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Leading manufacturing transformation

Canada’s investment in the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster comes at a time of unprecedented emergence and convergence of transformative technologies, including automation and robotics, industrial Internet of Things, big data, augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.

These are all areas of strength at Mohawk College.

The investment also comes at a time when companies are more open than ever before to solving problems and seizing opportunities together, says David Santi, Dean School of Engineering Technology and Aviation at Mohawk College.

“There is a new world out there in which companies have to operate. They can’t be on their own anymore and get ahead of the game. The Supercluster will help build and sustain an ecosystem that will make Canada a leader in advanced manufacturing.”

Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) is an industry-led not-for-profit founded in December 2017 to be the engine behind the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster. It assesses, funds and monitors projects and programs under the federal government’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative.



The power of collaboration

In 2017, the Government of Canada announced it would invest up to $950 million in the Innovation Superclusters Initiative, challenging Canadian businesses of all sizes to collaborate with other innovation actors, including post-secondary and research institutions, to propose ambitious 

strategies that would transform regional economies and develop job-creating superclusters of innovation.

NGen is matching federal funds and private investments to industry-led projects across the country that leverage Canada’s strengths in advanced technology to scale our capabilities in customized manufacturing.

NGen’s 10-year targets include injecting $13.5 billion into the Canadian economy and creating 13,500 net new jobs.

“Achieving those targets requires taking on transformative projects. We are looking for ideas, products and solutions that have commercialization potential,” said Jayson Myers, CEO of NGen.

Mohawk College is perfectly positioned as a partner for companies across Ontario and beyond who need expertise in a wide variety of fields for their Supercluster-funded projects, says Santi.

“We want to see as many students and faculty as possible working on Supercluster initiatives.”

NGen, based in the McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton, also promotes technology adoption, skills improvements and greater collaboration between technology and manufacturing to help Canadian companies of all sizes navigate the global shift to advanced manufacturing. NGen aims to develop an artificial intelligence-enabled global database platform to link companies, researchers and investors so they can work together on innovation.

“Mohawk College is a critical piece of the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster because it provides the pipeline of next-generation skilled talent companies need and is a great model of how postsecondary institutions can partner with industry to the benefit of both,” said Myers.

“Raising the awareness of the capabilities of a place like Mohawk is crucial to what we are doing. Creating the links between a resource like Mohawk and manufacturers and technology companies is central to our success.”

It’s more than appropriate that the Supercluster

be centred in Hamilton, which was the country’s manufacturing powerhouse for decades. The city has reimagined and reinvented itself, just as Canada’s manufacturing sector must do in a time of disruption and transformation.

Ladle metallurgy furnace at ArcelorMittal Dofasco

ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s automation of its ladle metallurgy furnace (LMF) is among the first projects to be considered for Supercluster funding. Projects are evaluated and approved by independent expert panels.

Advanced digital technologies will revolutionize the operation of the LMF, improve the quality of products, and create a safer work environment, says Brian Benko, Vice President of Digitalization.

Traditionally, operators manually heat, alloy and sample the liquid steel to minimize impurities before it is cast into steel slabs. Automation will put that operator into an analytical supervisory role, leaving robots to physically sample the steel and digital sensors controlling what to add and when.

“The project would be an excellent fit for the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster as our collaborative work with project partners ensures we all gain significant knowledge about how to integrate a new generation of digital technologies into brownfield manufacturing sites, gain experience and knowledge with big data and advanced analytics, create digital twins of manufacturing assets for the purpose of running simulations, use emerging hardware technologies, such as smart cameras, smart sensors and WiFi-enabled devices and upskill our people to work in an advanced manufacturing environment,” said Benko.

Dofasco, a founding partner in the Supercluster, would be among the first in the world to digitize its LMF.

“All of this work and learning provides the supply partners with applied experience that can then be leveraged in other manufacturing sectors. The net result will contribute to the further development of Canada’s manufacturing ecosystem.”

Mohawk and Dofasco have a long-standing and multi-layered relationship across a number of programs. The college helps the company develop and deliver the curriculum and training resources for its next-generation employees and Dofasco experts are integral to a number of program advisory committees where cutting-edge technology is transforming business and skilled trades. 

The Supercluster is “really about building capacity in our manufacturers to adopt technology in

order to grow,” said Sean Donnelly, President and CEO of ArcelorMittal Dofasco. That means connecting manufacturers to the 3,500 organizations engaged in R&D and technology innovation in southern Ontario “so they can attack common business development challenges and rapidly apply technology.”

Solutions to compete globally

Supercluster projects focus on developing and applying new and integrated technology solutions that will help Canadian manufacturing companies compete globally. NGen seeks projects with a total cost between $1 million and $20 million that can develop high potential technologies, create ground-breaking process transformation, and de-risk the adoption of technology.

NGen will reimburse up to 44.4 per cent of a project’s eligible costs incurred following the signing of a project agreement.

Myers says advanced manufacturing is more than technology. It is workforce and leadership development, supply chain efficiency, operational improvements, financial management, and environmental stewardship.

“It is all encompassing. We are approaching this a broad, holistic way. Advanced manufacturing is really systems design.”

Mohawk will play a large role in upgrading the skills and capabilities of everyone from frontline workers to executive leadership as organizations adapt to new ways of doing business, says Myers.

“New technologies are changing almost every aspect of how people work. An enormous amount of retraining and retooling of thinking is required.”

For small- or medium-sized companies, the adoption of technology can seem impossible. Mohawk will help them overcome the hurdles, says Myers.

“Mohawk has the expertise to demonstrate technologies, carry out projects, and help companies see the possibilities.”

Santi points to the deep and broad partnership between Mohawk and McMaster University as a critical regional asset and an example of the potential in the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster.

“We are leaders in different ways. By standing together with our collective competencies, we are boosting our horsepower. Multiply that across the Supercluster and that is the kind of sustained pattern of collaboration that does great things.”