Author: Prairie Manufacturer

New year, same game

By Derek Lothian It’s that time of year again: When economists and pundits alike dust off the ol’ crystal ball and share their sage projections for what’s on the horizon in the coming months. While the specific rationales may vary depending on the crisis of the day or the political affiliation of those with an opinion, the narrative — somewhat ironically — doesn’t change: There is risk, and there is opportunity. Thanks, Gandalf. In that case, take all my money. If I am being completely honest, however, I will admit I have used that line myself. In fact, I use it almost weekly — because, as with anyone who is paid to read tea leaves, I enjoy making ‘bold’ predictions that have zero chance of being wrong (don’t tell my boss). Plus, there is an undeniable element of truth to it. There is risk, and there is opportunity. How manufacturers understand and manage these principles and the relationship between them is the meagre difference between prosperity and financial ruin. Since launching Prairie Manufacturer Magazine going… Read More

From metal-bashing to military procurement: Inside one First Nation’s manufacturing journey

By Bob Dumur Three years ago, I came out of a short-lived retirement to help out neighbours. These neighbours, however, weren’t hoping to borrow a lawnmower or move some furniture — they were looking to buy a manufacturing plant. As it turns out, retirement wasn’t all it was cracked up to be anyway. I had just left Dumur Industries, a metal fabricator-turned-military manufacturer I founded 30 years prior, and I was having a tough time sitting on the sidelines. The opportunity to get back in the game was one I couldn’t pass up. Plus, I admired what they were trying to accomplish. The ‘neighbour’ was Pasqua First Nation — a Saulteaux-Cree First Nation, located roughly 40 minutes east of Regina, along the banks of Pasqua Lake, where I reside. While the addition of manufacturing in the band’s investment portfolio was a strategic move to diversify away from its traditional holdings and complement its position in the resource development supply chain, it was also a platform to create employment pathways for their people. Within months of… Read More

Agri-food economy can thrive despite headwinds

By J.P. Gervais The agri-food economy on the Prairies recorded strong growth in 2018 despite facing headwinds: Trade tensions, rising interest rates, and weather challenges quickly come to mind. Here’s why the outlook for agribusinesses and food manufacturers remains promising despite the challenges ahead: Looking beyond global trade disruptions The recent U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement will preserve market access conditions for Canadian exporters while lifting uncertainty around business investment. There are, however, other trade tensions to monitor for Prairie businesses. The U.S.-China trade dispute is projected to slow the growth of the world economy, according to the International Monetary Fund, yet the 3.7 per cent growth forecast for 2019 global gross domestic product (GDP) suggests a robust demand for food and agriculture commodities. Keep an eye on whether U.S.-China tensions can be eased in early 2019. Status quo or an escalation, both are bound to have U.S. producers and agribusinesses adjust their production plans and indirectly impact Canadian agri-food markets. Trade barriers and tariffs on Canadian pulse exports to India, and steel and aluminium exports to the… Read More

The real hurdles of implementing lean across a virtual team

By David Fritz There is book by Art Byrne called The LEAN Turnaround in which the author reveals that 95 – 97 per cent of businesses fail when attempting to implement lean. There is not a fully deployed corporate strategy for lean at Supreme Steel. Since Byrne is evaluating success at the enterprise-wide level, our company would probably be lumped into that group of failures. Categorizing our lean journey that way, however, would be a major misrepresentation. We have experienced many successes when applying lean principles and tools that can and should be celebrated. I reject the notion that lean is an ‘all or nothing’ proposition. Everything in life is a process — from brushing your teeth to making your morning coffee. Contained in every process is an abundance of the eight different kinds of waste. For this reason, I encourage our team members to learn to see the waste in their processes and then eliminate it by making small improvements. That said, always start with yourself! We individually have enough waste for 10 lifetimes.… Read More

just ask…

By Kimberley Puhach One of the most common questions I am asked — in my personal and professional lives — has to do with appropriate use of terminology when referring to certain individuals and groups. It is usually focused on Indigenous Peoples, but sometimes includes a broader conversation on gender and persons who identify within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, and two-spirit — or LGBTQ2S — community. Often, these are informal discussions with those who are comfortable sharing their thoughts and who are genuinely interested in understanding more, while hoping not to offend anyone at the same time. After all, it is an important conversation. What’s behind the fear and sensitivity in addressing it? How do we have respectful dialogue on these critical topics? It seems complicated, doesn’t it? That’s because identity is a complex issue. The good news? It doesn’t always have to be, if we take the time to consider a few things when we broach these seemingly touchy situations. First, ask yourself: Why don’t we know? Look at where… Read More

Drilling at a discount

Canadian oil continues to trade at half the price of American crude — and it’s taking a toll on Prairie manufacturers By Joanne Paulson At 11 a.m. Mountain Time, on a particularly unpleasant day in November for those who live or work in oil country, the price of heavy Western Canadian Select (WCS) sat at $19.86 per barrel. Half an hour later, it had dipped south of $18, signaling yet another week of increased volatility. John Stringham, manager of fiscal and economic policy with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), decided to use the moment to make a point. “Take the benchmark for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), and take the Select in U.S. dollars, and then subtract the two for a $42.35 differential,” he said in a media interview. “That’s nearly double what the Alberta government was forecasting.” The intersection between what customers pay for oil on either side of the border and the availability of pipelines to move product to tidewater has become a hot-button issue for economists and politicians alike. The lack… Read More

Federal carbon tax plan fails fairness and competitiveness tests for small business

By Marilyn Braun-Pollon There has been much debate over the last several years about carbon taxes in Canada — how expensive they are, how effective they would be, and how they would hinder competitiveness and economic growth. Despite concerns from many business owners, the federal government has been adamant that every province must put a price on carbon, regardless of what investments they have made in clean energy or plans they have to reduce emissions. We now know the details of the federal government’s carbon tax plan, and it’s clear that business owners’ concerns have been ignored. The federal government announced its carbon pricing backstop plan on October 23, for the provinces without a price on carbon of their own — Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick. This new plan includes a costly carbon tax, which is set to begin in April 2019 and increase each year until 2022. These provinces will have a carbon tax of $20 per tonne of CO2 emissions, which will increase by $10 every year to $50 per tonne in… Read More

Safety starts here.

Prairie Manufacturer Magazine is developing a new series of articles in collaboration with the public agencies that oversee workplace injury prevention in Manitoba and Alberta. Each article will focus on the approach one of these organizations is taking to maximize workplace safety and health, including the details of strategies and programs that have been implemented. While Manitoba and Alberta may vary in their strategies, the intent of their efforts is the same: To reduce workplace injury and illness — the great burden of these injuries on workers and their families, as well as costs to employers and society as a whole. The series will begin with Manitoba in the Spring 2019 edition. This article will focus on the province’s three-pronged approach to reducing workplace injury and illness. The first of these elements is the support and expansion of industry-based safety programs (IBSPs). SAFE Work Manitoba has helped to develop five new IBSPs since 2015 — in the manufacturing, trucking, service, agriculture, and self-insured sectors (Manitoba’s construction sector is served by two long-established safety associations). The… Read More

We can do it!

New national campaign aims to add 100,000 women to the manufacturing workforce by 2023, starts by awarding scholarships to four young women pursuing manufacturing careers By Laurel Johanson From a young age, Madi Griemann followed in her father’s footsteps. Literally. A naturally curious child, she would tail close behind him as he walked about his mechanics shop, wondering what he was doing and the types of equipment he was working on. The formative years of her life were split between that shop and the industrial arts facility at her school in Moosomin, Saskatchewan, where it didn’t take long for Griemann to decide that she wanted a career in manufacturing. “I always knew I was heading for a trade since I was little,” says Griemann. “I liked working with my hands and keeping busy. As I started taking more shop classes, I realized the ones I liked best were those related to metal and manufacturing.” Griemann, 17, is one of four recipients of the national Women in Manufacturing scholarships, sponsored by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME),… Read More

Manitoba Aerospace honours industry excellence

On November 22, Manitoba Aerospace held its 17th annual Aerospace All-Stars Awards of Excellence in Winnipeg. The event recognizes partners or individuals involved in or with the aerospace and defence industry, who have demonstrated excellence in a variety of areas, from leadership to business growth. Award winners are nominated by their industry peers. Four recipients were recognized this year for their outstanding achievements: Innovation Category Presented to the Canadian Composites Manufacturing Research and Development Team – Knife Edged Fairing Composite Technology Demonstrator. Team members include: Boeing Canada – Winnipeg, Convergent Technologies, Magellan Aerospace, ASCO, PCM, AVCORP, National Research Council, Red River College, Composites Research Network – University of British Columbia, and the Composites Innovation Centre. Education & Training Category Presented to Greg Link with the Technical Vocational High School (also known as Tec Voc). Industry & Government Collaboration Category Presented to Jim Prendergast of the National Research Council – Industrial Research Assistance Program. Builder Category Presented to Kim Westenskow, managing director with Boeing Canada Operations Ltd. “The annual All-Stars Dinner is an ideal forum for… Read More

Onto the next chapter

With USMCA negotiations in the books, manufacturers are asking ‘What’s next?’ for the Canada-U.S. trade relationship By Martin Cash By just about any metric, NFI Group Inc. (formerly New Flyer Industries) is the poster child for the Prairie manufacturer that has integrated its supply chain throughout North America. The Winnipeg-based bus-maker generates close to 90 per cent of its revenue in the U.S. and has consistently met the rising and stringent Buy America requirements. Being able to work within these protectionist parameters allows municipal transit authority customers to receive federal funding to purchase NFI’s Xcelsior buses for fleet updates. The company already had production facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Alabama, before opening a 300,000-square-foot parts fabrication plant in Kentucky this past September. And, despite the kind of careful, long-term planning that NFI is known for, it had little recourse but to make the tough decision to move 90 positions from its Winnipeg production headquarters to the new Kentucky facility in November. That represents a mere three per cent of its current Winnipeg workforce, and… Read More

