technologies in manufacturing.
Granted, many US manufacturing firms that do invest in new technologies, such as multi-tasking machining or fiber laser cutting, are larger and typically have better access to capital financing. If we look further afield though, to Europe, the scenario changes.
In Europe, many small manufacturing operations from OEMs to job shops see investment in leading edge technologies as the best way to compete in a fiercely competitive marketplace. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to go on plant tours of two mid-sized manufacturers in Belgium - LVD Strippit customers P. Lemmens and Garmat Spraybooths. Both companies had invested heavily in automation and when asked why, P. Lemmens' plant manager Christophe Liegeois and Garmat's vice president Ben De Mill both said they felt it was the only way to stay competitive and grow their businesses.
These two companies are examples of small and mid-sized manufacturing operations that found a way to invest in the technology they needed to stay competitive.
Canadian manufacturers should take the same approach; instead of waiting to see how technologies fare in the US, Canadian manufacturers should take the lead in adopting new technologies that can give them a competitive edge.
In short, Canadian manufacturers should invest in robotics (or other leading edge technologies that fit their operations) and not robotic thinking.
I recognize this is not easy to do. As a small start-up, Shop Metalworking Technology has faced the same challenges many small operations face today accessing financial resources to invest back into the company.
A wait and see approach is simply not the way to go if Canadian manufacturers expect to survive in an increasingly competitive market. We need more outside-the-box thinkers in manufacturing who can come up with innovative solutions and create a stronger Canadian manufacturing industry.
See more editorial comments from the Shop Metalworking Technology Magazine team.