I was reading a recent article in Canadian Business weekly regarding the reshoring of manufacturing jobs in North America. Here is a quote from the article:
“Manufacturing is returning to North America. It is called “re-shoring” and is happening for several reasons. Chief among these is that labour costs in Canada and the United States are becoming relatively more competitive as the Chinese economy soared and wages there gradually caught up to more developed economies. But there are other factors at play here, too.
In North America, corporate tax rates have become more globally competitive, as has the cost of energy. Land is also far cheaper in North America. To find 500 acres for a large manufacturing facility in Alberta, you look out a window. In Guangzhou? Even five acres could be a challenge. When you also consider the additional cost of shipping goods from Asia to North America, the case for simply making it here becomes even stronger.”
The article goes to explain that although North America has many benefits, much of the work that is coming back will be done by robots. On the surface this looks like a bad situation, however, it is not. Any manufacturing plant that returns to Canada will employ Canadians and will require skilled help. Robots need to be maintained and manufacturing processes need to be optimized. Quality improvement projects still need to be undertaken. All this work is done by people with skills. I am thrilled to see manufacturing returning.
SEW-Eurodrive’s factory in Baden-Württemberg demonstrates how robots (called cobots) that cooperate with humans create a much more productive environment. Have a read of this article https://www.ft.com/content/6d5d609e-02e2-11e6-af1d-c47326021344 and have a look at this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY2TF3ZF0Kk.
Ford has also integrated Cobots into their manufacturing line to work side by side with workers in a cooperative format. Have a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNL1dhwVD88
Industry 4.0 is the next revolution in Manufacturing. Most Canadian corporations are declaring that they are committed to transforming to an Industry 4.0 Operating Model. For those who are not familiar with Industry 4.0. Here is short synopsis of this transformation:
“Industrial leaders are digitizing essential functions within their internal vertical operations processes, as well as with their horizontal partners along. Industry 4.0 as a shorthand to describe a journey industrial companies are taking towards a complete value chain transformation. At the end of this transformation process, successful industrial companies will become true digital enterprises, with physical products at the core, augmented by digital interfaces and data-based, innovative services. These digital enterprises will work together with customers and suppliers in industrial digital ecosystems.”
PWC Industry 4.0: Building the digital enterprise
Cobots is just one of the Technologies that will help Canadian Companies make this transition.
A significant part of this Industry 4.0 transformation is the careful utilization of new Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. The best way to determine the most effective use of these technologies is to approach their implementation from a business transformation method versus a technical approach.
There are 12 business scenario or capability areas that I recommend a manufacturer examine when looking at how new IoT solutions may benefit their manufacturing operations. These business scenarios are:
There are extensive examples available for each of these business scenario areas that have already been implemented in manufacturers all over the world and have proven to be a solid investment.
To help our customers identify where IoT solutions may be of assistance in their journey to an industry 4.0 operating model, FoxNet has developed a new IoT Conversation workshop. This workshop presents detailed case studies of companies that are implementing IoT solutions to address all 12 of the business scenarios I mentioned above and will facilitate a discussion to help companies identifies which solutions would be best to begin their Industry 4.0 transformation journey. Foxnet will collect IoT business scenario and functional use cases from the workshop attendees and deliver a report containing a list of potential IoT pilot projects.
For a few years in the last decade, it was difficult for me to tell students to consider choosing computer engineering as a career. I saw so many jobs leaving Canada and so many IT Professionals unemployed I could not tell new students in good conscience that it was a good field to enter. All that has changed with the IT demands that Industry 4.0 is demanding. There are great opportunities for IT professionals in this area, and it is work that won’t get shipped out to other countries. It is work that needs to be done right here, right in our Manufacturing plants.
Cobots, you are welcome here.
Bill Dupley is a Digital Strategist at FoxNet. He has led IT transformation and strategic planning teams for over 50 companies and governments worldwide and bring extensive experience in IT & Business Strategic Planning, IT process design, and enterprise architecture. Bill has held several positions over his career including the Cloud Chief Technologist for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Canada and Director of Strategy and Business Development for HPE Canada Consulting.
He is a graduate of Ryerson University, a former member of the HPE IT Global SWAT Team, and a member of the Open Data Center Alliance Cloud Maturity Model authorship team. He is dedicated to helping customers equip themselves rapidly for our ever-changing technological world.