Prairie manufacturers can be cautiously optimistic for 2019

By Jayson Myers Prairie manufacturers are on a tear. Export sales into a robust U.S. economy and to markets in Asia and Latin America are booming. And, it looks like there is still plenty of momentum in those markets to sustain sales growth over the year ahead. Yet, despite an optimistic outlook for revenue growth, 2019 will prove to be a year of heightened uncertainty and rising cost pressures for manufacturers across Canada. Bottom-line performance will not be as strong as top-line expectations. Good news first: Since the end of 2016, Prairie manufacturers have enjoyed a period of exceptionally strong revenue growth. The total value of goods produced and shipped by manufacturers across the three Prairies provinces jumped by 18 per cent between December 2016 and August 2018, when overall monthly sales stood at a record $9.8 billion. For the past year-and-a-half, sales growth for Prairie manufacturers has been running at almost double the 9.5 per cent national average. Manufacturing sales are up by 16 per cent in Manitoba, 15 per cent in Saskatchewan, and… Read More

New software tool available to identify workplace impairment

By Derek Lothian This November, the Safety Association of Saskatchewan Manufacturers (SASM) announced a new partnership to become the licensed distributor of AlertMeter in Canada — revolutionary software aimed at proactively identifying workplace fatigue and impairment. AlertMeter is a non-invasive tool to ensure employees are fit for daily duty. At the start of each shift, employees in safety-sensitive environments take an on-screen test that lasts between 60 – 90 seconds. This quiz incorporates puzzles to measure a worker’s ability to classify various geometric shapes quickly and accurately. The system then compares the results to each individual’s past baseline performance, and uses advanced predictive analysis to detect impairment from a variety of sources, including lack of sleep, emotional stress, or drugs and alcohol. Any anomalies trigger a second test, and — if they still exist —an instant alert to both the user and his or her direct supervisor. SASM Executive Director Ken Ricketts believes the software has the potential to save lives by focusing on prevention opposed to response. “There are still far too many workplace… Read More

With Joel Peterson, vice president of government relations with H+K Strategies

Recreational pot is now legal in Canada. Where do you think the economic opportunity is most prevalent? In the gold rush that started in 1896, most of those who made lasting fortunes were not miners. Rather, they were the ones selling picks and shovels, building hotels and restaurants, and supplying food and clothing to those hoping to strike it rich. Just think of the Levi Strauss story. When news of the California Gold Rush made its way east, Strauss journeyed to San Francisco to establish a wholesale dry goods business under his own name and served as the west coast representative of the family’s New York firm. He eventually renamed his company Levi Strauss & Co., maker of the famous Levi’s jeans. Similarly, now that cannabis has been legalized, the $23 billion pan-Canadian ‘green rush’ spans well beyond production. There is a vacuum of potential on the supply and services side, too, with significantly lower barriers to entry. Can you provide some examples from other jurisdictions? In Colorado, the ancillary cannabis market is estimated to… Read More

Good neighbours and global leaders

By Derek Lothian.  The last 12 years of my career have been — in one way, shape, or form — tied to manufacturing on the Prairies. One of my favourite jobs came in my early 20s, overseeing sales and marketing for a small agricultural equipment start-up. It was quintessentially Saskatchewanian: A handful of farmers with no manufacturing experience whatsoever running production out of a quonset to satisfy a growing global customer base. It was one of the few situations where inexperience (and even a bit of ignorance) was an undeniable asset. We didn’t know the ‘right way’ to do things, so we made it up on the fly. Sometimes we got burned; but, more often than not, we persevered. And we were a better, more resilient company because of it. My first hands-on experience with exporting came in 2007. We had just struck a deal with a North Dakota distributor, and there was interest bubbling from potential partners in Western Europe. Concepts I had never heard of before — rules of origin labelling, receivables insurance,… Read More

From plant to pint: Beer, and the case for growing the local value chain

By Mark Heise.  When you think of Regina, Saskatchewan, what do you think of? The Saskatchewan Roughriders? The RCMP Depot? The Italian Star Deli? What about beer? Earlier this year, the Queen City was named to the list of the top 30 beer destinations in the world, joining the likes of Dublin, Ireland, and — of course — the iconic home of Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany. But what has made this place so special? Why are craft beer sales here expected to jump by 30 per cent industry-wide in 2018 alone? The answer isn’t a complicated one: It starts with what goes into the product. I’ll give you a few examples. Take AGT Food and Ingredients — the crown jewel of Saskatchewan’s agri-processing sector, and one of the largest exporters of pulse crops on the planet. At Rebellion Brewing, we bucked tradition and found a way to incorporate AGT’s King Red Lentils (coincidentally, which were developed at the University of Saskatchewan) into what has become our best-selling product, the Lentil Cream Ale. On a much smaller… Read More

Rethinking competitive advantage

Superclusters and economic development.  By David Froh.  Prairie people have always seen the advantages of our wide-open spaces — they are a blank canvas of opportunity. These endless possibilities have fostered a culture where we have become accustomed to creating great things. As you will read throughout this issue of Prairie Manufacturer Magazine, Saskatchewan’s tradition of innovation is more than a century old, and continues strong today. Family-owned enterprises like Dutch Industries, SeedMaster, DOT Technology Corporation, and Degelman Industries literally started in farmyard quonsets, and then expanded to serve global markets. The path to prosperity in this province has always been built upon trade — and that, as they say, takes a village. You need to find quality suppliers, nurture distribution channels, and earn trust with customers. The common denominator is understanding the value proposition and partnering with those that complement the business. Traditional economic development is often thought of as a zero-sum game with winners and losers, where regions fiercely compete for investment, sometimes to their detriment. Such an approach is not sustainable. It… Read More

Quick lessons for the modern lean leader

By Stewart Bellamy.  Looking back now on more than five decades in manufacturing, I often think about just how much more may have been accomplished had I — and the companies I worked with — been exposed to this ‘lean stuff’ earlier. After 20 years as a continuous improvement practitioner, plus countless hours of ongoing personal study time, one thing has become abundantly clear: A lean journey is infinite. The more you learn, the more there is to know. What follows are a few observations from my career on several key elements routinely misunderstood, or not even considered, in many lean initiatives. High quality, quick delivery, low cost — pick any two Have you ever seen this statement posted in a business? Maybe it’s just the unwritten mantra of the owner? Either way, it’s not an uncommon thought. The premise is that you can have high quality and fast delivery, but it won’t be cheap. You can have high quality and low cost, but it won’t be fast. Or, you can have fast delivery and… Read More

The bruises and triumphs of our second-generation succession

By Ryan Sailer.  For us, it never was a decision if we would take over the family business. It’s not like we sat down when we were all 10 or 12 years old and said, “Okay, this is the road map. This is what you guys will be doing; here’s how it will look, and here’s how it will work.” My two brothers and I (Jason, older than me by two years, and Scott, younger than me by three years) generally had an interest in the business. And, when we were still in high school, we always held summer jobs in various positions at the shop. We did everything, from sweeping the parking lot and driving forklift to servicing end-customers’ trailer brakes and unloading trucks. As we grew, we found we shared a passion for fixing problems and things that bugged us. That inherently led us to take on more responsibility year after year. It was around 2007 and 2008 we found our way into critical roles in the business. With this responsibility, we were… Read More


A look at eight Saskatchewan innovations and how they’ve changed — or are changing — manufacturing and the Canadian economy.  By Joanne Paulson.  The innovative spirit of Saskatchewan was a natural outcome of its early days, harkening to a time of ploughs and pioneers. While much has changed, that drive to create — to solve problems — has not. According to the Western Development Museum, Saskatchewan is home to 3,200 patents. Thousands of other unrecorded inventions and process innovations have been successfully commercialized. Some of these advances have led to the genesis of the province’s thriving manufacturing sector — an industry that, through 2017, employed 28,000 people and generated more than $16 billion in sales. And while we can’t tell all these stories in one issue, we’ve selected eight of them we think capture the spirit that has earned Saskatchewan an international reputation for manufacturing and economic ingenuity. Canola & Canola Oil If there has ever been a crop to revolutionize agriculture on the Prairies, it’s canola. Farmers here originally planted hardy grains, such as… Read More

Saskatchewan’s ‘Iron Triangle’ a hub for ag manufacturing innovation

By J. Robert Shanks.  Gifted with a rich farming tradition and 40 per cent of Canada’s arable land, Saskatchewan is synonymous with agriculture in the minds of many. But the reputation belongs with more than farmers alone. The province is also home to a burgeoning shortline and OEM agricultural manufacturing base, which — in 2017 — exported roughly $300 million in product to markets around the world. The strength of the industry is, perhaps, not surprising — especially given that 85 per cent of Saskatchewan’s GDP is generated outside of its high-profile resource sectors. Ag manufacturers have proven to be one of the brightest and most creative stars of Saskatchewan’s economy. Largely composed of small businesses, they have built a sterling international reputation for quality and innovation, and the ‘made in Saskatchewan’ brand is sought after at trade shows and equipment showcases from Red Deer to Germany to Kazahkstan, and everywhere in between. Many of these businesses are located outside of the province’s two largest cities. The rural area east of Saskatoon in particular has… Read More

