All Posts By

A.J. Howarth

Surviving the downturn

By | Business

Earlier last summer the TD Economics Report stated that the “Alberta Recession is one of the most severe ever…”, where our GDP has lost 6.5% since the start of the downturn in 2014.  This is a serious issue for most Albertans.  Couple this with low oil prices and it is the reason that tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in our province.  The good news now is that things are looking up.  The Alberta government is projecting that the GDP growth in 2018 will be +2.5%, driven by the Energy Industry.  That being said, when it comes to you and your neighbours, those numbers don’t necessarily mean much.  For us, it is about having a job, a reasonable wage and the ability to provide for our families.  The biggest issue for anyone, in good times or bad is DEBT.  This ‘four-letter-word’ can drive you to the end of your resources in a hurry, especially during an economic downturn.

Despite this, most experts will tell us that we should ‘Pay yourself first’.  Our family believes in ‘Give away your first-fruits’, which means give something away to a worthy cause.  Give it ‘right off the top’, before anything else.  It is good for your soul to help make the world a better place.

After you give some away, keep some for your savings and ‘Pay yourself’.  It doesn’t have to be much, but if you take it out of your income before you spend, you will always have money for a ‘rainy day’ and it does feel good to have a positive balance when you check your bank account.

The next thing is to ‘Pay down debt’.  Start with the highest interest rate balance and work from there.  The most important thing is to communicate with your creditors.  They need to know that you are acknowledging your responsibilities and not hiding from them.  If you can muster 10% of your income, that is great, but anything you can do will typically keep the bankruptcy trustees and foreclosure lawyers at bay.

The next thing is probably a no-brainer; ‘Downsize your standard of living’.  If you can ‘cost-reduce’ your lifestyle by even $100.00/ mth, it will amount to tens of thousands of dollars in your lifetime.  Two ideas are;

a) Cost reduce your groceries by shopping only the perimeter of the store.  This will get you to the Produce, Meat, Bakery and Dairy.  It is all those middle aisle items that cost a lot and aren’t that good for you.

b) Cut back on entertainment and eating out.  This is a big expense for most people and even cutting back 50% is a significant dollar amount.

The next thing is to ‘Make more money’.  This may not be possible, but it is the easiest way to get ahead.

The main way to survive the downturn is to look at it as an opportunity to get ahead.  This may not seem logical, but it is.  There are opportunities in good and bad markets.  As Albertans, we are survivors, and we test our mettle when things get tough.  As a business person, companies are looking for greater efficiencies and automation when things are tight.  By finding those solutions, you can make a lot of money.  People pay you to Solve Their Problems.  This is the basis of IIoT and our focus at SYNERGI-FX at optimizing processes, streamlining data and information flow and getting relevant information “FROM THE CONTROL ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM™“.  Even if you aren’t in a position to solve problems for others, maybe you can improve your own situation by trying some of the ideas above.

Automation Is The Future

By | Business


1: the technique of making an apparatus, a process, or a system operate automatically

2:  the state of being operated automatically

3:  automatically controlled operation of an apparatus, process, or system by mechanical or electronic devices that take the place of human labor

“Automation is the Future”

In our world of increased technology and pace of business, there is no room for repetitive, menial tasks done by human beings that are capable of a much higher level of performance. In our country, traditional education styles of math and science have been replaced by calculators, computers and Wolfram (Computational Knowledge Engine), where complex problems can be solved with little effort. This allows for more time to be spent on more interesting things and pursuit of higher achievements.

Automation in the traditional sense was typified by the Industrial Revolution, where assembly lines and machines could make and produce things faster and more cost effectively than humans. It was also the beginning of a higher of standard of workplace safety where machines could do more dangerous tasks and remove the risk of injury and death.

Today Automation is a concept whose definition needs to be expanded beyond the assembly line and the shop floor, to each and every person and business that wants to be more effective and free up time for more pleasurable or important things. It is around us and sometimes we take it for granted. A simple example is the thermostat in your home or office that regulates the temperature within a few degrees to the desired setting (setpoint). When you send a print job to the printer, a series of commands translates the print settings and the document into a format the printer can process through the use of a ‘printer driver’. This means that you don’t have to enter those settings manually, nor type in commands etc. for it to work. It is Automatic. Even functions in software, such as Microsoft Excel can translate parameters into a command that executes and produces a result by automatically executing steps. Programmers can use VBA scripts to automate repetitive calculations.

With the prices of computers and processing hardware dropping, coupled with Open license software and development libraries, automation has never been easier or cheaper to implement. Companies that take advantage of this will easily surpass their competitors who are relying on the workforce to perform tasks that could be automated.

Industrie 4.0 is the latest standard in Automation and defines IIoT.  The concept is that we are in the fourth stage of the Industrial Systems.  Previous stages were:

  1. Mechanization – water and steam powered systems
  2. Mass Production – electricity and assembly lines
  3. Computerization – CNC machines and automation
  4. Cyber-physical systems – Machines connected to the ‘Internet of Things

The power of mechanized processes that are driven by computers and the Internet removes the constraints of human control.  By using Analytics, companies can better anticipate client orders and deal with lead-times on materials etc., all (potentially)without any human interaction.  This then allows for 24/7 production, and with online ordering and automated fulfillment of these orders, small batches are as economical as big ones, without the need to store materials or products.  An example of this is Amazon online bookstore where books are printed when the online order is received, regardless of the quantity.  They are shipped immediately and nothing is ever ‘out of stock’, nor is there any ‘inventory’ to store.  Except for supervising the process, there are few if any actual people involved.

This is a simple application of IIoT and how it is changing the way business is being run today.

Will jobs be eliminated by implementing Automation in my workplace?

By | Business

There is no single answer to this question. You will likely be able to replace some jobs that will make your business more profitable so you can hire more people to perform different functions. The thing to consider is that you probably won’t replace your COO with a machine, but you may replace clerical functions. Even when North America was in the heat of the industrial revolution, and factories with machines were everywhere, there was still place for the skilled worker. In fact, it takes skilled workers to build and maintain automation systems.

There are those who have stated that Automation will create massive unemployment and cause economic ruin for many people.  This is not the case.  Like in the time when the automobile was gaining popularity, there was concern for the farriers, stable workers and those on the end of a shovel.  What happened was that these people now had opportunity to learn more skills and become mechanics, service shop workers and car salesmen.  With automation, there are still jobs for people, but usually they require a higher skillset and education, but result in Safer, Reliable and Interesting work.

At SYNERGI-FX, our purpose statement is “We enhance our client’s value by making lives Easier, more Productive and Safer through Innovative implementation of Technology.”

In the same way that you assess your strategies for growth, you need to choose which people and resources will help optimize your systems. A professional opinion can provide insight into how you can automate for the greatest benefit for staff and business alike.