By Jill Knaggs.
It is one of the most prolific sports metaphors in corporate Canada: “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”
Those words, first uttered by Walter Gretzky and immortalized through his son, Wayne, formulated the rallying cry this past March, as manufacturers from across the Prairies converged on Winnipeg for the 2017 Manitoba Manufacturing Week — a weeklong series of events celebrating one of the region’s most important economic sectors. There was even a ceremonial puck drop.
At the heart of the week was the annual Dare to Compete conference — or (un)conference, as it is referred to by attendees.
Now in its 15th iteration, Dare to Compete has grown into the largest recurring manufacturing event in Western Canada, bringing together a world-class line-up of speakers and thought-leaders to tackle industry trends, challenges, and future growth opportunities.
This year’s keynotes included political pundit Andrew Coyne; Michael Gardiner, director of strategy, advanced manufacturing, and Industry 4.0 for Siemens Canada; and leadership guru Stephen Shedletzky.
“From the frontline to the C-suite, manufacturers value the opportunity to step out of the office and reconnect with the Prairie manufacturing community,” says Brian Klaponski, president and CEO of Carte International. “[Dare to Compete] is a great forum to step away from my desk and my issues, and talk to business leaders to get their perspectives on the manufacturing world, and to sit in on some great sessions to get a sense of what’s on the horizon.”
Nine breakout sessions, organized in three separate streams, helped to ensure the one-day showcase featured something for everyone, from sessions on human rights and safety to best practices for employing individuals with disabilities.
Not surprisingly, operational excellence and continuous improvement were also popular topics.
“Dare to Compete is an outstanding opportunity for our team to learn the latest about lean manufacturing and benchmark our progress,” says Chris Parker, plant manager for Winpak. “We send a variety of people every year, from shop floor facilitators to operations management. It is a great chance to reinvigorate our improvement teams.”
Meanwhile, steps outside the conference lobby, high school students vied for more than $30,000 in scholarships, bursaries, and prizes in the finals of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) Discovery Program.
This renowned competition tasks students with designing, building, and developing a business case for remote-controlled hovercrafts. The prototypes are run through an on-site course, and then students must present in front of a panel of industry leaders.
The Discovery Program is widely regarded as one of the best initiatives in the country for connecting youth into hands-on manufacturing career pathways. The team from J.H. Bruns Collegiate took home top honours in 2017.