Canadian manufacturers are undergoing a large technological change that will affect the industry in many ways. From production workflows, labour needs, and interactions across supply chains, Internet-enabled and advanced digital technologies are reshaping manufacturing across the country.
In late 2019, Northbridge Insurance surveyed decision-makers in 200 Canadian manufacturing businesses who were currently using or in the process of implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Smart Technology (Smart Tech), or planning to invest in them in the next two years.
The study was meant to help develop a better understanding of what AI and Smart Tech mean in the context of manufacturing, track the adoption and readiness of AI and Smart Tech among manufacturers in Canada, and identify challenges that these technologies pose for manufacturers.
While this research was conducted prior to the start of the global pandemic that is currently challenging manufacturers, these technologies may play an important role in their recovery and the development of more resilient businesses that are better equipped to deal with this level of disruption in the future.
The key findings
Northbridge Insurance’s study was informed by in-depth interviews with four AI experts and 15 manufacturers who had or were planning to adopt AI and Smart Tech in their businesses. This research revealed the following:
- These technologies are already mainstream
- These technologies have been adopted by almost half of the country’s manufacturers (48 per cent) who were surveyed. Another 20 per cent are in the process of adopting the technologies and approximately 12 per cent say they are actively investigating and have plans to invest in the technologies in the next few years.
- Numerous motives are driving the adoption of AI and Smart Tech
- There are many factors motivating manufacturers to adopt AI and Smart Tech, but cost savings are the biggest driver. This is followed by opportunities to increase revenue through higher throughput, extended machinery and equipment lifespans, and more value-added products.
- They’re being used for multiple applications
- Canadian manufacturers are using AI and Smart Tech for a variety of workflows, ranging from task automation (71 per cent of manufacturers) to quality control (64 per cent) to predictive and preventative maintenance (59 per cent) to planning and scheduling applications (58 per cent).
- Cost and talent are both key challenges
- When asked about issues surrounding the adoption of AI and Smart Tech, manufacturers listed access to capital to pay for these investments and related equipment as a top concern. Finding skilled workers to implement and work with these technologies is another obstacle that was brought forward.
To learn more about AI and Smart Tech in the Canadian manufacturing industry, read our in-depth whitepaper.