This ‘family squabble’ may mean finding new friends

The Canada-U.S. trade relationship is on shaky ground — and that may have long-term impacts, regardless of how NAFTA negotiations play out. By Martin Cash & Derek Lothian.  They say you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. So, if the current Canada-U.S. trade rift constitutes — as President Trump purports — a ‘family squabble,’ the question is: Is it time for Western Canadian manufacturers to find new friends? While the world as we know it isn’t coming to an end, the fracture of international trade norms is shaking up traditional business dynamics for many Prairie manufacturers. Yet, the actual macroeconomic impact has been modest — at least so far. According to Statistics Canada, the country’s trade gap in June dropped to $626 million, down from $2.7 billion a month earlier. The bilateral trade surplus with the U.S., meanwhile, hit $4.1 billion — a 24 per cent spike and the largest increase in more than a year. Those numbers came one month after the U.S. imposed 25 per cent tariffs on Canadian… Read More

What’s hot and what’s not in export markets

By Jayson Myers.  It’s mind-boggling how a year that began with so much promise for Prairie manufacturers — and for the world economy in general — now appears to be careering toward trade wars, trade sanctions, and inflation. It was only last year the global economy began running on all cylinders again, after a lengthy hiatus following the 2008 financial meltdown. True, there are still plenty of risks in financial markets, and Canada — along with many other countries — will need to work off record levels of household, private, and public sector debt. But, for the first half of 2018, Canada, the United States, and a majority of the world’s leading economies were in full growth mode. Year-over-year, global trade grew eight per cent in the first six months of this year. Western Canadian manufacturers have had a good start to the year as well. Manufacturing sales for the first half of 2018 were about seven per cent higher than for the same period last year. Exports by Prairie manufacturers are up by almost… Read More

New online platform preaches the importance of safety training

By Derek Lothian.  Ken Ricketts is an avowed safety evangelist. When you first meet Ricketts, the executive director of the Safety Association of Saskatchewan Manufacturers (SASM), it is difficult not to be captivated by his passion. Much like a good Baptist minister, he is compelling in his delivery, articulate and thoughtful with his words, and convincing with his message. Rickett’s crusade is to make the province’s manufacturing sector the safest in the world — zero fatalities and zero injuries. And, although he still has a way to go, if you consider the trending numbers, you can’t ignore he is converting a growing crowd of followers. Between 2014 and 2017, lost-time claims in the industry plummeted by 40 per cent, equating to close to 3,000 more worker days’ worth of increased productivity. No-lost-time claims, meanwhile, dropped by a third. Over that same timeframe, the cumulative cost of injury also edged downward, by 18 per cent. The question is how to sustain and accelerate that momentum. According to Ricketts, finding new ways to connect with shop floor… Read More

Point / Counterpoint

Is preparation for this issue of Prairie Manufacturer Magazine, Editor Derek Lothian and one of our guest columnists, Stewart Bellamy (Page 14), found themselves embroiled in a debate: When it comes to manufacturing, is it lean, Lean, or LEAN? Does it even matter? Can the capitalization of a word actually have real-world, operational implications? Read their thoughts and then you decide. It’s Lean By Stewart Bellamy Is it lean, Lean or LEAN? Many would contend that it’s just a word — that it doesn’t matter. I beg to differ. In this context, it’s Lean, and it’s a term, not simply a word. Let’s start with why it isn’t lean. Consider the origins of the term lean production. It was first proposed in the late 1980s by John Krafcik — a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology research team, led by Jim Womack, that studied automotive production methods at multiple companies across 14 countries. Krafcik was describing the results being achieved by Toyota’s production system when compared to the rest of the pack. Basically, it… Read More

Embracing excellence 2018

  By Laurel Johanson.  It’s fitting that the 2018 Canadian Lean Conference ended with a showstopping Broadway musical number. By the time keynote speaker Paul Huschilt was doing high-kicks across the stage at the RBC Convention Centre’s ballroom to demonstrate the benefits of humour in the workplace, the enthusiastic conference crowd seemed ready to join him. For the end of a week-long conference, there was a surprising amount of energy still in the air. Such was the spirit of the 2018 edition of Canada’s largest lean event, hosted by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Manitoba (CME) every three years. The conference took place June 4-7 this year in Winnipeg, with over 1,000 delegates attending from all across Canada. The scope of the conference had never been bigger, with 15 workshops, 18 plant tours, 36 practitioner presentations, and seven keynote addresses included in this year’s programming. Right from the start, the atmosphere was teeming with energy and enthusiasm from delegates, educators, tour guides, and speakers alike. Take Billy Taylor as a prime example. Taylor, director of commercial… Read More

With Rhonda Barnet, president and COO of Steelworks Design and national chair of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters

What is the Women in Manufacturing (WIM) initiative? WIM is a national initiative of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), aimed at reviewing the trends for women in the manufacturing workforce in Canada compared to other countries, understanding the issues and barriers that are preventing more women from entering and existing women from advancing, and coming up with solutions to increase the participation and success of women in manufacturing. Attracting more women into manufacturing professions is critical to helping companies grow and to replace the existing and aging workforce. To do this, CME’s WIM Working Group is focusing its efforts on the following pillars: • Engage and inspire: Introduce STEM to young women and girls; • Attract and retain: Increase the number of women entering and staying in the manufacturing workforce; and • Empower, support, and accelerate: Help women achieve success in the workplace by breaking down barriers to their personal and professional growth. What level of female participation is there in the Canadian manufacturing workforce? In Canada, women account for 48 per cent of the… Read More

Back to the future

By Ron Koslowsky.  In December, my daughter in New York invited me to lunch with Ron Chernow, who has written bestselling and award-winning biographies of historical figures, and is perhaps best-known for his book, Hamilton, which served as the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical of the same title. I love history and had a fascinating discussion with Ron about how it tends to be “re-written” based on post-modern thinking and values. This is happening all around us, including a mainstream revision of the reasons why we have unparalleled wealth today. The world in which manufacturers now find themselves has more opportunities than ever before, but also more challenges that can threaten their future. The foundational principles of a free and open society that, over the past 200 years, unleashed human potential and created a dramatic rise in the wealth and lifestyle of all people is coming under attack. Some of the factors of our past success were: Open and freer trade, allowing markets to determine where money should be spent; fiscally responsible and limited… Read More

It’s all about the people

By Paul Soubry.  For the past nine years, I have been fortunate to work for a great Canadian company, New Flyer Industries Inc., which has been around since 1930. We manufacture buses and lead our industry within North America. Over the years, we have grown organically and through acquisition — now consisting of a team of nearly 6,000 people. We have transformed our business, both by changing our capital structure and by adopting lean principles to enhance our products, service, and competitiveness. As I get older and wiser (not to mention fatter and balder), I have come to truly believe the only real source of competitive advantage we have is our people. It’s easy to say — and everyone does — but there is a significant difference between saying it and building a company around it. We have made a commitment to continuously pursue excellence in our operating environment and in the relationship with our team members. I read a book nearly 25 years ago that had a huge impact on the way I think… Read More

Industry 4.0: Are Prairie manufacturers ready?

By Pierre Cléroux.  The outlook for Prairie manufacturers has brightened considerably over the last year. Buoyant economic conditions in North America and rising oil prices have led to a job recovery in the sector amid higher sales and exports. That’s welcome news after a couple of dark years that saw 35,000 manufacturing jobs disappear in the region. Half those jobs were recovered in 2017 as sales and exports surged 12 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively, in the first 11 months of the year. We expect the good times to continue this year. After the Canadian economy posted robust 3.1 per cent GDP growth in 2017, our forecast is for the economy to ease to a still healthy 2.2 per cent this year. On the Prairies, the oil price recovery, strong U.S. economy, and relatively low Canadian dollar are forecast to produce 2.5 per cent GDP growth in Alberta, 2.1 per cent in Saskatchewan, and two per cent in Manitoba. Each year, we ask Canadian entrepreneurs about their investment intentions for the coming 12… Read More

You don’t need to be Toyota to do lean well

By Shaun Stephen. One of the most frustrating excuses you hear in the manufacturing world for tolerating inefficiencies is ‘we are too small to fully embrace lean — we’re not Toyota.’ More often than not, those same companies are struggling to maintain margins and suffer from less-than-stellar health and safety records. When I first joined Alumicor, we probably fell into that same category. Our safety performance was inadequate, we had lots of work in progress (or, WIP) cluttering the floor, and inventory levels were beyond our production needs. At the time, our answer was to build more space. But, tens of thousands of square feet later, we were no further ahead, and it became abysmally clear that something had to change. So, we took our first steps along the road to continuous improvement (CI). Our lean journey, however, is not one of unabashed success or radical, overnight transformation. Instead, it’s a story of commitment, perseverance, incremental movement, and plain old-fashioned hard work. We started roughly a decade ago with the basics. A critical element to… Read More

Reversing the workplace civility crisis

By Lew Bayer.  We are smack in the middle of a civility crisis. With research on both Canadian and U.S. companies showing a whopping 98 per cent of people have experienced uncivil behaviour on the job, rudeness in the workplace is systemic and epidemic. Evidence that the incivility virus impacts — amongst other things — our productivity, our ability to work together, our creativity, and our health, is growing every day. For employers in the manufacturing sector, where innovation, thinking skills, and change-readiness are essential to survival, incivility in the workplace represents a significant cause for concern, operationally and financially. Consider, for example, that, according to Business Insider, four out of five people are dissatisfied with their jobs. How do you think this dissatisfaction manifests? If your response encompasses negative impacts to retention, engagement, productivity, stress levels, and profitability, you’d be correct. A Canadian study by Bar-David Consulting and Canadian HR Reporter shows incivility affects the following key business indicators, as reported by human resource professionals: • 90 per cent say it hurts collaboration; •… Read More

