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guest expert. I’m telling you this because I just got back from “Automate,” one of the largest manufacturing automation and robotics events in North America. With over 700 exhibitors and over 20,000 participants, this is definitely the place to go if you want to see what the future of automation holds.
Over 300,000 square feet of exhibition space has some great surprises in store for us; Robots that make hamburgers, robots that play basketball, robots that serve beer, not to forget the robots that prepare cappuccinos with latte art worthy of the little coffee shop on the corner!
Given this, one might think that the United States is very far ahead in terms of automation and incorporation of new technologies. This is most likely due to the many technology companies that come from the United States. Indeed, the United States has traditionally been at the forefront of technological innovation and adoption of automation, particularly in sectors such as manufacturing, automotive, logistics, and information technology. American companies such as Tesla, Amazon, and Google are attesting to the use of automation to improve efficiency and productivity in remarkable ways.
But in fact, are American companies really so advanced? Should we really be concerned about their SME’s progress in terms of automation? My response is mixed…
I’ve met an impressive number of companies that have AI projects and would like to work with us for their AI project, because yes, Canada is “hot” in AI in the eyes of Americans. It’s not just an urban legend! But I also come back with other interesting observations and comparisons.
What we’ve noticed in talking with manufacturers of all sizes is that medium-sized companies and/or companies from more traditional sectors are clearly less automated than the giant companies we know. It’s like the very rapid arrival of new technologies in the last 5-10 years has taken a lot of people by surprise… Basically, what the folks we spoke to at Automate have told us is that the level of adoption of automation can vary widely between industries and regions in United State. Some regions, such as California’s Silicon Valley, are known as centers of technological innovation and highly advanced automation. Similarly, some Canadian provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec, are home to thriving manufacturing and technology industries that have widely embraced automation.
However, the priorities of American companies differ slightly from those of the majority of companies here. The labor shortage is affecting American companies to a much lesser degree, at least for now. So the race for them is a race of productivity and competitiveness.
Speaking of productivity, did you know that the United States experienced its largest decline since 1947 in the first half of 2022, despite a strong 2021. These findings raise questions about the effects of remote work and the silent boot phenomenon (commonly called a soft boot). To data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and The Washington Post. Our southern neighbors also have their share of challenges!
Knowing this, it is not surprising that Forbes published an article about it last March: To bring manufacturing back to the United States, we need to invest in advanced technologies. So it is not surprising to see that many American companies are trying to do this at high speed!
On the other hand, I was very happy to see local companies with whom we have ongoing projects and who were there to inspire and bring new ideas back to Quebec! This is also advice I give to all companies who want to be inspired to guide the first or next stages of their digital transformation; Go see what’s being done internationally, visit innovation fairs in your field, and above all, don’t be afraid to leave Canada!
Overall, the main feeling I have with Automate is a kind of fear that our manufacturers don’t have enough knowledge or insight about the massive acceleration going on among our neighbors to the south. Since the majority of large American companies are certainly more advanced than their Canadian counterparts, let us not lose sight of the fact that the silent majority made up of small and medium-sized businesses is also on its way to full speed automation.
The fact remains that the Quebec and Canadian manufacturers are already behind, but above all in a position that is not sufficiently similar to the sense of urgency that we can clearly perceive in Automate …!
We may still be a bit far from driving cars, but we are definitely not collaborative bots that perform a variety of everyday tasks! Like it’s likely more accessible from automation than you think.
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