Automation and robotics is a relatively new phenomenon for most businesses. Over 90 percent of the businesses consulted by ICTC indicated they started using automation after 1984, even though more than half (61 percent) of the total businesses surveyed were established before that period. Among those who have been using automation for at least a decade, 70 percent say their use has significantly changed in the past ten years.

According to the IFR, industrial robot sales in Canada increased by 29 percent in 2013, well above the global average of 12 percent. A total of 2,250 industrial robots were sold in Canada in 2013, which is well below peak levels of around 3,000 robots between 2005 and 2007.[1] Canada represented approximately 1.3 percent of global industrial robot sales in 2013.

Canada has a relatively high penetration of industrial robots per 10,000 manufacturing employees at 118,[2] well above the global average of more than 50, but well below industrial powerhouses such as the United States, Japan, and Germany.[3]

Canada is home to a small, innovative cluster of industrial automation companies that generate approximately $2 billion annually in revenues from Canadian and international sources.

 Source: ICTC (2014)

Canada is home to a small cluster of industrial automation companies (i.e., developers) operating in specialized ICT industries across the country. Developers are companies that design, manufacture, and install industrial automation and robotics equipment. Not all of these companies are based in Canada; some are foreign-owned companies that manufacture industrial automation equipment in Canada. These companies operate in traditional ICT, advanced materials, aerospace and defence, automotive and transportation (including aftermarket exporters), bio-industries, consumer products, health industries, manufacturing and processing technologies, metals and mineral processing, nanotechnology, and solutions for advancing manufacturing.

On the basis of industry research and secondary data, ICTC estimates that Canada’s industrial automation sector, inclusive of Canadian and foreign developers operating in Canada, generates approximately $2 billion annually in revenues from domestic and international sources.  Given that the global end-user market is valued at more than $150 billion, Canada’s industrial automation enterprises are bringing in approximately 2 percent of global revenues.

Separately, Canada represents approximately 1 to 2 percent of the global end-user market for industrial automation and robotics. This means Canadian developers are relying not only on domestic end-markets, but on international demand. ICTC’s consultations with Canadian industrial automation developers confirmed a large and growing international market, with some firms conducting the majority of their business with overseas clients.

The estimated annual revenue generated by Canada’s industrial automation sector, including Canadian and foreign developers operating in Canada, is approximately $2 billion. As industrial automation processes continue to increase and Canadian firms have greater access to international markets, this market is expected to grow over the next several years.

On the basis of secondary data collected through Industry Canada and other sources, ICTC estimates that one-half of Canadian industrial automation companies are based in Ontario (49 percent). One quarter are based in the Western provinces and more than one-fifth (23 percent) are based in Quebec (see figure 3).

Figure 3. Breakdown of Canadian industrial automation companies by region



Prairie Provinces



Atlantic Provinces

Source: ICTC; Industry Canada (2014).

73% of Canadian businesses turn to suppliers outside of Canada for their automation equipment, and 34% rely exclusively on non-Canadian suppliers.

Source: ICTC (2014)

Canadian businesses need to go abroad for their automation equipment (see figure 4). All of the most commonly cited suppliers are foreign companies, though some, such as Fanuc, Mazak, and Motoman have operations in Canada.

The most commonly used suppliers, per survey respondents:

  • ABB (Switzerland)
  • Allan Bradley / Rockwell Automation (USA)
  • Amada (Japan)
  • Fanuc (Japan)
  • Mazak (Japan)
  • Motoman (Japan)
  • Panasonic (Japan)
  • Toshiba (Japan)

Figure 4. Proportion of automation equipment purchased from Canadian vs. international sources



Canadian only


Source: ICTC (2014)

As the next section illustrates, the manufacturing sector is the biggest user of industrial automation, especially the steel, automotive, machinery and food products sub-sectors

[1] International Federation of Robotics (2014). Industrial Robot Statistics: World Robotics 2014 Industrial Robots.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Credit Suisse (2013). Global Industrial Automation.