Author: Prairie Manufacturer

Reality check: Selling your manufacturing business

By Steven Beal.  As your manufacturing business matures, it is never too early to start thinking about what it’s worth and how you plan to exit. Even as you are trying to grow and manage day-to-day operational decisions, it is useful to know what key variables will impact value, and what you can to do increase the value when you decide to sell. To start, it’s helpful to understand how a business is valued. It is generally determined by two key factors: Cash flow and the multiple. The cash flow of your business is measured by the profit, plus or minus a number of ‘normalizing adjustments.’ Typical adjustments include owner’s compensation, depreciation, and other expenses that have a highly variable or somewhat discretionary element. The multiple is even more important. Of course, if you can double your bottom line, the value of your business increases — so the obvious advice is to focus on sales and profits. But there are other key value drivers that influence the multiple, regardless of the size of your business:… Read More

The ‘eyes’ have it!

Stop trivializing visual management — the returns are too large to ignore.  By Dave Hogg.  The winter issue of Prairie Manufacturer Magazine confirmed 5S for what it is: Workplace organization, where everything is in a known place when not in use. While it is a straightforward concept, the success of its application depends upon management’s leadership and daily discipline. The illustration on this page shows a simplified movement of elements that gradually propel lean practitioners from basic 5S toward true world-class performance — a journey reliant on a visual workplace to drive improvements in safety, productivity, waste reduction, and competitiveness. Don’t take it from me. Remember, Toyota Way author Jeffrey Liker cites that very necessity as his seventh principle of management: “Use visual controls,” he writes, “so no problems are hidden.” Every step of the manufacturing process depends on visual management to ensure optimized flow. Perhaps the leading authority on the matter, Dr. Gwendolyn Galsworth, defines a visual workplace as “A self-ordering, self-explaining, self-regulating, and self-improving work environment, where what is supposed to happen does happen,… Read More

Protecting your brand with trademarks

By Nicole Merrick.  We have all felt in recent days the uncertainty triggered by U.S. discussions of policy changes on international trade. At the moment, it is unknown what effect these changes may have on the Canadian manufacturing industry, both at home and abroad. Where old trade paths need to be reconsidered and new trade relationships forged, it makes good business sense to consider your brand and how it represents your business. Branding is a key characteristic of a successful business. Not only should manufacturers consider their business and corporate names, but also their trademarks in the form of wordmarks, designs, slogans, and product packaging, for example, as these marks stand for or symbolize your products, product lines, and your services in the marketplace. Often, the question I get from clients is, “Where do I begin?” My first response is to advise that a client take stock of what it has. What marks or brand names are you using at present? What marks or brand names have you used in the past? How does what… Read More

With Noah Krol, owner and operator of Peg City Yoga and the Sivatantra Yoga Teacher Training program in Winnipeg

Why is it important for executives to integrate exercise into their daily routines? No matter what you do, your body needs to exercise, period. Exercise helps to sustain, nourish and increase your body and mind’s capacity to function at a higher, more efficient intensity. In the workplace, and in life more generally, we are often faced with a multitude of stressors, which have the opposite effect on the body. Regular exercise helps to balance the negative impact of distress — the unhealthy stress — by imposing a eustress, which is regarded as a healthy type of stress, because it stimulates you in ways that are necessary for growth and development, mentally and physically. What should be considered regular? There is no blanket answer to that one, because it depends on factors that vary from person to person — the desired results, current activity levels, and schedule. I would suggest that more important than frequency itself is consistency. Whether it’s three days per week or five days per week, structured exercise regimes will far better serve… Read More

Know safety, no injury

Many Manitoba manufacturers are seeing reductions in their WCB premiums — but that’s no reason to deter focus or investment on improving safety outcomes.  By Dani Desautels.  Manitoba manufacturers have made enormous strides in improving workplace safety over the last decade. Safety is one of the three main pillars supporting success in business, and we are doing well. But, there is more work to be done, and vigilance must remain high. Backsliding is not an option. In a consolidated effort to maintain and improve workplace safety, Manitoba’s manufacturing safety association landscape has changed dramatically over the past year. New industry associations have been formed to cover the province in every sector, and they are ready to help and serve their members. Made Safe was formally introduced in January 2016 by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, evolving from the Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada safety association, which had been around since 1994, to become a program for all manufacturing companies in the province. Other associations, such as the Construction Safety Association of Manitoba and Manitoba Heavy Construction Safety… Read More