Conversation with the minister

Prairie Manufacturer Magazine Editor Derek Lothian sits down with Hon. Blaine Pedersen, Manitoba’s minister of growth, enterprise, and trade, to discuss the Province’s strategy for manufacturing prosperity.  Derek Lothian denoted by the initials DL; Hon. Blaine Pedersen denoted by the initials BP. DL: Minister, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. BP: You’re very welcome. DL: Let’s start at the 30,000-foot level. When you look at Manitoba, few would argue it’s probably one of the strongest and most consistent manufacturing jurisdictions in Canada, comprising around 10 per cent of the total provincial workforce. How is Manitoba positioning itself in the marketplace to maintain its competitive edge? BP: I just had a great conversation with our local manufacturing association on this. Our colleges — Red River College here in Winnipeg, for example — are doing a tremendous job in training people for work, getting them out [into the workforce], and bringing them back for future training. Our universities are catching up for the new demands of the workplace, too. You must… Read More

Paving the protein highway

Big investments in crop processing are laying the groundwork for a world-class food manufacturing sector on the Prairies.  By Joanne Paulson.  Just west of the small Manitoba city of Portage la Prairie, the darkness of a winter night comes alight with the glow of a changing future. The site of a new, $400-million pea processing plant is being prepared for spring construction, and locals can’t help but be awestruck by the bustle of activity. “Particularly after sundown, it gets really exciting here, because all the site lights come on and you say, ‘hey, there’s lots happening in that field,’” quips Vern May, executive director of Portage Regional Economic Development — the entity responsible for attracting new business to the area. “As soon as the spring thaw happens, things will be going at a pretty aggressive pace.” The facility belongs to the French company Roquette and, until the $460 million announcement by Simplot on February 15 to double the size of its Portage la Prairie potato plant, represented the largest single private sector investment in the province’s… Read More

Why are we still talking about innovation?

By Jayson Myers. I spent Groundhog Day at a conference on boosting Canada’s innovation performance. How fitting. No groundhog made an appearance, but there was an overwhelming sense of déjà-vu. It was a rehash of the same issues we’ve been fretting about for the past 30 years, if not longer. Why do Canadian manufacturers lag behind when it comes to investing in research and development, and new technology? Why is our productivity growth so much lower than in the United States? Is there anything that can be done to improve the situation? Why should we care? What bugs me is we shouldn’t be starting again at ground zero. There is actually a lot of good analysis available that helps, at least in part, to answer these questions. We know, for instance, it isn’t a matter of industry structure, since — over the past decade — every major industry group in Canadian manufacturing, except for paper, chemicals, and petroleum refining, invested less in new machinery and equipment as a proportion of sales than their counterparts in the… Read More

The factory of the future

From digital technologies to state-of-the-art research facilities, Manitoba is leading the charge on the evolution of advanced manufacturing.  By Joanne Paulson.  Historically, we have been a ‘bricks and mortar’ society, grouped into economic silos of industry, education, and government. That has been especially true of manufacturing, which — by its very nature — relies on complex physical infrastructure to produce tangible goods. The way those three pillars interact, however, has been changing for some time. Colleges and universities no longer function at arm’s length from industry — they are an integrated part of the innovation and skills supply chain. Governments, too, are becoming direct players in the development of assets designed to assist businesses in the commercialization process. Yet the world continues to spin increasingly quick on its technological axis. Without coordination, seamless collaboration, and resource-sharing, industries and even nations can be left behind. Enter the drive toward the factory of the future — not defined by four walls and a singular shop floor, but by its ability to connect, communicate, and enable companies to… Read More

Big tax changes here for small businesses

By Chris Kauenhofen.  The federal government has announced several tax changes over the last year, which will have an impact on many businesses, including manufacturers. In October, the government outlined a few changes related to the small business tax rate, income splitting, and how passive investment income earned in private companies is taxed. It also pronounced it wouldn’t move forward with proposed measures to limit access to the lifetime capital gains exemption (LCGE). Two months later, the government revealed legislation to simplify restrictions on income splitting. Here’s an overview of the changes: Small business taxes At the beginning of January, the small business tax rate has decreased to 10 or 10.5 per cent, depending on classification. As of January 1, 2019, the rate will decline again to nine per cent. The rate applies to the first $500,000 of active business income earned by a Canadian-controlled private corporation. Income splitting Starting in 2018, the government started limiting income ‘sprinkling’ using private corporations, while promising the rules won’t affect businesses where there are clear and meaningful contributions… Read More

A new northern light

How aerospace manufacturing could power the next generation of prosperity for Indigenous People in Manitoba’s north.  By Martin Cash.  These are tricky times in Northern Manitoba. A suspension of rail service through the north, as a result of springtime flooding in 2017 that washed out the line, has left the Hudson Bay coast town of Churchill without an overland transportation link. The washout occurred after the owner of the line, Denver-based Omnitrax, had already let it be known it wanted out of the market and was in discussions with a consortium of First Nations to figure out a way to transfer the rail infrastructure and port to local ownership. That has turned into an excruciatingly drawn-out process, with legal darts being thrown by the company, provincial and federal governments — even in-fighting between two rival First Nation-led groups, who eventually joined forces in an effort to acquire the crucial corridor. Adding to that cloud, Northern Manitoba is also facing all sorts of uncertainty in its legacy resource sector. Late in 2016, the paper mill in… Read More

Maintaining the status Moe

Political commentator Tammy Robert explains why Canada should expect more of the same from Saskatchewan’s new premier.  By Tammy Robert.  The late-January morning of the Saskatchewan Party’s leadership convention dawned in Saskatoon under a blanket of fresh snowfall. An Alberta clipper — a parting gift from Saskatchewan’s estranged neighbour — had dumped more than six inches of snow on the region overnight. Treacherous conditions, that would effectively shut down other parts of Canada, equaled just another winter day in the province, and were no match for the Saskatchewan Party’s rural base, which showed up in droves to say one last goodbye to Brad Wall and hello to their new leader. Finally, after a campaign that felt like a marathon ran at a sprint’s pace, Rosthern-Shellbrook MLA Scott Moe emerged as the victor, earning the title of the first post-Brad Wall leader of the party and the keys to the office of the Saskatchewan premier. It wasn’t a decisive mandate. Moe received only 26 per cent of first-choice support, not reaching the 50-per-cent-plus-one majority required to… Read More

With Guy Regnier, president and creative director of Winnipeg-based marketing and design agency Deschenes Regnier

Everyone is pushing us to give up traditional marketing and try online marketing — do I have to? In the last 20 years, there has been incredible growth in the number and types of marketing vehicles available to businesses, especially in online or ‘digital’ spaces. This doesn’t mean that older, more ‘traditional’ means of advertising should be ignored, but it does provide you with a greater breadth of options to consider when you are developing your marketing strategy. Today, the best marketing campaigns use a strategic combination of new media and traditional vehicles to maximize your marketing impact and connect with your customers wherever they may be. As a manufacturer, I have always used brochures, trade shows, presentations, and direct B2B mail campaigns, but people tell me these don’t work anymore. Is that true? Of course not. These can still be valuable assets in your marketing campaign. Even though these tools have worked in the past, however, you now have access to a variety of new options that can be more cost-effective and that make… Read More

Surviving and thriving in an age of disruption

By Derek Lothian.  This past November, I had the honour of representing Saskatchewan at the Polytechnics Canada National Strategy Group meetings in Ottawa. Between roundtables with cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats, we were fortunate to hear from Dominic Barton, the managing director of global consulting giant McKinsey & Company and one of the most influential figures on the federal government’s 14-member Advisory Council on Economic Growth. I have heard Barton present on a handful of previous occasions, and his speeches tend to pattern around the same message: There are four forces currently transforming the global landscape — and they will impact the very foundations of life and commerce, from where we live to how we do business. Seldom, however, have I found his insights to be so raw, pointed, or relevant to manufacturing. With this issue of the magazine focusing on supply chain excellence, I thought it was an opportune time to briefly look at each of these four pressures and begin a conversation around our own preparedness on the Prairies. As manufacturers, and as… Read More

Canadian manufacturing and the global supply chain

By Guillermo Moreno.  If you have been following the conversation about creating a national energy strategy, you’ve likely heard the argument that a Canada-wide supply chain approach will generate jobs. You’ve also likely heard the argument that it won’t. So often we are quick to assume that any job creation in energy development will only benefit one province or one industry. As the leader of Tenaris in Canada — a global steel pipe manufacturer and service provider for the world’s energy industry with a distinct focus on local operations, I am often asked to explain the value domestic manufacturing provides to our clients. Today, our customers intuitively understand the importance of global competitiveness, but they typically underappreciate the advantages of a local network. As the world becomes increasingly globalized, it’s easy to lose sight of the role the domestic market plays, and the opportunity our local industry has to add value well before the resource is developed. Domestic manufacturing creates value for the customer and Canada. Being local adds value to the local economy. Being… Read More

Growing Alberta’s manufacturing sector makes sense, but it’s not a silver bullet

By Rob Roach.  Alberta’s manufacturing sector tends to be either overshadowed by the province’s oil and gas industry or hailed as a key source of the economic diversification needed to reduce Alberta’s reliance on oil and gas. There is truth in both sentiments, but the reality is more complex. In Alberta, oil and gas extraction is king. The sector accounted for a whopping 27 per cent of the province’s real GDP in 2016 (the nominal figure was 17 per cent per cent due to low oil prices, yet this is still a huge proportion of the provincial economy). Nationally, oil and gas extraction accounted for six per cent of real GDP in 2016. And in Ontario, it was less than one per cent. Alberta manufacturing represented just under six per cent of the province’s real GDP in 2016. While nothing to snuff at, this is clearly much smaller than the output of the province’s oil and gas sector, and explains why manufacturing in Alberta does not get the same amount of attention it does elsewhere.… Read More

