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The digital transformation concept, introduced in Germany in the early 2000s, has gradually become a must in keeping our companies competitive on the international scene and to maintaining a strong industrial ecosystem in Canada. What is more, efforts related to digital transformation have increased tenfold since the pandemic, accelerating the process further. Alternately referred to as the digital enterprise, the smart factory, and Industry 4.0 and 5.0, digital transformation is now evolving to make room for the circular economy, the SDG Society (Smart-Digital-Green Society). Digital transformation is not only for industry or manufacturing plants, but for society as a whole.
The success of this transition starts with mastering four enablers: skills, software, funding, and project management.
Skills and Training
Digital transformation relies on the integration of several cutting-edge technologies: the Internet of Things, Cyber-Physical Production Systems, cloud computing, additive manufacturing, virtual and augmented reality, mega data analytics, data science… Hiring skilled personnel and providing ongoing training to current employees has become a necessity in ensuring these skills. Training can take different forms: internships, university programs, summer schools, industrial visits, etc.
Appropriate Software Tools
For a long time, software was what limited the growth and implementation of digital transformation; this is no longer the case. All the necessary software is now available on the market.
Quebec has many consortia and leverage to obtain necessary funding for the implementation of new technologies: ENCQOR, IVADO, Mitacs, NGen… Funding should not be a barrier to change for either large or small companies.
Collaborative Project Management
Projects leading to digital transformation are, at their core, highly multidisciplinary. Their many ramifications require a broader vision of the tasks at hand and a clear transition plan, based on specific and customized diagnoses of the target businesses.
ÉTS has set up a digital twin laboratory (ColLabInnov) to simulate the manufacturing plant of the future.
The Innovation 5.0 Network
The Innovation 5.0 Network, the first university-based group of its kind in Canada, was created three years ago. It includes more than 200 professors from eight Quebec universities. Their research affects all areas of digital transformation and involves numerous collaborations with companies and organizations of all kinds.
The Network received $12 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to acquire a multidisciplinary, digital, distributed testbed. The research themes of this platform are:
- Manufacturing process design and smart products
- Operational planning of intelligent value chains
- Design of data exchange and data processing platforms
Network partners of all sizes will be able to benefit from this platform.
Hany Moustapha is a professor at ÉTS and directs AÉROÉTS. In 2011, he was named Senior Research Fellow of P&WC in 2011. He wrote and co-authored over 100 publications and two books on gas turbines.