Embracing the certainty of uncertainty

By Derek Lothian.  So. President Donald Trump. Let’s all take a moment to let that sink in. Truth be told, I started writing this column on November 7. Ironically, it was all about disruptors — a common theme in this issue of Prairie Manufacturer Magazine. Little did I imagine, only 24 hours later, we’d be hit by one of the largest political disruptions in modern history. Granted, changes to government are nothing new. Even the most surprising election results rarely throw markets or businesses into panic. But what makes the latest U.S. voting cycle particularly unnerving is the same factor driving post-Brexit instability in the U.K. and Europe: Complete, top-down uncertainty. We are entering uncharted waters in the Canada-U.S. trade relationship — in part because we simply do not know where the incoming leader of the free world stands on so many important, integrated issues. Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, has already stated on record he would be ‘happy’ to renegotiate NAFTA with Trump, although who knows if the vision for his desired… Read More

Technology: The platform for diversification

By Mogens Smed.  We might as well start the conversation off by recalling the devastation of the National Energy Program in 1982. It was certainly my comeuppance and wake-up call in business. And, yet, here we are facing a savage drop in the price of energy — the Holy Grail for Western Canadians and Canadians at-large. It is still our source of feast or famine. This, despite declaring we are on a quest for creating businesses not reliant on the price of a barrel of oil or other non-renewable resources. Yes, over the years, numerous success stories outside the energy industry spawned in Western Canada. Stantec, PCL, and Ledcor (there are many others) demonstrate excellent success in the international arena. The time and investment to attain their stature, however, is absolutely staggering and well beyond the means of most aspiring entrepreneurs, especially given the sparse availability of investment capital for start-up ventures. How can we succeed? Through technology. The last 10 years have brought us to the verge of the fourth Industrial Revolution. The first… Read More

Risk, opportunity abound in 2017

By Craig Wright. The economic and political risks to the global economy remain elevated as Prairie manufacturers head into 2017. Earlier worries regarding a sharp slowdown in China have moderated, as activity has held steady at just under seven per cent for three consecutive quarters. Policy options for Chinese authorities remain abundant, and there will not be any reluctance to use any and all options if the growth outlook deteriorates. The uncertainty with respect to the fallout from the Brexit vote has diminished for now, and the economic data for both the U.K. and the Eurozone have exceeded expectations. The challenging part of Brexit, however, is still ahead. Europe and the U.K. have yet to begin the renegotiation of their relationship in a post-Brexit world. The combination of political posturing and policy uncertainty will keep overall uncertainty heightened, likely weighing on investment spending in the U.K. and Eurozone next year. It also poses downside risks for a global economy already suffering from a confidence shortfall. The U.S. economy started 2016 on a weak note, with… Read More

From dollars to sense: My experience as a lean CFO

By John Povhe.  To many business leaders, the phrase lean finance is an oxymoron. And to other professional accountants, it can be downright foreign. Seven years ago, I found myself in the same boat. I was the new CFO of a struggling company in a sector I knew little about — manufacturing kitchen cabinets. Lean wasn’t in my vocabulary, nor was it on the radar of management. Fortunately, our operations leadership group could see opportunity where we didn’t. Manufacturing on the Prairies is less of an industry than it is a community. Everyone knows everyone, and employees tend to transition within seemingly dissimilar environments with relative ease. So, it should be no surprise our lean program at Superior Cabinets was actually kick-started by a handful of employees who had migrated over from the farm implement world. They saw the benefit of a culture that looked at problems differently, valued grassroots input, and captured savings to do things better. In many ways, it was a natural process that allowed us not only to survive, but thrive.… Read More

What moves you?

