Clean Technology Canada

Don’t be left behind

October 17, 2022
By Mario Cywinski

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Photo: ©Blue Planet Studio/Adobe Stock

Recently, Plant conducted the 2023 Advanced Manufacturing Outlook survey, which measured advanced manufacturing (IIoT and Industry 4.0) among respondents in the manufacturing industry who are senior decision makers. The research was conducted by R.K. Insights, earlier this year for Plant Magazine and Canadian Manufacturing Online.

In addition to the survey, Plant conducted a roundtable with industry experts, to gauge their reaction to the results, and discuss the future of advanced manufacturing.

Combined they looked at advanced manufacturing adoption, digitalization, processes, financing, cyber security, data collection, and training. They also looked at which technologies are being invested in, and how those technologies will be used.

“When we talk about retaining talent where you have a generation of millennials that use technology for anything and everything, it is a challenge to ask those very same people to file an expense excel spreadsheet manually,” said Krishan Chauhan, director of business operations, Canada, Sap Concur.

IIoT adoption and investment
IIoT adoption is increasing slowly, as we saw 26 per cent of respondents applying IIoT capabilities this year (up from 24 per cent in 2020), while another 26 per cent are in the process of evaluating its relevance to operations, and a further 14 per cent have a plan and are investing in technology for deployment in next 12 months. Only 20 per cent said they are not familiar with IIoT capabilities (down from 24 per cent in 2020), and 14 per cent said it is not application to them.

“The last couple of years has taught us that we should be very concerned about companies, large and small, that aren’t making investments in technology. If you look at who’s disappeared during the pandemic, and those still around, they are the ones who have invested in technology,” said Dennis Dussin, president, Alps Welding. “I don’t see how you can be competitive, have effective processes and serve customers in today’s environment if you’re not making those investments. The number of people not concerned should be in the single digits, close to zero.”

For companies that are not investing in IIoT, the main reason cited was the technology was too costly (33 per cent). Followed by difficulties integrating advanced technologies into existing systems (30 per cent), lack of skills to support investment (27 per cent), uncertainty, risk, and disruption (23 per cent), lack of financing and support (20 per cent), among others.

Photo: © SweetBunFactory/Adobe Stock

“Make sure that IoT is giving you the type of data to make decisions, and as soon as you’re not making them, you’re operating your business the way you have in the past, based on natural trends of what they’re used to for the past 25-30 years,” said Hussam Malek, partner, consulting, MNP. “The problem is those trends have changed drastically, now being a global competitor and globalized environment, not having that information and data, is really going to impact losing clients, but also affect your profitability it is going to come down drastically, not being able to control them.”

Conversely, what happens to those companies that do not invest in IIoT? Companies are worried, with 18 per cent ‘very’ and 53 per cent ‘somewhat’ concerned for their companies if they do not invest in IIoT; with 22 per cent not very concerned, and six per cent not at all concerned.

“Losing employees and not being able to attract younger people into your workforce is a major concern,” said Jayson Myers, CEO, NGen. “Younger people coming into the advanced manufacturing workforce are expecting companies to be up-to-date in terms of the technologies they are using.”

How safe is your technology?
The survey found that 56 per cent of respondents mentioned having experienced a cyber-attack or breach at their company. Overall, 41 per cent had a phishing attack, 14 per cent had a data breach or loss of proprietary data; personal or financial information, 14 per cent had a breach through a third-party vendor, among others. That leaves a whopping 44 per cent who said they had no breach or attack.

“More than half of companies are blissfully unaware that they’ve suffered an attack. These numbers are measures of delusion. The idea that a piece of open-source code is buried in systems, and in some cases down in layers that were never even designed to have a regular update cycle has caught companies off guard,” said Peter Coffee, VP for Strategic Research, Salesforce. “If this wasn’t a wake-up year, I don’t know what will be.”

How do you avoid a cyber-attack? One of the most important tools is to educate the company’s workforce on how to avoid getting scammed in the first place. This is especially true for more sophisticated attacks. It is reassuring to see that 97 per cent of respondents have undertaken measures to protect their company against a cyber-attack. Of those 70 per cent have a security infrastructure, 52 per cent have taken on a cybersecurity risk assessment/review, 46 per cent had a cybersecurity strategy, 44 per cent have data privacy controls, 33 per cent have a cyber breach response plan, and 23 per cent have crisis management procedures and/or a business continuity plan.

“Our internal pulse data shows that careless, untrained, or unaware employees are the top source of vulnerability for most firms. With employees, it’s not just a technical vulnerability, but potentially socially engineered ones, manufacturers should look out for. This is where attackers are using technology to gather sophisticated information on companies and individuals, then using that information to engineer access by contacting the company directly and fooling people into opening the gates,” said Scott McNeil-Smith, VP of manufacturing sector performance, Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC).

“This can include pretending to be customers, suppliers, and service providers, to access financial, IP and other information, to redirect payments or enable further, more comprehensive cyber-attacks. It’s getting harder to tell the difference between real and fake, so having cybersecurity procedures in place that includes educating staff, and policies for access and monitoring controls, and maintaining and testing back-ups is vital to protect against what could happen if something does hit the fan.”

Benefits of advanced manufacturing
When we asked how companies are applying IIoT, we found that organizations are improving efficiency/productivity (43 per cent), providing more visibility into production processes (28 per cent), improving maintenance functions (28 per cent), analytics functionality (24 per cent), tracking materials, shop floor assets (23 per cent), tying in business data from shop floor to top floor (20 per cent), developing new services/revenue streams (14 per cent), consolidating control rooms (14 per cent), and developing smart products (12 per cent).

“What I’ve heard a lot is the “where do we start” and having that strategic score card is critical to this, so you could go into a plant that has 10,000 pieces of equipment, or a plant that has 50,000, and for both, understanding the production critical equipment and having a score card will help determine where to start,” said Kristina Sturek, director, US projects, Illumiti. “It’s important to step back, and look at your critical areas, throughput challenges, and equipment availability, and then assessing these areas. What is it that we want to measure, what do we want to improve, where do we need our cost savings and improvements? Then choose that one area based on the analysis and reliability assessment, that is where your pilot should start, after a period of six to 12 months your business case will write itself, you are going to see the cost savings by increasing your equipment uptime, reducing wrench time, reductions in materials and overtime costs, especially with predictive maintenance.”

It is good to see that most respondents are seeing a benefit from using advanced manufacturing. In all, 78 per cent said they saw a benefit, with the most common benefits mentioned by respondents being increased throughput (38 per cent), reducing downtime (36 per cent), increased quality of product (33 per cent), product innovation (23 per cent), reduced staff requirements (20 per cent), among others.

Data collection and use
All companies collect data. We live in a world of data, if you have an electronic device, it is collecting data of some sort. However, while the data is being collected, often that data is not fully utilized for its benefits. While different areas of a company may have specific data, they may only keep data within that area, and not share it with the whole organization. What we found was that 96 per cent of respondents said that sharing data would benefit the whole organization.

“For us, having just gone through an ERP system upgrade, and understanding that the raw information that’s coming out of it isn’t going to be a benefit to every employee. Therefore, creating tools to analyze that data has allowed us to create tools that automate people’s decision making,” said Stephen Loftus, CEO, Innovative Automation. “It’s another step in the automation process, the data is allowing us to make those decisions, no different than any person analyzing that data making the decision.”
Mario Cywinski is the editor of Plant magazine, MRO magazine, and Food and Beverage magazine, contact him at

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