In recent years, Ontario’s manufacturing economy has entered what many are calling “Industry 4.0”—a reference to the fourth industrial revolution beyond the simple automation of the 1950s and 1960s. This new era of industry is defined by the use of highly advanced automation and data to improve efficiency and production, including efforts to connect machinery and products using the “Internet of Things.” Scanners, sensors, big data analytics, and highly advanced and adaptive robots are becoming the new norm. Robots are built to assist in the manufacturing of products through collaboration with other robots and human workers. They can be reprogrammed and used in a multitude of tasks, rather than for a single task like those of the 1960s. Sensors can tell manufacturers how to improve efficiency, reporting the precise moment when they will stop working and require repair or replacement to prevent bottlenecks in the production process. Big data analytics can help producers speed up processes and catch flaws before products are shipped out. Virtual and augmented reality are being used to plan and design products and production processes. Artificial intelligence has the potential to design and implement solutions for a wide variety of production and logistic issues. In these ways, Industry 4.0 is taking production efficiency to a level that has never been seen before, and Ontario is right at the forefront, helping develop and perfect this new era of manufacturing.
Companies like Clearpath Robotics, based in Kitchener, are developing and building mobile robots that can collaborate with each other and with workers to deliver materials and goods across factory floors without any human assistance. Waterloo is quickly becoming a global hub for the development and testing of self-driving cars; the sensors and analytic capacities of the cars are an example of what makes Industry 4.0 such a large step forward in the history of manufacturing. Toronto and Ottawa are growing into international centres of AI development, with global giants Google and Uber, among others, opening offices there in the coming years. Other major players with facilities and locations across Ontario such as General Electric and Siemens are developing the analytic tools and capabilities that will push Industry 4.0 even further forward.
While the manufacturing industry has changed dramatically in the last 150 years, Ontario remains a manufacturing powerhouse. Adapting to changing technologies is often difficult, but if anyone can do it, it’s Ontario’s hard-working and innovative firms—as shown in the many company success stories showcased here on Trillium’s website. Here’s to another 150 years of successful and evolving manufacturing.
We hope that you enjoyed this project, and that you will continue to check back on the Trillium website for more updates on Canadian manufacturing developments.