Why transportation is becoming a competitive differentiator in the new age of manufacturing.  By Derek Lothian. For Jerry Bigam, it was a case of the chicken or the egg. The CEO of Edmonton-based Kinnikinnick Foods long knew it was time to expand beyond the North American marketplace. For years, however, his ambitions were surpassed only by the growing list of challenges to serving a global consumer base in a highly niche industry. At the helm of one of the largest gluten-free food manufacturing facilities in the world, Bigam’s primary obstacle was exposure to risk. Existing transportation infrastructure meant he would need to anticipate demand at least six weeks in advance, allowing the company time to ship product to tidewater, and then across either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean by container. It was a risk he wasn’t willing to take. “It didn’t matter where we were looking overseas, the competitive economics were too hard,” recalls Bigam. “Nothing kills a new product in a new market quite like empty shelves. We would have needed to build up… Read More

Training the workforce of Industry 4.0

By Dr. Larry Rosia.  Full disclosure: I’m a lifelong academic. I’ve been immersed in the world of education and training for more than 35 years — as an instructor, program chair, dean, and now president and CEO of one of Canada’s most dynamic polytechnic institutions. But don’t hold that against me just yet. I’m actually here to plead industry’s case for a better, more responsive, and more innovative training sector. There is no doubt higher education is one of the most important ingredients in the economic chain. Human capital is the universal input for all businesses, and we in polytechnics, community colleges, and universities are responsible for ensuring the quality of those inputs. Admittedly, however, academia often forgets that you — manufacturers and employers — are our customers, our clients. And, sometimes, we haven’t been the best suppliers. That’s not because we’re bad at what we do. To the contrary, I’d argue Canada has one of the strongest post-secondary systems in the world. In fact, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s 2016… Read More


Amidst the commodities crash and one of the worst recessions on record, Alberta manufacturers have turned to their entrepreneurial instincts.  By Joanne Paulson.  While CTV’s hit show Corner Gas is widely associated with small town Saskatchewan, its theme song these days could very well apply to the province’s westerly next-door neighbour: ‘You think there’s not a lot going on; but look closer, baby, you’re so wrong.’ Without question, Alberta’s economy has been hard hit. Weakened crude prices, which first dipped below $30 USD per barrel in January, compounded by one of the most devastating wildfires in Canadian history, have left oil producers and those who service the industry reeling. And who can be the least bit surprised? At its peak, the sector churns out upwards of $30 billion worth of output annually — hardly a drop in the bucket by any standard. But, if you look beyond the gloomy headlines and political bombast, innovation is beginning to reclaim centre stage. That’s not to say it ever left. Perhaps the rest of the country is simply… Read More

A Semple recipe for success

2016 ABEX Business Leader of the Year honouree and Brandt Group of Companies Chairman Gavin Semple chats with Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce CEO Steve McLellan about leadership, innovation, and the ‘most important sale’. Steve McLellan denoted by the initials SM; Gavin Semple denoted by the initials GS. SM: Mr. Semple, thanks so much for sitting down with me, and congratulations on your recognition as the chamber’s 2016 ABEX Business Leader of the Year. GS: Thank you, Steve. SM: Let’s start by talking a little bit about the idea of opportunity. How does Brandt look for new opportunity in a ‘rainy day’ type of economy? GS: When things are good, business is booming, and we’re all focused on keeping up with demand, there is sometimes a tendency to think short-term instead of long-term. The converse is, when things happen in the market that hurt your business, it forces the whole organization to rethink what new products you can introduce, what new markets you can enter, and what new ventures you should take on to grow. Coming… Read More

Foreign trade can’t be so foreign anymore

By Jayson Myers.  Good news about CETA. For those keeping score, this is the third time Canada’s Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union has been signed, but another major hurdle has been crossed on the road to ratification. It now goes to the European Parliament (expect another signing ceremony!), and then enabling legislation must be passed in Canadian and European national parliaments. If all goes well, the treaty will come into effect next year. CETA will open new opportunities for Canadian business in Europe. And none too soon. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has just downgraded its forecast for world economic growth to a disappointing 3.4 per cent for 2017. It expects advanced economies to chug ahead at a measly 1.8 per cent next year. The problem? Well, there are several. Commodity markets will remain depressed. China is pivoting away from infrastructure and heavy industry to consumer and services-led growth. There’s a lot of excess capacity in industrial markets. Businesses are cutting costs and capital investment is expected to remain weak, especially… Read More

House of cards?

