In the race to transform and become future ready in today’s fast-changing digital economy, Canadian manufacturers say they are addressing an array of business priorities that are now at the top their agendas.


CGI’s 2023 Voice of Our Clients research findings, as illustrated in the accompanying infographic, reveal that the top priority for the vast majority of today’s manufacturing organizations is still very much optimizing operations – as it has been for the last few years. Other leading priorities cited are enhancing collaboration within the supply-chain ecosystem and providing the right products or services to meet the evolving needs of our rapidly changing world.

Inevitably – as IT is concerned and given that cyber attacks are soaring in impact, frequency and sophistication – manufacturers are adopting innovative technology roadmaps to support the modernization and security of their ecosystems, in addition to current investments in analytics to support evolving business needs and expectations. However, while our VOC insights reveal that 100% of our Canadian manufacturing clients have a cybersecurity strategy in place, just 31% say they are producing results to meet objectives. It will be crucial for manufacturers to find solutions that ideally include revolutionary technologies such as AI and automation – both to combat the risk of potentially crippling disruptions and to optimize business operations in order to meet their priorities enterprise-wide as the rapid pace of change accelerates.  

Manufacturers want to know how best to harness the power of AI

A leading question being raised to our experts by business leaders as their organizations explore AI use cases today is how to safely leverage AI to their advantage. The need to optimize supply-chain operations comes first in the minds of manufacturing leaders amid change, growing complexity and the ‘need for speed’ in today’s hypercompetitive business environment. That includes how best to automate time-consuming manual work within manufacturing operations and business processes. There is also the need to continually monitor, manage and control hundreds of suppliers or third parties – anticipating deficiencies that may directly or indirectly affect operations due to disruptions impacting inventory, raw material and logistics needs.

At the same time, manufacturers tell us they are searching for ways to reduce their carbon footprint as customers become increasingly aware of the need for organizations to play their part in addressing climate change’s profound impact. Manufacturers need to be transparent on climate-related innovation and the integrity of their production processes – or risk undermining their brands and customer loyalty.

Finally, manufacturers are also coming to us with serious questions about how AI can help them address, amid the global war for talent, the critical need to recruit and retain modern digital skills as needs evolve and as aging workers depart the workforce.

CGI is driving the AI journey forward for manufacturers

We are indeed seeing growing interest and queries regarding the power of AI and how to implement it within a truly secure digital ecosystem. At the same time, AI is already making a difference for some leading manufacturers as we help them implement its unprecedented capabilities. As an example of CGI’s ongoing success with clients turning to AI, we helped a global manufacturer operating dozens of facilities identify a major intrusion risk and revamp access to their remote site-surveillance cameras, leading to more automated, resilient and secure controls over their operations. We showed the client how to break the online access point into the business and close the door on criminals. AI is now monitoring and reporting on each global site around the clock using precise algorithms that instantly detect and report every anomaly or potential risk.

Another example of CGI’s success implementing AI in the manufacturing space is the development of an integrated IT – OT cybersecurity framework including AI to remotely supervise city-wide OT installations, including hard-to-reach assets for human interventions such as traffic control systems, water and waste management systems or heating, venting or cooling systems within smart buildings. On the business side – we helped yet another manufacturer to detects cracks in his produced steel, by using AI computed image analysis to improve quality process and control.

While success stories are emerging as we partner with manufacturers, it’s also clear that many are still struggling to make the leap to secure AI capabilities that drive efficiency, growth and competitiveness. The problem? It’s due in large part to outdated infrastructure, applications and processes, plus the crucial need to modernize in key areas that include the use, management, security and governance of soaring data volumes in the digital economy.

At the same time, however, our 2023 VOC research shows that over the next three years, 69% of Canadian manufacturing firms believe that automation or RPA will be the pivotal initiative for implementing their data strategy – assuming they can progress fast enough with their modernization and digitization strategy. Our advice to manufacturers today is in line with that conclusion – that transformation and AI adoption in today’s reality has become inevitable to meet fast-evolving needs and challenges.

Accompanying clients from modernization to leveraging AI’s benefits

Whether implemented to enhance business efficiency or security, proliferating use cases are demonstrating AI’s revolutionary power, with gains often directly linked to the enterprise’s digital capabilities. Where is AI most expected to shine in the next few years? We believe it will deliver breakthroughs that address – and eliminate – growing concerns regarding human capital management. The future is not about replacing humans with machines and leaving a multitude of today’s employees jobless – as industry 4.0 wrongly led many to believe. AI will instead support and enhance workplaces and their workforces. Simply put, AI and automation will not preclude the indispensable need to keep humans ‘in the loop’ as businesses innovate and evolve.

The human element needs be there to ensure that AI technology is working ethically based on the right data and algorithms being applied. With demand for new skills soaring in manufacturing, AI is also a determining factor to boost employee satisfaction, whether by reducing low-value repetitive tasks, providing a secure and safe workplace, or simply making employees feel they belong to a modern, forward-thinking organization.

At CGI we find the use of AI in the HR space to be particularly strategic in the current talent-shortage situation, with AI IP and tools we’ve developed helping organizations monitor employee satisfaction, prevent turnover and recruit the right people for the right job.As manufacturers increasingly explore and implement the power of AI, CGI is ambitiously building on our trusted AI foundation to accelerate their AI journey. CGI recently announced plans to invest $1 billion over the next three years to support continued expansion of our AI services and solutions in partnership with manufacturers seeking to move responsibly from experimentation to implementation.“We believe that we are at the beginning of a new wave of innovation and that the business value of AI will be achieved through the combination of human expertise and ethical use of technology,” says CGI President and CEO George D. Schindler. “Today, our consultants are drawing on proven AI use cases and pre-built, industry-focused solutions powered by trusted domain data sets to help clients navigate the hype and make the best return on investments.”