Editorial: Canada: an industrial revolution casualty

Is your company ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution? If it’s not preparing now for the revolution’s challenges and opportunities, it will at best be on a path of stagnation and gradual decline. At worst, it will be swept away by more fleet-of-foot competitors.

At the heart of the revolution is automation. Among the key drivers of shifting that automation into overdrive are advanced technologies and sciences ranging from artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and digitization to energy storage and gene sequencing.
The march of the robots into the mainstream workforce is now unstoppable.
As with any revolution, there will be casualties along the way.
Consider, for example, that robot automation affordability is rapidly rising. Couple that financial incentive to automate with labour shortages, shifting career aspirations of younger generations and a rising tide of retirement and the permanent integration of robots into shop floor labour roles is inevitable. Meanwhile, industry-wide digitization in transportation and freight movement, while hugely expensive and complex, is being driven by e-commerce and environmental and energy efficiency imperatives.
As Cascadia Capital LLC notes in its Robotics, Automation & Artificial Intelligence report, automation is becoming the solution for “wage pressure and productivity, but more importantly, it is creating efficiency of resources and opportunities for companies to advance their position in the marketplace.”
But those opportunities will be available only for companies and countries that have the foresight and financial dexterity to invest in the human and infrastructure capital the Fourth Industrial Revolution demands.
Canada today has yet to show that it has that dexterity.
It is hobbled by a combination of rapidly escalating public debt and a paucity of business investment, especially in intellectual property, that is leaving it far behind competitors in the global marketplace.
It is looking increasingly like a casualty rather than a beneficiary of the revolution.