ICTC’s research approach and methodology addresses several interrelated elements of the industrial automation sector and its end-user market. ICTC’s evidence-gathering methodology combines both quantitative and qualitative research approaches to expertly mine, analyze, and report on both publicly-available and proprietary data. In developing the study, ICTC employed a mixed approach that included a literature review, key informant interviews (KIIs), working groups, and market research. Below is a snapshot of the research approach with an accompanying timeline:
ICTC’s field phase consisted of three interrelated approaches: KIIs, market research, and validation. Between May and September ICTC conducted KIIs with industry leaders representing companies in the industrial automation industry. Companies were initially vetted through Industry Canada’s database, as well as through secondary research conducted by ICTC. A total of 15 KIIs were completed over this period. ICTC engaged executives at these companies to gauge the trends of the industry, identify the opportunities and challenges, and to operationalize definitions that would be used in the market research. These KIIs would eventually form ICTC’s Automation and Robotics Advisory Committee, which provided key inputs and validation in the finalization of the study. The Advisory Committee met three times between September and November 2014 to validate the research findings and provide key recommendations for strengthening the automation industry in Canada.
ICTC engaged a third-party market research firm between June and August 2014 to study industrial automation consumption trends in Canada. The market research firm interviewed 410 automation user companies (i.e., companies that have integrated automation technologies into their workflow) from across Canada. Below is an industry breakdown of the companies involved in the market research:
Figure 1. Industry breakdown of market research participants
Source: ICTC (2014)
As figure 1 clearly demonstrates, the vast majority of respondents were drawn from the manufacturing sector, which reflects the results of the pre-survey screening phase. Among manufacturers, the strongest representation came from steel products, machinery, and food, beverage and tobacco products.
The screening phase, launched before the official survey was deployed, helped ICTC screen out non-users of industrial automation. ICTC was surprised to learn that, among other things, industrial automation is used only minimally in Canada’s oil and gas sector, but was much more prevalent in food manufacturing. One possible reason for this could be that the definition of automation used in the study screened out users of other industrial technologies such as heavy machinery. Figure 2 outlines the organizational structure of the companies that participated in the study.
Figure 2. Organizational structure of study participants
Single location in Canada
Multiple locations in Canada only
Multiple locations internationally
Source: ICTC (2014)
The results of the market research were validated by 31 companies that completed the survey. These results, among others, were presented to ICTC’s Advisory Group between September and November for further validation. A draft version of the report was provided to the Advisory Committee for final feedback and validation. Their input was incorporated into the final report.