Automation, Innovation Investment and Training Advancing Canada’s Manufacturing Sector
Canada’s manufacturers are both in an enviable and challenging position. They are supported by the nation’s many resources, but struggle with obstacles such as an aging population and infrastructure. This makes competing effectively on the global stage even more difficult. That said, what is helping Canada’s manufacturers progress are advanced automation technologies, innovation investments and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related workforce training.
“Industries Driving Canada’s Manufacturing Growth”
Much of the focus in Canada’s manufacturing sector has been on the so-called “advanced industries” as defined by the Brookings Institute. These include: automotive, aerospace, oil and gas extraction and information technology. They are the industries where automation and innovation reign. They also, according to Brookings, generate a disproportionate share of Canada’s output, exports and R&D activity, but still lag behind their U.S. counterparts in most areas. When it comes to employment though, Canada’s largest Census Metropolitan Areas rival the United States’ highest advanced industries’ employment regions such as Silicon Valley’s San Jose. Canadian regions, specifically, Calgary, Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Saguenay, however, notably take the next four largest shares in North America’s advanced industries employment.
“New Innovation Initiatives”
Besides the advanced industries, other sectors are also helping to drive Canada’s manufacturing. These include: food and packaging, electronics and light assembly, biotech, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, water technology and life sciences. For these and the advanced industries, innovation and automation technologies have been a key factor. This is not lost on the Government of Canada’s leadership which, in February of 2018, rolled out its “Innovation Superclusters Initiative.” Through this initiative, the Government of Canada is investing up to $950 million to drive economic growth and job creation by targeting five innovation superclusters. They are: Ocean, based in the Atlantic Canada region; SCALE, AI (i.e., supply chain, artificial intelligence and robotics), based in Quebec; Advanced Manufacturing, based in Ontario; Protein (i.e., plant proteins), based in the Prairies; and Digital Technology (i.e., big data and digital technologies to support healthcare, forestry and manufacturing), based in British Columbia. The goal is to grow Canada’s economy by $50 billion over the next decade and generate over 50,000 new jobs.
“Technologies and Training”
New initiatives notwithstanding, manufacturers in Canada have been making gains by embracing leading-edge technologies and the engineering know-how of prominent global industrial automation and process control solutions manufacturers. Festo, a company with over 80 years experience producing automation technologies, has been helping Canadian manufacturers with its components and solution-based systems for over 50 years. In addition to being an industry partner of Canada’s Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster (NGen), Festo is Canada’s market share leader in pneumatics and has collaborated on several notable customer solution innovations that have been developed locally. One such innovation is telescopic tooling for product transfer or automation storage and retrieval systems. Additionally, the company recently unveiled its Motion Control Package, a made-in Canada solution. It employs software function blocks to connect its gantries and other handling systems to leading brands of external control systems with minimum effort; even for manufacturers that lack programming expertise. Along with its pneumatics, Festo provides both electromechanical systems and controls for process and factory automation. To address commercial and technical inquiries, the company has established a Customer Interaction Center, but its contribution to education and training go beyond simply answering questions.
Festo Didactic, the world’s largest industrial trainer, has brought its cyber physical, model Industry 4.0 factory to educational institutions across Canada such as Humber College in Toronto. The role of the Festo Didactic team is to provide holistic education solutions for all areas of technology in factory and process automation. By helping manufacturers gain both theoretical knowledge and practical experience in automation and technology, they can help them drive measurable process improvements that, in turn, lead to higher productivity, cost-containment and profit margins.
In addition to Festo Didactic, the company is working in partnership with Quebec’s Centre de recherché industrielle du Quebec with which it has established the first Canadian cyber physical laboratory to help customers develop and integrate Industry 4.0 solutions into their manufacturing.
The combination of advanced automation technologies, backed by real hands-on training, along with innovation investments, is already showing promise of bolstering Canada’s manufacturing sector and, in turn, its greater contribution to the country’s economic growth.
By Michael Zakrzewski, Vice President Market Management - North America, Festo (www.festo.us), a leading global manufacturer of high quality industrial automation solutions.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.