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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Canadian manufacturers to improvise solutions on the go and rapidly adapt to the new disruptive circumstances.

What has this experience taught us?

If the accelerated adoption of AI-driven technologies across the sector is proof of anything, the pandemic has taught us the importance of being better digitally prepared for the future

Whether we’re talking about the country’s aerospace industry, BC’s forest product manufacturers or Ontario’s automotive sector, the new generation of transformative technologies is changing the way Canadian manufacturers operate in a rapidly evolving, uncertain landscape.

COVID-19 has pressured manufacturers to adopt new technologies

The appetite for sophisticated solutions, such as remote service capabilities based on IoT, existed before the pandemic, according to Forrester’s Principal Analyst Paul Miller.

But many manufacturing companies didn’t expedite the adoption of these technologies until after COVID-19 hit to enable more robust remote equipment monitoring and virtual service visits.

“They’d been buying machines that could be remotely monitored and controlled for years, but they hadn’t yet switched them on until the pandemic,” Miller said.

Digitization boosts competitiveness and meets evolving customer expectations

Accounting for over 10% of Canada’s GDP, the manufacturing sector remains a significant driver of our economy.

But if manufacturers want to meet rising customer expectations and beat the global competition, they’ll have to embrace transformative technologies.

According to CME’s report Embracing Change: Industry 4.0 and Canada’s Digital Future in Manufacturing, businesses that invest in digital technologies will have a considerably better growth outlook than their counterparts who refuse to evolve

As a result, they’ll be able to

  • Slash operating costs. Digitization enables data collection that can be mined to spot efficiencies in existing operations, cut downtime and monitor and guide production activity. Gartner predicts that by the end of 2024, half of global heavy asset manufacturing organizations will have succeeded in monetizing their data.
  • Boost product quality. High-tech solutions can help eliminate errors and deficiencies that crop up in production, increase quality control, and improve the production process.
  • Innovate more. Technologies such as 3D printing and electronic prototyping decrease innovation spending and can unlock new abilities and capacities.
  • Increase customer satisfaction. Advanced technology use can delight customers in new ways by reducing response times, creating more specialization and customization and seizing customization opportunities while improving product quality.

AI-driven digital evolution is expected to facilitate the biggest growth

By 2025 the top 50 consumer goods manufacturers will have invested in a brand app using AI, embedded technology in the product, videos as digital assets and/or integrated innovation with IT and R&D teams, according to Gartner.

Furthermore, AI-based predictive maintenance solutions are among the powerful technologies that are reshaping supply chains and factory floor management.

The global predictive maintenance market size is expected to triple to $12.3 billion by 2025, according to MarketsAndMarkets, driven by emerging technologies to gain valuable insights and the growing need to reduce maintenance spending and downtime.

Total technology experience for customers and employees will raise satisfaction metrics

Gartner forecasts that manufacturers that use technology and interactions to create a total experience for enhancing, empowering and encouraging customers and employees stand to gain the most and improve their lifetime value.

Using this approach, CIOs can identify the appropriate platform to connect customers, partners and employees to create a culture where employees act as brand experts and customer service agents and answer essential questions.

Gartner estimates that, by 2024, manufacturers providing a total experience will outperform competitors by 25% in satisfaction metrics for both the customer and employee category.

Sector outlook is strong, but many manufacturers resist technological transformation

Although Canada’s manufacturing sector had staged a robust output recovery last year from the depths of the pandemic, some headwinds within the industry will remain.

Labour shortages, supply pressures and the impact of COVID-19 have contributed to the sector’s hitting a standstill since the fourth quarter of last year, according to a TD report released in July.

The good news is that the overall outlook for the industry remains strong after survey responses suggest that disruptions due to restrictions and lagging vaccinations in some economies will be temporary. The manufacturing sector south of the border is already showing signs of recovery – the industry is expected to increase by 7.2% this year, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s Spring 2021 Semiannual Economic Forecast

But not all manufacturers are “all systems go” when it comes to implementing transformative technologies.

Over half of Canadian manufacturers (55%) haven’t yet invested in advanced technologies, and one in five doesn’t intend to in the next five years, according to Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.
The top five barriers that stood in the way of adopting new technologies in 2020 in the manufacturing industry include skills gaps among organization’s leadership, insufficient understanding of opportunities, shortage of investment capital, lack of flexibility of the regulatory framework and lack of flexibility in hiring and firing, according to Statista.

Does your manufacturing facility need a digital makeover?

From predictive maintenance, crowd monitoring and visitor management to wellness screening and vaccine verification, EAIGLE’s portfolio of AI solutions has everything you need to power growth and keep your operations moving. Learn more about us here.