“Digitalize or Die” – Predicting the Future of Canadian Manufacturing

I was honoured to be the keynote speaker this month at an event at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. The theme for the day was “The Future of Advanced Manufacturing”.

I was asked to predict what Canadian manufacturing would look like in 2025. While that sounds like a daunting task, I believe it’s possible to make some accurate forecasts.

First, in 2025, Canadian manufacturing will be very different from today.

That’s because everything has changed, is changing, and will continue to change at an unprecedented pace. We can adapt, innovate, accept change as a way of life – or our manufacturing sector will be dead and gone. As manufacturers, we need to adopt the motto, “Digitalize, or die.”

We have entered an exciting, world-wide, fourth industrial revolution, often referred to as “Industry 4.0″. It represents a shift from a labour-intensive focus to a process based on advanced technology. This paradigm shift of digital transformation is well underway, and it is radically changing value chains and creating almost unlimited potential.

In Europe, there has been tremendous buy-in of this trend. In Germany, for example, four out of five industrial companies plan to digitize their complete value chain over the next five years.

This transition is essential because digitalization has become a decisive lever for growth in virtually every sector of industry.

Adopting digital technology solutions is the only means to real efficiency, through optimizing and networking systems along the entire product and production life cycle.

Companies that embrace digitalization will be able to develop and manufacture products and solutions quickly, efficiently and with more opportunity for mass customization. This creates an enormous competitive advantage.

Ten years from now, digitalization will drive everything. In fact, the current rebound in manufacturing is fueled primarily by early adapters of technological change through digitalization.

A recent German study found that 70% of all companies with highly digitized products have enjoyed growth of between six and 10 per cent over the past three years.

Digitalization will create totally different technical platforms and opportunities to innovate new products, services, and business models.

There will be an emphasis on intellectual property, not on hardware, which will change the dynamics of manufacturing.

There will be new players, and new alliances, and these may change very rapidly, as circumstances dictate.

Is this the future? Certainly. But it is also the present.

As I meet and talk with Siemens’ leaders from around the world, one theme constantly rises to the top. Digitalization is on everyone’s mind.

The industrial world is changing at an enormous pace. The industry leaders in the future will be the companies and organizations that adapt, innovate, collaborate, digitalize, emphasize sustainability – the companies that change, and start that transition now.

Looking ahead at 10 years from now, I see Canadian manufacturing as a strong, collaborative, innovative network, active and impactful right across the globe.

At Siemens Canada, we are taking a leading role in bringing stakeholders together to create an environment that will make possible this transformation of Canadian manufacturing in this digital age. Our goal? Ensuring Canada is a strong global competitor.

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