Productive by design: How better flow can lead to better results

By Chester Nagy.  Roughly two decades ago, I had the dream of building a new manufacturing facility. Our existing plant was a glorified, 90-year-old dungeon, located in an industrial park near the Calgary Stampede Grounds — dark and dingy, cold in the winter, and sweltering in the summer. Like a lot of buildings similar in vintage, the layout was not designed for the scope of work happening inside it. Once components came through the overhead door, they could usually move in only one direction, even if there was another project or problem holding up the line. After completion, the finished product had to exit back through the same door. To the most layman of observers, we had flow issues, which translated into performance issues — efficiency, quality, profitability, on-time delivery, you name it. Our first eureka moment came when the Government of Alberta began funding a program through Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters that allowed manufacturers to bring in outside expertise to conduct an in-house lean assessment. At the time, lean principles were still foreign to… Read More

#Me Too #I Will

How to promote a respectful workplace By Shereese Qually.  It all started with Harvey Weinstein. This, of course, isn’t accurate in that allegations of sexual harassment against powerful figures certainly predate the October claims against the media mogul. In the weeks and months following, however, we have seen a tide of #MeToo stories flooding the media, and an international conversation on sexual harassment to an unprecedented level. Stories abound across social media of various overt and systemic incidents of harassment throughout many industries and workplaces. In the employment and labour law context, we are concurrently seeing a message to employers that failing to address or appropriately respond to complaints of harassment of any nature is inappropriate and will be met with significant remedial consequences, including significant damage awards. These cases indicate that not only are there significant financial ramifications for employer and high-level managerial harassment (and there certainly are such awards), but there is also significant liability where an employer fails to implement appropriate policies and procedures to address harassment, respond to complaints of harassment,… Read More

Canada’s clean secret

How green technology is revolutionizing the oil and gas supply chain.  By Joanne Paulson.  High-efficiency pulse jet engines burning away harmful emissions. Electricity separating impurities from water. These aren’t wild ideas or futuristic prototypes — they are just two of the latest Prairie-made innovations transforming the way oil and gas producers in Western Canada are operating. While jaw-dropping advancements in technology are nothing new to the resource development supply chain, the pace of adoption has accelerated at an unparalleled rate. Competitive pressures are exerting their full force on the industry, and any advantage extractors and processors can capture — to be more efficient, more productive, more agile, and, with increasing demand, more clean — is a necessary edge that can be the difference between riches and ruin. Dan Wicklum, chief executive of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), a coalition of 10 global giants accounting for more than 90 per cent of the region’s annual production, believes there is no turning back, and that fortune will inevitably favour the bold. “Innovation has been right in… Read More

Rethinking your supply chain as a strategic asset

By Stephen Rogers & Robert Porter Lynch.  For many manufacturers, the supply chain — including both owner production assets and supplier and distribution partner assets — is by far the largest asset it ‘owns,’ and is core to the company’s ability to succeed both financially and in the marketplace. And while the supply chain is a major strategic asset, it is seldom seen or managed as one. Instead, supply chains are often managed as expendable or easily replaceable. Management assumes it will always be there, even when abused. This belief is not only flawed, but also subjects companies to needless organizational risk. To manage the supply chain as a strategic asset, it is important to step back and consider what it is comprised of. Unlike traditional assets, which a company fully owns, the supply chain is both a direct and an indirect asset, much broader and more complex than just its internal component. Let’s examine its parts: Value chain The value chain is an end to end, or E2E, entity. To be managed as a… Read More

Uncertainty, adaptation the name of the game in 2018

By Jayson Myers.  The beginning of a new year: It’s the time when economists and other clairvoyants dust off their crystal balls and pronounce what they see lying ahead for business. You should excuse them this go-round if their forecasts are a little less confident than usual. There are fewer certainties and a lot more risks that need to be considered. 2018 will indeed be a challenging year. The world is out of joint. That may not exactly be news in today’s Trumpean Twitterverse; but, the very fact that it’s not emphasizes how uncertain and risky things actually are. A tweet can bring on a sea change in popular opinion. No less so in the world of business where markets, manufacturers, and supply chains are facing far greater political volatility and more rapidly shifting expectations on the part of customers and stakeholders than ever before — all on top of the more usual but still highly risky disruptions caused by economic and technological change. ‘Business as usual’ in the sense of steady-state growth has been… Read More

The commodity conundrum

Prairie Manufacturer Magazine looks at which resources are up, which are down, and where they are trending in the months ahead.  By Joanne Paulson.  Jayson Myers, former president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, once quipped, “There are only three ways to generate new wealth in an economy: You can grow it, you can extract it, or you can manufacture it. Everything else is a trickle-down from that wealth creation.” In Western Canada, our economic and social wellbeing is intrinsically linked to all three — often more directly than most other global jurisdictions, through interdependent value chains. As a basic example: The world needs to eat. By 2050, humanity must produce more food than in the previous 10,000 years combined. And, to meet that demand, farmers are becoming increasingly efficient, yielding more crop on fewer acres. That requires fertilizer derived from Prairie potash, mined using Prairie equipment, to grow crops planted and harvested using Prairie agricultural implements, which then supply Prairie value-adding processing facilities before export. All these activities, meanwhile, are reliant on Prairie-extracted… Read More

With Stephen Heckbert, public relations professor and executive advisor

As my business is growing, our organization is in transition, and many of our new recruits are under 30. Should I be worried about hiring millennials? Many organizations have expressed concerns about the differences between millennials and others in their workforce — fears, from my experience, I believe are unfounded. The main difference for your organization is that millennials want to know, on day one, what impact their work is having on both the business and society as a whole. The ‘triple bottom line’ is now the equation that matters. So, you will need to improve communication to ensure your new staff understand how what they do is making a positive contribution — but that improvement in communication will be of benefit to your entire organization. But I’ve heard millennials are more stressed out and, therefore, harder to manage? The challenge for all young people in today’s world is that all they know is change; and, like many of us, sometimes we’d prefer the constant change to stop. Millennials, however, are more adaptable and more… Read More

Thank you, Brad

By Derek Lothian.  Sitting at my kitchen table on the evening of August 9, I was suffering from a bout of writer’s block. I had struggled through all but the final paragraph of this column, yet couldn’t find the right words to precisely summarize the point I was trying to make. So, I closed my laptop and did what any other Saskatchewanian would do — flipped on an episode of Corner Gas. The next morning, plunked down at that same kitchen table, this column unexpectedly began to rewrite itself: Brad Wall had just announced he would be stepping away from politics after a 10-year run as Saskatchewan’s premier. Granted, an elected official departing the political scene, regardless of seniority, is not necessarily noteworthy. Even as a recovering political junkie myself, I must admit the Trumpian drama south of the border has been enough to numb me from much of the routine noise I’d otherwise gobble up. This, however, was different. This one hit home. Many of my friends in Ottawa and further east have long… Read More

Harnessing our innovation potential is not an either-or equation

By Patrick Thera.  Want to foster a high-tech community in the heart of Prairies? Why not ask a Prairie company that has been successful in advanced technologies long before the rise of personal computing, the internet, and smartphones? SED Systems has been a pioneer in this field since the mid-1960s. Originally spun out of the University of Saskatchewan Department of Physics, SED has been involved in upper atmospheric studies, the development of space instruments, satellite imagery, search and rescue missions, mobile satellite communications, digital satellite radios, and deep space exploration, among its many other accomplishments. The success of SED has always been its ability to keep its customers happy and adapt to changing market conditions. For more than 50 years, SED has been solving tough engineering challenges, working side-by-side with the who’s who of the communications industry, and doing so all within the City of Saskatoon, and in the Province of Saskatchewan. SED formed its manufacturing capability out of the need to reliably build the products it had designed. We quickly realized, however, that we… Read More

Growing our value in the value-added economy

  By Dr. Rick Green.  There is a good chance that, before now, you haven’t heard of POS Bio-Sciences. Like many Prairie manufacturers, we are better known internationally than we are here in our own backyard. That being said, we shouldn’t be complete strangers. We have probably developed ingredients for the food you eat, and have created new opportunities for the crops that generate income for your friends or family. Take, for example, canola oil, which POS played a key role in introducing commercial processing methods for more than three decades ago. The widespread adoption of this crop, innovated by Canadian seed breeders, has transformed the Western Canadian economy, the lives of farmers, and agricultural communities coast-to-coast. The technical work we do is highly complex. In the simplest terms, we take biological materials and, from them, produce specialized ingredients that can be produced at the commercial level — for use in food, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, medical goods, cosmetics, and other industrial applications. Start-ups and multinationals alike flock to Saskatoon to collaborate with our research scientists and… Read More

Lean and green

By Darryl Minty.  There are as many characteristics to a lean organization as there are lean experts. Everyone has a unique definition, a personalized approach, and an underlying set of core values. In my near-30-year-career in manufacturing, however, I’ve found there are six attributes universal in businesses that embrace true lean thinking: They are laser-focused, aligned from the boardroom to the shop floor, relentless in their pursuits, fully engaged, team-oriented, and sustainable. The first five are not exactly news. In fact, they are the underpinnings to general business success altogether. But the definition of the last trait, sustainability, often elicits livelier debate. Indisputably, there is a long list of synergies between what it means to be a ‘lean’ and ‘green’ manufacturer. Both strive to reduce waste. Both promote resource productivity. And both hinge on continual learning and a common understanding. The primary difference lies in the priority. Lean organizations are fixated first and foremost on delivering value for the customer. Green organizations, meanwhile, are dedicated to managing their environmental impacts. That’s why hundreds of manufacturers… Read More

