Fourth Industrial Revolution in Canada
What is Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0, also called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is the process of ongoing automation in the manufacturing and industrial sectors. This includes large-scale machine-to-machine communication (M2M) and the internet of things (IoT). Applications can be seen in “smart factories” where machines can predict when they will require maintenance, or use smart sensors to know when there is an obstruction.
The term originated from a German strategy in 2011, which promoted computerization of manufacturing. The four guiding principles of Industry 4.0 are interconnection, information transparency, technical assistance, and decentralized decisions.
Essentially Industry 4.0 will help cut costs in the manufacturing process, while keeping pricing low for consumers.
On the Canadian Stage
Canadian manufacturers are already transforming to come in line with Industry 4.0. They are doing this with 3D printing, using smart sensors, and integrating equipment into the internet of things. Over 31% of Canadian companies say they have achieved advanced levels of digitization already.
Industry 4.0 is heavily reliant on 3D printing, which is already being used heavily in Canada. North America is the largest market for 3D printing globally. These printers can quickly manufacture spare parts in an environmentally friendly way. The elaborate designs can be completed in-house, which reduces lead times and costs, and reduces dependence of companies on third party suppliers for parts.
Early in the Covid-19 Pandemic, when there were shortages in supplies, Canadian volunteers began manufacturing personal protective equipment quickly and effectively. These are people who may not have medical backgrounds, but were able to produce face shields, and even a connector that allows a ventilator to service two patients at once. The possibilities for applications of 3D printers are endless.
CRIQ, an applied industrial research centre based in Montreal, is a leader in medical 3D printing. They provide assistance to companies, including financing, to digitally transform and optimize manufacturing processes using 3D printing.
Canadian companies are also leading the charge when it comes to establishing smart factories. 86% of Canadian manufactures say that smart factories will be the main driver of competitiveness in the next five years.These factories require less human interference and less maintenance, and represent lower amounts of downtime.
Companies such as Fujitsu, which has a branch based in Toronto, produce digital IT solutions for manufacturing in Canada.
Government Support for Industry 4.0
The Canadian government recognizes that early adoption of Industry 4.0 will have major economic benefits for Canada, and are facilitating the changeover with a variety of investments and programs to make Canada more competitive.
As manufacturing is completely transformed, from how products are developed to how they are distributed, Industry 4.0 applications will generate $1.2-$3.7 trillion of global economic value by 2025. This is according to a report from Canada’s Economic Strategy Tables.
There is research that shows companies that use new technologies have higher growth and productivity, and are able to trim their operating costs. Automated tools can lower maintenance expenses from 10-40%.
Recommendations made by the Economic Strategy Table include following the German model for meeting and cooperation, and federal funding for a not-for-profit that would facilitate new investments.