Women in Canadian Manufacturing

Automate 2024: Cdn. manufacturers standing out in a sea of players

May 8, 2024
By Sadi Muktadir
Presented by:
Women in Manufacturing

In the middle of the vast trade show floor at McCormick Place, there’s a small section with five or six companies huddled together under a banner emblazoned with the word ‘Ontario’.

This, the sign that Canadian manufacturers mean business. It stands out as a beacon, drawing crowds and foot traffic from manufacturers and technology company reps curious to find out what the province has to offer.

Diane Reko, the CEO of Reko International Group Inc., was one of these companies in the section trying to make a splash among the automation companies.

“Ideally, we’d love to get new business out of the week. We’re here to talk about our entry into the off-site construction market. We know we have a housing shortage in North America so we’re here to help sole that problem. We’re hoping to find manufacturers looking to solve that problem and we know we can help them do that a bit faster.”

Diane’s comments speak to the large variety of manufacturers attending Automate this year. Across all verticals, there were automation solutions from the worlds of automotive, housing, food, pharmaceutical products, aerospace and just about every other niche industry.

Another key trend this year is the number of companies exploring vision technologies and LiDAR systems to help manufacturers examine small parts and products without downtime.

“There’s a lot of camera players here and vision technology companies here for sure. We’re here showing off a safety sensor for mobile and fixed robotic applications, using our own custom silicon optical chips,” Christopher Phare, Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer of Voyant Photonics.

When asked how some of these smaller vision-related automation technology companies could stand out, Christopher mentioned pricing as a critical factor, something also echoed by others at Automate.

“Pricing is a key factor. We’ve just launched our newest robots last week, and so we’re really investigating the cost of other AMR solutions here and trying to find the best way to stay competitive,” says Cynthia Reid, a Senior Sales Engineer with Oriental Motors.

But the Canadian players were not just relegated to the small island in the middle of the trade show floor. Samuel Automation, Vention, and OTTO Motors were just some of the Canadian giants with bigger displays and booths around the trade show. And while some of them may have recently been acquired by other companies, their aims and ambitions remain unchanged.

“For us it’s about meeting our existing customers but also meeting new prospects as well. Despite our success around the world, some people still haven’t heard of us. We also want to meet with partners to help them with their own offerings when they go to market, but also, we want to see what’s out there. We get a chance to see what we’re competing with in the marketplace,” Joe Wykes, Chief Revenue Officer at Vention.

Another hot topic at Automate this year is the reshoring surge of manufacturers looking to create a more diversified supply chain in North America.

At a panel titled ‘The State of the Automation Industry’ manufacturing leaders from Intel, Doosan Robotics, JR Automation and Edmund Optics were asked about the onshoring efforts they were seeing from global manufacturers.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Dave DeGraaf, CEO of JR Automation says. “We are seeing more reshoring, but it’s starting to slow because manufacturers are asking themselves what regulatory policies will look like when they operate here. They’re looking at how the interest rate is changing, how the election cycles might affect their operations, and really analyzing any changes to their supply chain.”

Amidst these challenges, Canadian manufacturers continue to challenge new global players from China and Korea, promoting the nation as a manufacturing hub for reshoring companies.

Automate 2024 is expected to see more than 30,000 people peruse the halls of more than 800 plus exhibitors and many attendees are already saying it’s been busier than the year prior, which took place in Detroit, Mi.

Ian Przybylinski, a Strategic Account Executive at Avidbots Corp., says there’s been a lot of interest and expects that there are robotics solutions for everyone at the show.

“There are a lot of robots here, a lot of different solutions providers and we’re hoping to meet new prospective customers who have floor cleaning needs.”

At Automate this year, practically every industry is covered, and there is a solution for everyone, no matter how niche your need.

Canadian businesses continue to build relationships with global players through trade shows, hoping to stand out in a competitive field of manufacturers.