Navigating the disruptive winds and disturbing calm of internal conflict

By James Mitchell.  For decades, operational specialists and heads of the world’s most successful companies have realized the value of involving people at all levels of an organization — in assessing needs, developing plans, making decisions, and successfully executing and evaluating the development of a service or product. Would it surprise you to then learn that, despite this greater awareness and consensus, only about one in five employees today feels valued? Why, if we as business leaders truly believe that our people are our most valuable resource, do so few of them feel that they are? From experience, I would say a certain ‘wind’ — or lack of wind — is the problem. I will spare you the grandeur of the analogy; however, if businesses are ships and we are the owners or officers of our ships, we understand that too much wind, not being prepared for changes in wind, or having too little wind can often lead to problems. In corporations, wind may be produced by shifting markets, supply issues, technological development, board or… Read More

The future of food production (and the equipment revolution behind it)

By Trent Meyer.  We have all heard the shocking numbers that are being thrown around by demographers and those selling the ‘future of agriculture’ — the most common being the world needs to feed up to nine billion people by 2050 (give or take a billion or a decade). For many in our industry, this goes well beyond the proverbial 30,000-foot view, into an area that seems too far away to concern ourselves with. We look at our operations and note that we just make (insert your product here), so we will continue to do so and hopefully keep or expand our share of the market. The fact is we have always been in the game of feeding the world, so there is no reason we should hide from the lofty expectations of 30 years from now. Most of us have been around for 15-30 years already, many longer, and have watched the demand for commodities balloon right alongside production capacity. We’ve been up to the task thus far — the modern challenge, however, is… Read More

Small towns, big dreams

Meet three manufacturers overcoming the odds to grow their businesses, and communities, in rural Saskatchewan.  By Colleen Mackenzie.  Big machinery, big industry, big city, right? Think again. In Saskatchewan, nearly one-third of the manufacturing base is situated outside the two largest centres of Saskatoon and Regina. Some of these rural enterprises employ staff complements half, equivalent to, or even double the size of the communities they operate in. And many are punching well above their weight class on the world stage. Saskatchewan Business Hall of Fame inductee, Doepker Industries, traces its roots back to the northern United States, where the Doepker brothers emigrated from before settling in the small agricultural community of Annaheim, Saskatchewan, 125 kilometres east of Saskatoon. Following the completion of World War II, the brothers studied welding and mechanics, and decided to open a repair shop to serve local farmers. They quickly built a reputation as entrepreneurs who did the right thing and helped their neighbours in need. Growth was inevitable. It’s a familiar storyline on the Prairies. Today, Doepker Industries is… Read More

The Saskatchewan spirit

Micro-distilleries are becoming big business in Saskatchewan — and the world is taking notice.  By Joanne Paulson.  Drink less. Therefore, drink better. And, while you’re being discerning, drink local. That’s the new mantra of the modern spirits connoisseur — often a millennial, sometimes a locavore, and invariably a lover of finely-crafted consumables. The local food-and-drink movement lit the gas that has fueled the explosive growth of micro-distilleries across North America over the past decade. Craft breweries and wineries were at the head of this trend; but, today, small-volume, boutique distilleries are sprouting up in every corner of our expansive national landscape. Saskatchewan — population 1.16 million — has more than its fair share, despite the industry still emerging out of relative infancy. The first two micro-distilleries were gleams in their owners’ eyes as recently as 2010. That number has since blossomed to the double-digits. Customers, meanwhile, are lapping up the whisky, gin, vodka, rum, and liqueurs pouring from the barrels and stills more today than ever before. It all began, though, with a trickle. At… Read More

Keep calm and carry on: The art of negotiating NAFTA chaos

By Jayson Myers.  Steve Verheul is an awesome poker player. You can’t tell what he’s thinking. You never know what cards he holds. But, you can bet he will play them well. Better yet, he knows when to walk away. And, he knows how to win. That’s good. Steve was Canada’s chief negotiator for our ground-breaking free trade agreement with the European Union. Now he’s Canada’s lead for renegotiating NAFTA. It’s a tough job. I can tell you, though, that poker-faced Steve is more than up to the task. It’s much more difficult to say what we should expect from the NAFTA negotiations themselves, other than that day one, August 16, will go down in the annals of trade negotiations as a media circus. Subsequent negotiating rounds better get into substantive issues fast. Both Mexico and the United States are under pressure to conclude an agreement by early January — that is when Mexico’s presidential election campaign begins in earnest, and if President Trump waits until that election is over in June, he will need… Read More

Innovating from the (under)ground up

Manufacturers have felt the pinch of resource prices, but that doesn’t mean they’re standing still.  By Joanne Paulson.  Innovation is generally understood, in the public realm, as a ground-breaking discovery or never-before-seen product. Tesla. The internet. Insulin. It’s a valid perspective — one that has been borne out on the Canadian Prairies for generations. The region has historically been a hotbed of economy-changing product and process innovation, from the development of canola to remote-controlled uranium mining to the Blairmore Ring. But there is also incremental innovation — the small, yet meaningful improvements that build on genius, deliver greater customer value and improve operational performance. In Saskatchewan’s present post-boom era, that’s precisely what manufacturers are focusing on to better support the resource development sectors and sharpen their competitive edge in the supply chain. Not all recent economic retraction, however, is related to lower prices in commodities like potash, oil, and uranium. Many new major capital projects, such as the new K+S solution potash mine near Bethune, drove significant supplier demand during the construction phase, yet have… Read More

How public procurement can become our competitive advantage

By Keith Moen.  In the wake of NAFTA negotiations and ‘America first’ policies, there exists a fine line between favourable and unfavourable public procurement practices. From a free enterprise perspective, a strong case can be made for the inherent benefits of interjurisdictional trade, whether it be at the international or interprovincial level. Conversely, when it comes to public dollars, there is just as clear of a benefit for those dollars to be spent within the jurisdiction from which goods or services are being procured. When you try to combine the two scenarios, however, the vision, the process, and the results become much murkier. And the line between good public policy and outright protectionism becomes as fine as a razor’s edge. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has been among the more outspoken supporters of free enterprise, market-driven economic policies. One of his first orders of business upon being elected in 2007 was declaring that Saskatchewan was, in fact, open for business. Soon thereafter, the province joined Alberta and B.C. in the New West Partnership Trade Agreement, patterned… Read More

With Greg Hutch, director of new service development with ISM Canada – an IBM company

Some have called blockchain ‘the most important IT invention since the internet itself.’ Yet, if you ask folks on the street, few can succinctly define it. In layman’s terms, what is blockchain and how does it work? Blockchain is a technology that lets people who do not know or trust each other build a shared, dependable ledger. In other words: It is a way of recording transactions securely and reliably without the trusted third party — like a bank — that is usually required for verification. There are some very interesting mathematical and computational underpinnings for blockchain, but the fundamental idea is that blocks of information can be securely tied into chains. Each block can represent information like a transaction. Each time a block is added to the chain, it is securely connected to the preceding blocks, and anyone trying to change a link will be detected. There are also multiple copies of the chain, which avoids having a central authority or a single copy of a record. Everyone can see the blockchain and confirm… Read More

Diversity must become our innovation strategy

By Ronda Landygo.  This edition of Prairie Manufacturer Magazine is especially near and dear to my heart. Not only does it commemorate the start of our second year in publication, it also marks perhaps our boldest editorial direction yet. With the exception of The Rundown, a new quarterly policy and economic feature we have launched for the first time on Page 18, every article in this issue is either written by or showcases a prominent female leader. We didn’t make that decision to waive the gender flag. Instead, as Palliser Furniture CFO Cathy Gillespie eloquently explains in the View from the C-Suite column (Page 6), we chose to spotlight women influencers to spark a conversation on the importance of embracing varied and unique perspectives. Why? Because the business of manufacturing is changing before our eyes. The very nature of disruption — technological, societal, and economic — means if we intend to survive, let alone lead, we need to evolve. And, to do that, we need to start thinking differently. One singular lens through which to… Read More

It’s all about perspective

By Cathy Gillespie.  Fifteen years ago, manufacturing wasn’t prominently fixed on my radar. I had a good job as a commercial banker in a good company, making good money. Apart from a handful of industrial clients in my portfolio, my career path at the time couldn’t seem further from many of the everyday operational concerns facing manufacturers. Important functions like product research and development, IT system integration, and lean adoption were foreign concepts. I’ve always considered myself to be a selective individual — personally and professionally. Maybe it’s the accountant in me. But I rarely jump into any endeavour without first identifying and analyzing every possible influence and outcome. Who I decide to work for is a decision I make only after long and careful consideration. And truth be told, it has historically been a short list. Fortunately for me, Palliser Furniture was on it. Palliser is a fascinating Manitoba success story, full of rich history, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit. Established in 1944 by the DeFehr family, the company is now transitioning into its third-generation… Read More

Building the advanced manufacturing ecosystem

By Dayna Spiring.  A primary function of economic development agencies is to develop market intelligence around key economic drivers. This data represents a combination of raw statistics and qualitative information gathered by tracking global trends and engaging with leading companies in targeted industries. In Winnipeg and Manitoba, advanced manufacturing is one of the sectors proven to power economic growth, supplying high-value products to major players in packaging, ground transportation, farm machinery, and aerospace. The past decade has given rise to dramatic shifts within the advanced manufacturing ecosystem, and Economic Development Winnipeg (EDW) has been challenged to better understand the technologies and catalysts moving the sector forward. The mobilization of an advanced manufacturing alliance, designed to connect EDW to stakeholders who can supplement and corroborate market intelligence, has been a vital first step to validate manufacturing’s role in the economy, and understand the profound and pervasive changes stemming from both radical and incremental innovation. New products using next-generation materials are being designed and produced more efficiently than ever before, while advancements in quality are often complemented by… Read More