By Birgit Matthiesen.  The 2016 election was the longest in U.S. history. For more than 85 weeks, American households were bombarded with lofty promises and grand ambitions. President-elect Donald Trump will assume the Oval Office on January 20, 2017, without any previous public service experience. In doing so, he will be taking the reins of the world’s largest economy, and Canada’s most prominent trading partner. How he leads, however, remains to be seen. On trade policy, Trump went further than any other candidate, promising to ‘rip up’ existing agreements, including NAFTA, impose a 35 per cent tariff on imports from Mexico and a 45 per cent duty on imports from China, and potentially even pull out of the World Trade Organization. He will arrive in Washington supported by a GOP-led House of Representatives, as well as a GOP majority in the Senate. Legislatively, one would expect smooth sailing for the next two years minimum, until the midterm elections. But these are not normal times. In the weeks following the November 8 vote, my phone has… Read More

Construction moves indoors

How manufacturing is powering innovation in Western Canada’s home building industry.  By Joanne Paulson.  Sometimes, it’s all in a name. When Canada’s housing market began to heat up in the mid-2000s, and the dream of home ownership inched further and further out of the reach of many consumers, the term affordable housing became more than just a price category — almost overnight, it transformed into a call to action for policymakers and builders alike. It was a dilemma that had reached new heights, and one that required out-of-the-box solutions. Enter Innovative Residential. Co-founders Alex Miller and Tyler Mathies began their construction careers like many young entrepreneurs in the industry — by flipping homes. But, soon, a rather uncharacteristic opportunity presented itself that would change their business forever. Against the backdrop of Saskatchewan’s economic heyday, the Saskatoon airport had started to attract unprecedented volumes of travellers. With the boom came the need to better develop nearby commercial opportunities, including a parcel of land just south of the airport, in the city’s tired McNab Park neighbourhood. To… Read More

MacLean: The days of carbon pricing are upon us

By David MacLean.  It’s happening, so we best get ready. By January, more Canadian manufacturers will be operating under some form of carbon pricing regime than not. The writing has been on the wall for a long time. But, when Prime Minister Trudeau issued an ultimatum to the provinces, announcing Ottawa would impose a price on carbon even if the provinces don’t, things got real in a hurry. Trudeau’s national policy, broadcast on the floor of the House of Commons in October, has several elements that manufacturers need to pay attention to. It calls for a broad-based carbon price in every region of the country. The emphasis on a ‘carbon price’ is important, as it signals the federal government is eschewing more economically burdensome ‘command and control’ or regulatory-based approaches to carbon reduction. Ottawa wants the carbon price to be equal across Canada, so one region doesn’t grab an unfair advantage over another by setting a lower price — and they want that price to gradually rise over time. The provinces will be free to… Read More

The truth about 5S

Workplace organization is not housekeeping — it’s the key to mission-readiness in 2017.  By Dave Hogg.  Modern workplace organization methodology — or 5S — can be traced back to Henry Ford’s CAN-DO thinking in the early 1900s. The idiom stood for cleaning up, arranging, neatness, discipline, and ongoing improvement. From there, half a century later, the Japanese derived the popular 5S system used globally today: Sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. Ford entrenched this philosophy as common practice with every member of his staff. It was an expected responsibility of both managers and shop floor personnel. He was careful never to call it housekeeping (you should avoid doing so, too!), as that particular word implies it is perhaps someone else’s job. Actually, it’s part of yours. Mission-readiness Workplace organization is a sign of professionalism. It means being able to put your hands on whatever you need without wasting time. It means not having to break your concentration when solving a problem. And, it means protecting an image with customers that are about to… Read More

Digitizing safety

By Joanne Paulson.  Safety is our number one priority. It’s a statement echoed by virtually every manufacturing leader on the Prairies. And rightfully so. Apart from being the ‘right thing to do,’ there is a proven business case for investing in safety performance. An Aberdeen Group study co-sponsored by Rockwell Automation in 2011 found manufacturers in the top 20 per cent of safety performers enjoyed an injury frequency rate 60 times lower than companies in the bottom 30 per cent, as well as 12 per cent less unscheduled downtime, and 14 per cent better overall equipment efficiency — a measure used to compare how well a manufacturing plant performs relative to its designed production capacity. Like manufacturing, however, the business of safety has endured immense change over the past decade, and is on pace for yet another revolution. The days of scattered forms, four-inch-thick policy manuals, and stuffy classroom training courses are near an end. Technology is now beginning to usher safety into the digital age. App-lying safety systems No one understands the marriage between… Read More

With Brent Barootes, president and CEO of Partnership Group — Sponsorship Specialists®

