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Automation gains ground in Canadian factories

March 1, 2022
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin companies offering automation-related products or services may find opportunities in in several Canadian market sectors.

Canada is one of the top 20 countries in the world in its use of robotics in manufacturing.

The 2021 World Robotics Report by the International Federation of Robotics ranks Canada 19th, with 176 installed robotic systems for every 10,000 employees. South Korea, Singapore and Japan top the list. South Korea has 932 robotic installations in its factories for every 10,000 employees, according to the report.

Next Generation Manufacturing Canada says the country’s automation and robotic ecosystem traditionally has focused on the manufacturing and automotive sectors, but it is increasingly being adopted in emerging sectors such as vertical farming and logistics.

Ontario houses more than 350 robotics and automation companies, the largest number among Canada’s provinces, according to Invest Ontario, with companies such as Autodesk, Siemens and Rockwell Automation. The advanced technologies used by firms in Ontario range from surgical robots to optical imaging to autonomous warehouse systems.

Canadian Tire’s 1.4 million-square-foot distribution center in Bolton, Ontario, is one example of the impact of advanced technology. Completed in 2017, the facility has an automated receiving, picking and shipping system that can handle 42,000 tires a week; 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of hanging platform conveyors; and a 40-inch-wide conveyor that moves items normally considered too big for a conveyor system. About 40 automated guided vehicles carry product pallets around the plant, which employs 800 to 1,000 people, depending on the season, according to a 2018 article in the Retail Council of Canada’s publication.

Automation also is taking hold in other sectors of Canada’s economy, in part because of the labor shortage resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Food service businesses have installed touch-screen kiosks to replace cashiers and have added food preparation machines. Telehealth has gained traction, and even sanitation companies are integrating robots into their operations.

A report by the Conference Board of Canada says automation will be concentrated in several key industries during the next few years: hospitality, food service, retail, construction and health care.

Wisconsin companies that specialize in automated solutions to serve these industries may want to consider exploring opportunities in Canada.


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