When lean meets community, everyone wins

By Carrie Schroeder.  Lean is a journey, not a destination. It requires enterprise-wide commitment and a long-term vision to identify and solve problems, learn from those experiences, and institutionalize a culture of continuous improvement. Leadership is key, yet teamwork is fundamental. Although recognizing there is always an opportunity to do better will get you into the game, nurturing high-performing teams is what will earn you the win. Being part of a strong team is hard work. Egos must be checked at the door, humility sewn, and self-assessment practiced regularly. All players must foster an environment of trust, where healthy conflict challenges the status quo, while — at the same time — celebrating successes and helping one another reach their potential. World-class lean companies have refined this engagement down to a science. Each Toyota employee averages close to 50 suggestions for improvement annually — roughly one per week. Celebrating accomplishments, however, is equally important. Lean should not be a daily grind; it should instead be a constant reminder to ask questions. Can we do this better?… Read More

In the weeds: Making way for effective corporate policy

By Annie Bell.  Medical marijuana. Pot legalization. Cannabis in the workplace. These phrases have sprouted in popularity — and have elicited corporate trepidation — over the past year, and will continue to be a hot topic in the coming months, as the Government of Canada enacts its new cannabis legislation leading up to July 2018. While much of the rhetoric has been rooted in the fear of impeding legal chaos, it is also built on a lack of understanding between employees and employers as to what their rights are and how they can be exercised. We are still waiting for both scientific leaders and federal policymakers to establish guidelines on impairment levels — not to mention a device that can successfully measure impairment from marijuana use (although an oral swab test opposed to, say, a urine test can detect usage in a 24-hour period). In the meantime, there are no specific directives you can include in your policy to circumvent the uncertainty. That said, more than ever, now is the time to ensure your current… Read More

The Rundown

A quick update on the issues and policies impacting you.  By Derek Lothian. Canada Free Trade Agreement After months of intense negotiation, Canada’s provinces and territories finalized a new domestic trade pact this spring, set to take effect July 1. The new Canada Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) replaces the two-decades-old Agreement on Internal Trade, and is aimed at improving the alignment of regulatory controls, removing barriers to inter-jurisdictional business, and strengthening dispute resolution mechanisms. While there are stalwart critics of the deal — many of whom have slammed the provision of a ‘negatives list,’ whereby provinces can outline protected exemptions on market access (worth noting it is a long list, too — comprising more than two-fifths of the final document) — business leaders nationwide have broadly welcomed the announcement, from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business to Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. Under the former regime, provinces declared what goods and services were eligible for interprovincial free trade. The CFTA, on the other hand, establishes free trade as the default position. In addition to other structural… Read More

Your next hire?

Technology is transforming more than your products and processes — it’s changing your workforce.  By Jennifer Findlay.  The robots aren’t coming — they’re here. And with them, they are bringing big questions for Prairie manufacturers: What will Industry 4.0 need in an employee? What happens to the jobs of today in a world dominated by artificial intelligence and automation? What skill sets will grow in demand over the next decade as companies race to harness a new era of global opportunity? Estimates suggest more than 40 per cent of the tasks currently performed by humans can already be automated. In the past, robots were used to replace highly repetitive manual tasks, such as packaging or welding on large-volume production lines. Now, using advanced sensors and computer algorithms, automation is moving higher up the value chain, performing exceedingly complex cognitive functions in real time. In 2014, Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Deep Knowledge even appointed a robot named Vital to its board of directors — becoming the first business in the world to do so. These… Read More

Ten recommendations for a ‘new NAFTA’

By Maryscott Greenwood.  President Donald Trump has been talking tough about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) since the early days of his campaign, threatening repeatedly to withdraw the United States from the pact outright. After concerned phone calls from the leaders of Canada and Mexico, however, he seemed to walk that threat back, opting instead to push for a more liberal ‘modernization’ of the accord. The selection of international trade law expert Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative gave Canadians another reason to breathe a sigh of relief. But even with the overwhelmingly-bipartisan confirmation of Lighthizer, it is far too soon to assume NAFTA is out of the woods. America’s 45th president has demonstrated he is nothing if not unpredictable. For now, the Trump administration does not appear to be on course to scrap NAFTA. It is, though, readying for significant renegotiation. That alone is no cause for alarm. NAFTA truly is in legitimate need of an update. The deal is, after all, 23 years old, and was negotiated in an entirely different… Read More

Great beer, down to a science

Meet the Newfoundland grad who turned in her stethoscope for a lab coat en route to becoming Saskatchewan’s newest brewmaster.  By Joanne Paulson.  Amanda Butt is in the ‘party room’ at Saskatoon’s Great Western Brewing Co., sipping a fresh batch of beer out of a small glass sleeve. She wrinkles her nose, and notes this beer is young; she won’t allow anyone outside the testing team to even take a sniff. Not before it’s perfect. Butt took the helm as brewmaster after only two weeks learning the ropes. Her pride in the brand, however, was fully in place the minute she walked through the door. In brewing circles, Great Western’s history is a story of legends — how 16 employees bought the company from Carling O’Keefe in 1989, when the beer company merged with Molson and the plant was slated for closure. Great Western has been a revered local institution ever since. “When I heard it, I thought the story was super cool,” recounts Butt. “I left ‘big beer’ to get into the craft beer… Read More

The puck drops on Manitoba Manufacturing Week

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… Read More

Gala Awards Dinner 2017

No Manitoba Manufacturing Week is complete without taking in the iconic Gala Awards Dinner. More than 500 guests packed into the RBC Convention Centre to pay tribute to this year’s award winners: Pioneer Award Emeric V. Duha IX (awarded posthumously and accepted by his son, Rick Duha) With the support of his wife, Gwen, and his sister, Margaret, Emeric championed The Duha Group’s booming expansion from a printing press in the family home in Osborne Village, setting the stage for the company’s global success. Today, The Duha Group maintains a presence in nine countries across four continents. Emeric, known as Rick and E.V. to friends and colleagues, had an eye to the future. With the proliferation of printers in the 1950s, he identified unique opportunities in a niche market: Specialized colour-merchandising tools. The company soon expanded from Winnipeg with a second location in Gimli, focusing on colour cards, fandecks, and colour systems. Emeric’s dedication to the relentless pursuit of customer value, employee empowerment, and teamwork developed the framework to help The Duha Group grow and… Read More

What I’ve learned from women leaders

Alberta industry champion and commentator, Jeff Baker, talks focus, commitment, and the power of working with both your head and your heart.  By Jeff Baker.  When I began my career nearly 15 years ago, I was green to any sort of ‘real’ industry, having not been exposed to much in the way of manufacturing and processing in my formative days. Since then, however, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and getting to know many of the major industrial players across Alberta, Canada, and beyond, spanning such sectors as energy, forestry, environmental and professional services, and — of course — manufacturing. Manufacturing in particular held a certain fascination for me. Despite having the odd peek behind the proverbial curtain, there was always a ‘black box’ mystique around what happens as raw materials are transformed into finished products. I admit that I grew up with a stereotypical view of manufacturing. I knew it as the exclusive domain of men — rough and tumble, dirty and dangerous. That’s just how it was portrayed in popular culture. As we… Read More

The business case for inclusiveness

By Jennifer Findlay.  American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Doing well is the result of doing good. That is what capitalism is all about.” For Greg Cruson, general manager of Dutch Industries near Regina, the nexus of that equation can be found in the company’s policy toward inclusiveness. The agricultural equipment manufacturer has hired several workers with intellectual disabilities over the years — not only to the benefit of the employee, but also to corporate morale and the overall bottom line. “My grandfather was an immigrant from Holland, so coming from another country, he had a disability in the sense that he had to learn a new language and understand a new culture,” explains Cruson. “I can resonate with that experience. It’s always something we’ve felt important in our business.” Recently, Dutch Industries brought on a disabled employee to pack bolts to include in global shipments. The result has been a dramatic decline in error rates — to virtual elimination — as well as improved customer satisfaction levels. “Accuracy is very important in his… Read More

With Roberta Soo-Oyewaste, manager of the Pasqua First Nation Group of Companies

A little over a year ago, Pasqua First Nation acquired Pro Metal Industries in Regina — the band’s first investment in manufacturing. Why manufacturing and why now? For starters, Saskatchewan has led Canada in manufacturing growth over the past decade, outpacing the national average more than 13 times over. Wages have kept pace as well, creating sustainable, quality employment opportunities for our people. And finally, it helps to deepen our relationship with the commodities sector — specifically, oil and gas producers and potash mines. This diversification, toward strategic areas of our economy, better positions us to leverage some of the major, new capital projects in the region, from the K+S potash mine in Bethune to the Enbridge Line Three replacement, which will run through Treaty Four Territory (which Pasqua First Nation is a part of). What is the approach you have taken to strengthen those relationships in the resource sector? Resource developers recognize the need to engage Indigenous Peoples. It is not the sole responsibility of those companies, however, to do so on their own.… Read More

Protect yourself this summer from skin cancer

You’ve worked hard all year — you deserve that vacation. But remember: Safety cannot stop you when you leave the office or shop floor.  By Dr. Marni Wiseman.  What are the different types of skin cancer? There are three primary types of skin cancer: Melanoma is the most serious; basal cell carcinoma is the most common; and the third is squamous cell carcinoma. Why is early detection so important? Early detection is vital, because it may lead to better patient outcomes. Patients who are diagnosed earlier may have smaller scars, better cosmetic results, and in some cases, particularly with melanoma, an improved rate of survival. What are the different treatments? A person’s treatment depends upon the type and location of their cancer. Surgery is the most common treatment for skin cancer; however, some skin cancers may also be treated with radiation, different types of anti-cancer creams, or occasionally chemotherapy. What can be done to protect you and your loved ones? Prevention is so important. The sun is a major cause of skin cancer, so be… Read More

