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Jin Lee

2019 Manufacturing Forum and Industry Open HouseMay 2, 2019

What happens when you bring a group of industry leaders passionate about manufacturing into one room? For some, it becomes one of the highlights of the year.

Industry leaders, government officials and academics gathered at the McMaster Innovation Park and the McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) for the seventh Annual Manufacturing Forum and Industry Open House on Thursday, May 2, to dissect the topic Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Manufacturing. The event also includes tours of multiple research facilities at McMaster University. 

Cameron Schuler, chief commercialization officer and vice president of Industry Innovation at the Vector Institute, devoted his keynote speech to the notion that artificial intelligence (AI) is "assembling the future."

"Artificial Intelligence has worked its way into an ever-growing number of global industries," says Schuler. "This shift in action brings about an array of difficult but necessary questions, most notably: Where does AI fit in the manufacturing landscape?"

Schuler acknowledges that the many necessary questions about AI can't be answered in a single day, but it doesn't stop those who are passionate about manufacturing from debating about it and wanting to know more.

Irene Sterian, president and CEO of ReMAP and director of Technology and Innovation Development at Celestica, has attended the forum four times.

"I'm really passionate about manufacturing," says Sterian. "I can hear about the latest developments in manufacturing and also the link between academia and industry. What keeps bringing me back is really the networking opportunity with other people who are passionate about manufacturing, the diversity of the speakers and the new ideas that are being introduced every year."

MMRI Open House.

She says one of the most valuable takeaways from the event was the highlighting of artificial intelligence and software to hardware, and "how we can leverage existing tools and manufacturing processes but overlay a layer of this AI on top."

Jayson Myers, CEO of Next Generation Manufacturing Canada and MC for the forum, says having the ability to see the commonality of the challenges facing the manufacturing industry is one of the most valuable aspects of the annual event.

"It's really important to talk about joint challenges and opportunities," says Myers. "You see how common the challenges are, how common the opportunities are, but primarily, all the great opportunities to integrate research and technology to improve manufacturing in this area."

The award-winning business economist, who specializes in industrial and technological change, says that the key to AI and other technologies being used as a tool to solve problems starts with "good business decision making."

John Preston, associate dean, Research and External Relations for McMaster Engineering, echoes Myers' beliefs.

"The MMRI Open House is one of the highlights of the year," says Preston. "It brings hundreds of people from industry to McMaster and is a great chance for us to introduce ourselves, what we can do and what industries problems are and celebrate past successes... Advanced manufacturing is one of those sectors that if you can succeed in it, it drives all kinds of other opportunities. We can actually see the fruits of our labour put into practice and make a difference."

John Preston.

For Preston, the most impressive part about the forum was learning about the rapid speed that digital technologies, AI, big data, moving data is gaining traction and transforming manufacturing in southern Ontario.

Panelists for the forum included:

Pieter-Jan Provoost, director and business group leader, Agoria: European Perspective on Innovation

Shalabh Bakshi, director digital enterprise, Siemens Canada: Digital Enterprise

Evert Nieboer, manager, Finishing Automation Systems, ArcelorMittal Dofasco: Artificial Intelligence at ArcelorMittal Dofasco GP

Gina Succi, executive vice president, Westhill Innovation Inc.: SME perspective and advanced materials / manufacturing requirements

Simon Drexler, director LMT Products, ATS Automation: Supporting AI through integration of assets: Data collection and Action 

McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) is a 15,000-sq.-ft. facility located at McMaster University. Since 2001, the MMRI has been combining research excellence with state-of-the-art equipment needed to meet the sophisticated needs of leading manufacturers. From technical problem solving in metal manufacturing processes to helping partners establish world class productivity and capability, the MMRI provides partners with R&D capability not available from any other sources.