Canadian Finishing and Coatings Manufacturing


June 4, 2024


In lead-up to the US election, FABTECH Canada’s panel of industry professionals will discuss global competition, skilled employee shortage as wake up calls to innovate and automate


Fabtech CanadaWith Canadian manufacturing eyes focused south of the border on the upcoming US election and its potential impact here at home, a group of industry leaders is sending Canada’s manufacturers a wake-up call.

Their message? It’s time to do things differently or Canadian manufacturers risk being controlled or cut off by foreign suppliers.

The group will share insights on transforming our country’s manufacturing industry as panelists at FABTECH Canada 2024, the premier event for the metal fabricating industry, taking place this year at the Toronto Congress Centre from June 11 to 13. The session, entitled The Future State of Advanced Manufacturing in Canada, gets underway on June 11 at 2:00 p.m.

Moderated by Stephanie Holko, Director, Project Development, NGen Canada, the panel includes Max Ceron, Director, CWB Association, CWB Group, Diane Reko, Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Board of Directors, Reko International Group Inc., and François Desmarais, Director for Trade and Industry Affairs, Canadian Steel Producers Association

“With the US being Canada’s largest trading partner, these months before the election are creating uncertainty for businesses and historically result in delayed or cancelled capital projects until the election is decided,” Reko said. 

Added to these uncertainties are additional challenges plaguing the industry, including global competition and a shortage of skilled employees, the panelists will explain.

In fact, according to recent analyses undertaken by NGen, manufacturers will be unable to rely on traditional sources of new labour and skill supply to satisfy their growth. “The only way to remain competitive will be to continue to adopt advanced production technologies that are much more knowledge and skill intense but that require fewer, more highly skilled, workers,” Holko said.

So what can Canadian manufacturers do to survive and thrive? Automation and home-grown innovation are critical for Canada to maintain manufacturing and production independence, and compete globally, all panelists agree. 

Technological advancements will also bode well for the future workforce, they say, explaining that younger workers want less “grunt work” and more oversight and responsibility. Experience shows that using collaborative robots and remote controls achieves this goal and elevates employee satisfaction.

While automation requires upfront investment, “new technologies can provide transformational opportunities for cost reduction,” Reko said. “For example, the time required to manufacture a machine part can be reduced from 18 to eight hours by switching machines and revising CAD-CAM programs.”

Reko explained that anyone considering a capital investment should take advantage of the current state of flux in the US “Now is an ideal time to conduct research and find a partner who can deliver the return on investment needed so that you are ready to go whenever you have more certainty about the future,” she said.

Ceron explains that cost reductions and efficiencies can also be achieved by collaborating with and leveraging the expertise of like-minded companies to be able to take on bigger projects and technologies.

“The key is for Canadian manufacturers to keep their ears to the ground for opportunities to improve the way they do business and interact with customers, staff and suppliers,” Ceron said. “Ongoing upskill training, digital and professional education, and equipment and process development are essential as part of this processes,” he explained.

According to the panelists, greening of the manufacturing sector is also critical to maintain access to foreign markets, especially Europe and increasingly the US. 

“We’re making good headway, yet there’s much more to be done,” said Desmarais, explaining that the steel sector in Canada is leading the transformation and contributing to the fight against climate change. 

“While the Canadian steel industry is amongst the cleanest in the world, much remains to do to improve carbon footprints,” Desmarais said. “Canadian projects have been announced to address different aspects of our footprint, such as energy consumption and new technologies to produce greener steel and while these initiatives are steps in the right direction, partnership with governments is key, just like we have seen in the US with the IRA.” 

Done right, the panelists say they are confident that Canada can be a leader in digital manufacturing transformation that will enrich the lives of Canadians, deliver better products and good jobs, and generate economic growth. They will each share examples of innovations already being introduced by local manufacturers that are helping to achieve these goals.

For event information and to register for FABTECH Canada, visit Admission is complimentary for those who register by June 7.

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