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Can Robotics and Automation Solve Atlantic Canada’s Labour Shortage?

Can Atlantic Canada’s Labour Shortage be Solved by Robotics?

Written by Nathan Field, Enginuity’s Robotics and Automation Manager

Atlantic Canada is facing a labour shortage issue that is not altogether unique in North America, but has been exacerbated due many smaller, often distinct but accumulating reasons.

What can a company do when they are losing employees and do not have anyone to fill the gap?

They could find people, or as will be explored in this whitepaper, automate the tasks they were doing.

Can Atlantic Canada's Labour Shortage be Solved by Robotics?

Businesses are prioritizing Robotics and Automation

Each month we talk to business and industry leaders who are looking to solve some of the key problems they are facing by implementing some degree or form of a robotics and automation solution. The possibilities that we can achieve through these technologies are practically endless, we often find multiple potential positive ROI applications during our first discovery call. 

From our perspective, we’re seeing challenges that span from costly inefficiencies, labour shortages, to correcting human error. Robotics and automation have the potential to solve so many problems for companies and with each passing year the technology becomes more accessible to growing companies.

What industries are solving problems with automation?

Every industry will move towards some form of automation, big or small over the next 5 years. While the challenges these industries face are all different, many of the problems stem from the fact that labour is expensive and is often unreliable, especially as economic conditions change. Here are some of the industries and recent examples that Enginuity has been a part of.
medication unbound chemical enginuity pharmaceutical

The Pharmaceutical Industry

The pharmaceutical industry is already relying on robotics and automation for a range of solutions from development and manufacturing to testing and analysis.

Unbound Chemical is a startup that tasked Enginuity with finding a solution to the labour-intensive practice of having to sort expired or unused pills from pharmacies. Enginuity developed a custom solution using machine vision and robotics to sort batches of pills into the proper categories. If you’d like to read more, check out this case study.

The best part about working with Enginuity was that they understood exactly where I was coming from as a startup entrepreneur and provided what we needed in just 6 weeks. Everyone was blown away by the speed and accuracy. [Since] we make decisions based on information, we got that information faster than we anticipated, which means that we can go faster.

That’s it. That’s business, that’s start up, that’s innovation.

Blaine Edwards

CEO, Unbound Chemical

IMO Foods and Enginuity yaskawa robot kersen

The Food Processing Industry

Robotics in the Food Processing world is not a new concept. With manufacturing converging into the digital world and components becoming more readily available, the advances of industry 4.0 are making robotics and automation more accessible to small and medium-sized businesses in this sector. Money that was being spent on assembly workers is now being spent elsewhere since industry 4.0 systems are faster, require little to no labour, and can work around the clock.

For IMO Foods in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, a fairly remote rural community, they’ve been able to increase production and lighten the burden of finding labourers as we go through a labour shortage in Atlantic Canada.

Robotics and automation technologies are changing business.

While these technologies are not new, the adoption rate across industries is increasing year over year. Demonstrating a positive ROI, showcasing practical and economical applications for businesses and increasing awareness surrounding robotics and automation are going to make impactful changes in the business world.

Read more about some of the benefits of robotics and automation, more practical applications, and some of the preliminary aspects of adopting these technologies in our white paper. It could save your business more than you know!


What’s inside

Nathan Field, our lead and guru Mechatronics Engineer, takes a moment to discuss the solutions to such a challenging issue facing our Atlantic community. He also dives into detail about options at different ROI levels with keen insight into the competitive advantage.

Benefits of Automation

How can this help you?

Return on Investment (ROIs)


Health Check

Are you primed for a process improvement assessment?


Collaborative Robots

Machine Vision


AGVs and Material Movement

Automated Guided Vehicles
The Challenge

Atlantic Canada is facing a labour shortage issue that is not altogether unique in North America, but has been exasperated due many smaller, often distinct but accumulating reasons. In fact, in 2018 labour shortage study by the Business Development Bank of Canada stated:

50% of Atlantic Canadian businesses report difficulty in hiring employees during the last year (highest in the country) – An Exploration of Skills and Labour Shortages, ACOA, June 2019

The statement above naturally poses a question as to why, let us explore this in more detail. To allow for a slightly more detailed and pointed analysis we will focus on Nova Scotia as it displays – with greater contrast – the issues commonly present in Atlantic

Although Halifax is a relatively densely populated city with 1077 people per square km and is Canadas 13th largest metropolitan area , there are many small rural townships.

In fact, over half of the people living in Nova Scotia do not live in Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). Furthermore, although Halifax is seeing growth not seen since the 1970’s, rural Nova Scotia is suffering.

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