Conestoga news

March 10, 2020 11:08 AM

Conestoga research symposium explores Industry 4.0 solutions

Conestoga’s SMART (Smart Manufacturing and Advanced Recycling Technologies) Centre hosted its inaugural Smart Manufacturing Symposium at Tapestry Hall in Cambridge on March 4.

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Conestoga’s SMART Centre hosted its inaugural Smart Manufacturing Symposium on March 4, bringing together dozens of local manufacturers, government representatives and the college community to celebrate industry-academic collaborations and applied research in smart manufacturing.

The half-day event brought together dozens of local manufacturers, government representatives and the college community to celebrate industry-academic collaborations and applied research in smart manufacturing.

“Applied research plays a key role in Conestoga’s mandate as a leader in polytechnic education,” said President John Tibbits. “We greatly appreciate the support of our government, industry and community partners as we work together to maximize productivity, increase business competitiveness and build a brighter, more prosperous future for our region and for Ontario.”

The theme of the event was Industry 4.0 and included presentations and discussions about how digital transformations can help companies become more sustainable, competitive and profitable.

“This symposium is about celebrating Conestoga’s smart manufacturing research and our mission to help drive innovation in the local manufacturing industry through research collaborations that tackle production, product design and Industry 4.0 data analytics,” said Ignac Kolenko, executive director of the SMART Centre. 

Manufacturing is the largest industry in Waterloo Region, with more than 1,850 manufacturing companies and more than 49,300 people employed in the sector.

Through applied research projects, Conestoga’s SMART Centre supports the needs of local small and medium-sized businesses as they look to become more competitive and productive. Smart manufacturing research includes areas such as sensor development, visualization solutions, high performance manufacturing, Internet of Things and plant floor data collection.

During the event, Microsoft Canada’s Michael Gardiner delivered a keynote presentation about the different technologies available to Canadian manufacturers and the growing need for companies of all sizes to develop a digital strategy.

“The objective of the fourth industrial revolution is not to sell you a bunch of technology,” said Gardiner, a manufacturing industry solution executive at Microsoft. “The objective of the fourth revolution is about achieving mass production efficiency at lot size one. That is the business outcome.”

Attendees also heard presentations from several Conestoga researchers, including Professor So-Ra Chung and Professor Jim Galloway from the School of Engineering & Technology, and Russell Foubert, chair, School of Applied Computer Science & Information Technology.

Foubert highlighted a virtual reality (VR) training simulator built for Brose Canada Inc., an international supplier of mechatronics systems. The simulation is modelled after Brose’s own London, Ontario facility and allows multiple employees to receive VR training on new manufacturing equipment.

“This VR simulation could enhance worker safety, increase global access to training programs and reduce logistical issues,” said Foubert. “It’s a perfect example of how Conestoga’s smart manufacturing research supports the needs of industry while giving students real-world work experience.”

The event also included a panel discussion made up of representatives from local manufacturers including Ray Boorsma from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC), Derek Moorse from Niagara Belco Elevator Inc., Abhishek Gupta of Glen Dimplex Americas and Matt Weller from Berlin KraftWorks Inc.

The panel, moderated by Valerie Bradford, chair of the Waterloo Region Manufacturing Innovation Network, addressed Industry 4.0 challenges such as organizational-silos, data management and the costs associated with adopting new technologies.

“In recognition of how critically important manufacturing is to Waterloo Region, it’s very important to bring manufacturers together to talk about digital transformation and Industry 4.0,” said Bradford. “It’s great that manufacturers can learn from each other and Conestoga is such an awesome contributor to our community.”

Conestoga is ranked among Canada’s top 12 research colleges, supporting the needs of industry and community partners while providing students with opportunities to build real-world skills. Over the past year, more than 3,600 students and close to 270 faculty and staff were engaged in applied research projects.