Labour shortages have been in the news a lot lately:  in Quebec alone both the Conseil du patronat du Québec, a lobby group for employers in the Canadian province, and the Quebec federation of Chambers of Commerce estimate that there are currently 120 000 open positions with the shortage expected to get worse.

The past several years have seen a number of articles published talking about a shortage of skilled labour.  A 2016 study by the Canadian Skills Training & Employment Coalition (CSTEC) expects this shortage to worsen over the next 10 years as experienced workers retire out of the labour market.  A similar Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) survey found that almost 40% of entrepreneurs are already having difficulty finding staff to fill vacant positions, going so far ast to say that the "labour shortage [is] here to stay".  Lack of skilled workers isn't just bad for business, it's bad for the economy as a whole.

“Labour shortages are affecting growth for many Canadian businesses, and this has an impact on Canada’s competitiveness,” says Pierre Cléroux, Vice President, Research and Chief Economist at BDC.

The effects of a labour shortage

The effects of a labour shortage on your company are obvious:

  • Delays in delivery of your goods or services
  • Higher employee turnover
  • Lowered productivity
  • Loss of contracts

A labour shortage also affects your employee's tasks

  • Work overload
  • Delay in deliverables
  • Reorganization of work
  • Drop in quality

The problem has become so acute in certain jurisdictions that local governments are stepping in to help SME's.  Two such initiatives are

  • Quebec government's MACH Fab 4.0 which aims to help manufacturers in the aerospace industry transition to industry 4.0
  • Next Generation Manufacturing Canda (NGen): promoting collaboration between techonogy and Canada's manufacturing sector

Industry 4.0 to help alleviate the shortage

In a Canadian Manufacturing Trends blog post, BDC Vice President, Research and Chief Economist Pierre Cléroux noted how the labour shortages are limiting investments in manufacturing and suggested that new technologies could help overcome the labour shortages

Increasing the use of digital technologies is one strategy to overcome labour shortages. Also called Industry 4.0, these technologies are making manufacturers more agile and flexible and, at the same time, more responsive to customers.

In a 2018 Forbes article, Willem Sundblad explores the benefits of Industry 4.0 in an ever-shrinking labour pool.  He found that while Industry 4.0 can make your workforce more productive it also has other, less tangible benefits:

  • Institutionalizing intellectual property: recording, analyszing and transfering your IP company-wide
  • Attracting young, high-skilled talent who want to work in a more technological environment
  • Upskilling operators by building training into the technology
  • Information more redily available: time wasted looking for information is reduced as Industry 4.0 puts information at everyone's fintertips

Canada slow to adopt Industry 4.0

A 2019 article from CanadianManufacturing.com showed that despite the numerous benefits, Canadian manufacturers lag behind Europe and the U.S. in modernizing their shop floors; relying on other canadian examples of success to implement their own solution.

The articles suggests that Canadian manufacturers require a change of perspective when it comes to adopting new technologies.

Rather than dwelling on the disruptive changes and potential negative pitfalls and risks, you need to view this as an opportunity. This is a chance to propel your organization forward into the future, providing you with a value differentiator that will allow your company to compete not only locally and nationally, but perhaps on the global stage.

Adopting Industry 4.0 need not be expensive

Many IIOT providers are modernising shop floors using a SAAS (Software As A Service) model and the latest cloud technology.  This means that manufacturers are not required to invest heavily in IT hardware or personnel.  With the SAAS-cloud model everything is securely stored off-site and the only hardware investment required by the company is a few hand-held devices to configure and display the data.  It also means the manufacturers can roll-out the Industry 4.0 solution on a few machines at a time; testing and refining the application as they go with minimal overhead.

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JITbase is a Montréal-based start-up whose mission is to help our clients become more productive with the adoption of Industry 4.0 technology.