Turning up the volume on ‘Prairie proud’

By Derek Lothian.  A mentor of mine once told me the greatest strength a business leader can have is recognizing internal weakness — individually and organizationally. That requires discipline, authenticity, and a predisposition toward continuous improvement. Only then can one properly manage risk and pivot to new opportunities as they arise. It is an ability many of us struggle to master. No one enjoys vulnerability. But, often, it is when we are most exposed we experience the most radical growth. As a manufacturing community, we have spent generations cultivating our core strengths into a regional brand. We are trustworthy, we believe in relationships over transactions, we have high standards of quality, and we push the boundaries of product innovation. That is what we are known for in the international arena. Our shortcomings, on the other hand, are seldom identified with the same conviction. If honesty is the baseline, however, perhaps it is the right time to acknowledge what there has been seemingly closed-door consensus on for years: We have a marketing problem. Call it modesty, call… Read More

Manufacturing the Monarch way

By Roy Cook.  When I was first asked to contribute to this issue of Prairie Manufacturer Magazine, Ronda and Derek suggested that sharing some thoughts on how Monarch Industries has sustained and grown over its long history would be of interest to other manufacturers. I hope that proves to be true. Let me begin with some background. Monarch is a privately-owned Canadian company, with its head office and main manufacturing facility located in Winnipeg. Our foundry operation is headquartered an hour southwest, in Winkler; we also have a joint venture in China, as well as a distribution centre in Kansas City. We manufacture hydraulic cylinders and iron castings, primarily for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and the majority of our sales are within North America. Monarch was founded in 1935 by John Klassen, as a family-owned and -operated business, and remained under family control for roughly the first 55 years of its history. In the early 90s, the company transitioned over to investor and senior management ownership. I joined at the latter stages of this transition… Read More

Making the most of government funding

By Paul Boucher.  The government funding landscape to support manufacturing companies in Canada is changing. A yearlong review of spending initiatives and tax provisions to support the industry has been completed. The government has sought public and expert input from across the country to assist with defining a new approach to sector support. Although the specifics are not yet known, it is clear that change is coming. In addition, funding initiatives will have a higher level of accountability with respect to the return on investment and value of the funding program to achieve stated objectives. Canada has developed a myriad of funding initiatives from a number of federal departments, resulting in a complex path for companies to access government funding. Sourcing out these programs is often difficult for manufacturers, let alone successfully submitting an application. But initiatives to improve this process have already been implemented. For instance, a ‘concierge’ program has been established to access government services, while the 2016 federal budget introduced a framework for a future ‘innovation agenda.’ And, it is anticipated that… Read More

An old lesson for achieving new success

By Scott Keddie.  For many manufacturers, the pursuit of excellence is all about embracing the new — new technologies, new markets, new products, and new ways of doing businesses. Competition has become so fierce, the quest to capture an advantage no one else has can be a consuming endeavour, both personally and as an organization. But, as our parents and grandparents have always told us, new is not necessarily better. Take, for example, Training Within Industry, or TWI. TWI is a system of hands-on learning and practice that dates back to the Second World War. With conscription pulling away thousands of skilled workers from the shop floor to join the battlefield, the United States government found itself needing to innovate. The fight required artillery, aircraft, and reliable equipment — and the Allied forces could not afford a drop in manufacturing productivity. A new supply of labour needed to be trained up, and fast. By 1940, the U.S. Department of War had rolled out TWI in factories across the nation as a means of shortening the… Read More

Developing strong leaders for stronger results

By Ron Koslowsky.  During the rapid rise of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. greenback in 2003-04, I carried out a research project to answer the question of how manufacturers in Canada could overcome an at-par loonie through productivity improvement. I interviewed close to 100 business leaders in the sector and concluded the number one need to compete was improving leadership capacity, both at the top as well as cascading throughout organizations. Leadership starts with establishing core values, such as integrity or respect, that act as a foundation to all in the organization around how things are done. Leadership also requires vision to direct plans and actions in achieving the desired results. While values and vision are determined primarily by the top executive, leadership can and should be exercised by all those in the organization who are in a supervisory role and who lead on an informal basis. The fable of the traveller, wind, and sun has resonated with me since childhood. As the story goes, the sun and wind were debating one day which… Read More

Five provincial leaders share their perspectives on what is driving Canada’s hottest manufacturing market

By Will Stanley & Derek Lothian.  Manitoba and manufacturing: They go together like Churchill and polar bears. For the past century, the sector has been at the heart of Manitoba’s economic engine, from the early days of farm machinery and aeronautics to the latest progressions in advanced materials and value-added food production. Today, the industry generates $17.4 billion in annual sales, and comprises 10 per cent of the entire provincial workforce. Manufacturing companies, meanwhile, remit an estimated $3.2 billion in wages to employees each year. These are more than just numbers. They tell the story of a sector at the forefront of global competition, innovation, and technological change. But it didn’t get that way by accident. Much of the recent prosperity can be attributed to purposeful diversification — in product, and in customer. Since 2007, manufacturers in the Keystone Province have weathered dramatic swings in currency and commodity prices to expand at a steady rate of 6.4 per cent, more than double the national pace. Unlike other Prairie jurisdictions, however, where roughly 70 per cent… Read More

Up in the clouds

How Manitoba took Canada’s aerospace industry to new heights.  By Joanne Paulson.  When the National Hockey League announced a franchise would be returning to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season, there was little public debate around what the team should be called. Since 1972, they were, and in the minds of fans, would always be known as the Jets — an homage to the city’s historied roots in aviation. Many believe the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers garnered their name from the same source. But, in fact, it is widely attributed to a Winnipeg Tribune sports writer, who had referred to the moniker in 1935 after famed boxer Joe Louis had coined the nickname the ‘Brown Bomber.’ The mix-up is understandable. Aerospace is, after all, an intrinsic part of Manitoba’s DNA. Diving into the archives, it is not difficult to see why. The sector dates back more than a century, anchored in the romantic past of trading days at The Forks — the confluence of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. Fast forward to today, the… Read More

Our cheesiest article yet

From a local cooperative founded in the thralls of The Great Depression to Canada’s largest independent cheese manufacturer.  By Pat Rediger.  Heralding back to the time of its earliest customers, Bothwell Cheese is still frequently visited by the milkman. Those shipments, however, no longer consist of a few glass bottles. The independent cheese manufacturer — located in New Bothwell, Manitoba, roughly 50 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, near Steinbach — is the final destination for as much as 168,000 litres of the ‘white stuff’ per day, equivalent to 5-7 truckloads, seven days per week. And it’s not just any milk. The company uses only 100 per cent pure, locally-sourced milk in every block of cheese it produces, free from hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, artificial colours, fillers, or additives. For Bothwell Cheese Vice President Mike Raftis, that commitment has been the not-so-secret strategy for success. “Our recipe has stayed the same — we’ve never wavered from using 100 per cent local milk since the beginning,” says Raftis, who notes that 98 per cent of the cheesemaker’s ingredients come… Read More

A colony of innovation

In-house chemists, an on-site laboratory, environmental entrepreneurs: This isn’t your average Hutterite colony.  By Pat Rediger. There are few Canadian manufacturers more iconic and synonymous with innovation than Bombardier. The company even has its own Museum of Ingenuity — reopened this past June after an 18-month, $14 million overhaul. Meandering through the sleek facility, located in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, it is hard to ignore the similarities between many of Bombardier’s flagship products, such as the Ski-Doo snowmobile, the Sea-Doo watercraft, and the tri-wheeled Can-Am Spyder. But beyond the obvious comparisons in design and operational interface, one shared theme bubbles beneath the surface: These vehicles didn’t just revolutionize recreational transportation, they created entirely new markets. Two-thousand kilometres west, near the town of Morris, Manitoba, the Oak Bluff Hutterite Colony has embraced that same approach. After more than six decades dedicated almost exclusively to agriculture, the colony has begun to reap the rewards of diversification and shifting trends in ‘green’ technology — finding new ways to capitalize on existing expertise. It required, however, some trial and error.… Read More

Fishing tips for manufacturing social media success

By Derek Lothian.  Blogger Brian Farrell once said that social media is a lot like fly-fishing: It’s deceptively complex. What looks like someone flailing around their arms and a fishing line is really a well-coordinated effort to get a near-weightless fly in front of a hungry fish. Social media — particularly for manufacturers — is no different. It may seem overwhelming at first, or even pointless. But there is a method to the madness. First, you need to make the right decisions around where to cast your hook. Timing and placement is everything. And then you need the right equipment, the right fly, and the right skill before you can reel in your catch. It is an undeniable fact that more and more manufacturers are embracing social media. According to a recent report from the Content Marketing Institute, 85 per cent of manufacturers already use some form of social media to distribute business information. Of those, nine in 10 use LinkedIn, roughly eight in 10 use YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, and two in 10 use… Read More

Back to basics: Industry 4.0 and lessons from Bananarama

“It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. It ain’t what you do, it’s the time that you do it. It ain’t what you do, it’s the place that you do it…” By Jayson Myers. You know the rest (sorry if you’re now humming it all day). It’s just one of those songs that are difficult to get out of your head. I like the Bananarama and Fun Boy Three version myself. But, the tune has been a hit since the 1930s. Maybe it’s good it sticks with you — it says a lot about how to succeed in manufacturing. It’s a lesson Prairie manufacturers should take to heart in a world of slow-growth markets, fierce competition, and rapid technological change. Innovation has become the key to survival, competitiveness, and business growth. In every sector, companies are looking to new products and services, and to new markets, to boost revenues. And they’re turning to new technologies to improve efficiency, reliability, and flexibility; speed up design, development, and delivery times; and reduce… Read More