Our annual Canadians to Watch special feature is intended to put eyes on the up-and-comers who are shaping the Canadian auto industry, by drawing attention to their special talents and accomplishments.
The feature — found online here — has the added benefit of providing a window into the future of the industry. As such, there are, of course, a number of takeaways.
The most significant is that it’s a big world out there. Literally and figuratively. Suppliers, traditionally tied to serving U.S. companies, are being nudged to look for business in other countries and on other continents.
Jonathon Azzopardi, head of Laval International just outside Windsor, Ont. — and the head of the Canadian Association of Mold Makers — has spearheaded trade missions to nontraditional markets, such as India, to diversify Canadian suppliers’ customer base. Laval makes composite parts, prototypes and moulds. Azzopardi shows the direction that Canadian industry needs to grow to be competitive on an increasingly global playing field.
It’s a big world out there in other ways, too, with opportunities for Canadians to push the boundaries into new technical fields.
Greta Cutulenco, the co-founder and CEO of Acerta Analytics Solutions, is into computers and robotics. “[But] nowadays, a car almost feels like a big computer on wheels.”
Her company uses artificial intelligence to identify anomalies in the data generated during vehicle production. This allows her clients to make fixes early and avoid higher costs later. The idea might seem straight out of science fiction, but Cutulenco says the increasing complexity of cars makes AI a necessity. “It’s becoming overwhelming to continue either using existing diagnostic tools or to manually solve these issues.” Canadians are also inserting themselves into the technical fields that shape production.
Shelley Fellows of AIS Technologies Group Inc., specializes in advanced manufacturing technologies for automotive. She also steers Automate Canada, an industry association launched by the Canadian Association of Mold Makers, to represent the growing industrial-automation sector, which is transforming manufacturing. “The Canadian industrial automation industry is smart, innovative and capable ... we are part of the foundational ecosystem for the Canadian automotive manufacturing sector.”
Certainly we congratulate all those featured as Canadians to Watch, but the reality is that it’s more than just a pat on the back: It’s a look at the future, right now.