Cyber-Physical Factory to Demystify Technology

Genevieve Lefebvre and Line Dubois, respectively Chief Digital Transformation Officer and Vice President of CRIQ (Photo: Credit)

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION. At the end of May, Investissement Québec’s Center for Industrial Research Québec (CRIQ) will reopen the doors of its cyber-physical factory to businesses. After two years of distance learning, CRIQ executives wanted to mark the occasion by inviting Offers at its headquarters in Montreal. Visit the place we’re told has been the spark plug or inspiration for several digital transformation projects.

First, a word of caution. Entrepreneurs hoping to visit a life-sized factory school will be momentarily disappointed when they arrive on the scene. At the end of an anonymous corridor, the CRIQ welcome committee invites us into a completely banal classroom with several long tables and a projector. It is behind – in the second part of the room – that the magic happens.

The fully robotic assembly line offers a production path expertly controlled by an RFID chip (RFID device) through several stations and carousels, go through the steps of assembling parts, making microelectronic circuits, quality control carried out by an intelligent camera, packaging products and replenishing the assembly line with a friendly robot on wheels equipped with a feeding tray.

Line Dubois, Vice President of CRIQ, explains the origins of the project. “When we acquired two of our manufacturing units (CRIQ has a cyber-physical plant in Montreal and a 3D printing lab in Quebec) in 2016 and 2017, there was no training at CEGEP and the university to help manufacturers understand and take ownership of the technology. related to digital transformation. We created these places and organized workshops to make it specific to them and help them in their thinking. »

Geneviève Lefebvre, director of digital transformation at CRIQ, notes that companies do not always have a clear understanding of the procedure for launching a project. “A comment that often comes from companies is that the start of production is a black box for them. By coming here, they will be able to shed light on what types of technology can bring transparency and traceability to their operations. Today, customers want to know where their product is and at what stage of production. »

CRIQ training lasts one day; it can be given to a steering committee that wants to better understand the potential of digital transformation, or directly to the managers responsible for the 4.0 project in their company.

A visit that gives ideas

In 2018, Cascades Specialty Products Group (Cascades GPS) management attended a seven-hour workshop. “For some of us, the goal was to update our knowledge,” explains Pascal Vachon, Director of Operational Efficiency at Cascades GPS. For those less connected to production, such as HR or sales managers, the idea was to show them what the future might look like and give them ideas to innovate. »

At the time, Cascades Specialty Products was in the midst of strategic thinking and was preparing to upgrade a large part of its machine park, which was in many ways outdated. Since then, Cascades GPS has automated the packing and palletizing steps in some of its plants. The management purchased about 40 HoloLens virtual and augmented reality headsets, for which 200 employees were trained, and 100 licenses were activated for the purpose of remote recruitment, training and maintenance of machines.

“If senior management had not visited the cyber-physical factory and had not become familiar with new technologies, they might not have had such a vision of exploiting the opportunities offered by digital transformation,” says Pascal Vachon. The COO says he listens a lot to management on all topics related to digital transformation. “This attitude allows us to be more flexible and quick in making decisions aimed at improving our efficiency. In addition, the company now has an increasing role in the technical observer, who regularly meets with young shoots to keep abreast of the latest innovations. This is a visit that will pay off.