How has sponsorship changed over the past 10 or 15 years? For many businesses, sponsorship used to be a discretionary line item, dependent on how profitable operations were in a given quarter or fiscal year. It was viewed largely as a donation, made with few expectations or conditions. Today, however, corporate sponsorships are an integrated part of marketing strategies, on the same footing as advertising, trade shows, and social media. It is an indispensable lever used to immerse an audience into your brand. Since 2006 alone, the sponsorship industry in Canada has ballooned by more than 60 per cent. Roughly 29 per cent of brand marketing budgets last year were spent on sponsorship and ‘experiential’ marketing, and three-quarters of those decisions came directly from marketing and communications departments. As a result, metrics now matter. Sponsors are now more akin to investors, and sponsorship is now a business relationship — one that can be negotiated, accelerated, and terminated, contingent on performance. Where should manufacturers spend their sponsorship dollars? The answer to that question will change depending… Read More

The imperative of ‘big, innately silly ideas’

By Derek Lothian.  Back in June, I attended the Saskatchewan Construction Association’s annual conference near Waskesiu, on the fringes of Prince Albert National Park. Maybe it was the three straight days of sun, maybe it was the unwelcome remnants of the Great Western Pilsner, but there I found myself — bright and early Saturday morning — oddly indifferent to the lucky foursome teeing off only yards away. Instead, I sat spellbound, listening to business commentator Paul Martin hash out his ‘big ideas’ for the future of Saskatchewan prosperity. The first I really enjoyed: ‘Pulling a Newfoundland’ and inviting the Northwest Territories to join the provincial brotherhood as an extension of Saskatchewan. Instantaneously, our region’s natural resources would have access to tidewater, and we would have a hammered stake in the mineral-rich north for the next 50-plus years of exploration. The second I liked even more (and continue to take credit for whenever Paul isn’t around to hear): Capping lifetime personal income tax. Let’s just say we do so at $1 million dollars (or whatever number… Read More

We need more dragon slayers

By Bryan McCrea & Evan Willoughby.  What do a smooth-talking commerce student and an eager engineer have in common? Shipping containers, dragons, and an all-too-aggressive aversion to the word no. Our story starts in 2010 at the University of Saskatchewan — the birthplace of some of the province’s most innovative and thriving manufacturing firms: SED Systems, Vecima Networks, and International Road Dynamics, just to name a few. It was there we first crossed paths and began a journey that would take us to the airwaves on national television, to Canada’s most powerful boardrooms, and, in recent years, all the way up to the northern tip of Alaska. The two of us became serendipitous allies during the fourth-year Wilson Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence i3 Idea Challenge. Our big idea (okay, Evan’s): To turn shipping containers into housing for students. Truth be told, we soon realized it wasn’t a very good idea as far as business competitions go. Students don’t have money. We didn’t have money for land. It didn’t make a lot of sense. So, we… Read More

Growth from the ground up

By Chris Dekker.  This year, the Saskatchewan Trade & Export Partnership (STEP) celebrates 20 years of operation. While manufacturing has figured prominently in the province’s 350 per cent export growth in that timeframe, the majority of the increase has come from trade in commodities. But much has changed over those two decades. According to British novelist L.P. Hartley: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” If we could visit the country called 1996, 20 years away, we would be able to see just how different economic development strategies were back in the day. Leading into the 1990s, economic development was dominated by the big ‘D’ word — diversification. The overarching notion of diversification was to shift away from our dependence on resources. A few years ago, I joined 30 experts in economics, government, and academia for The Hon. James A. Richardson Discovery Roundtables, to examine the role of economic diversification on the Prairies. The result was a report from the CanadaWest Foundation, deliciously titled, Who Cares About Baskets? We’ve got Eggs!:… Read More

Oil slump squeezing Alberta manufacturing jobs

By Jonathan Hamelin.  These days, Alberta manufacturers are hardly having a gas. The devastating drop in crude prices — from more than $107 per barrel only two years ago to the $40 mark being edged upon this summer — has caused a downward jolt in capital investment, delaying or cancelling many projects altogether. In April, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers forecasted capital investment in the country’s oil and gas sector to drop to $31 billion this year, down from a record $81 billion recorded in 2014. For companies servicing the industry, it has been a rocky ride. “All of the business is drying up,” says Tony Lam, executive vice president of engineering and operations for Stream-Flo, an Edmonton-based manufacturer of wellheads, as well as gate, check, and surface safety valves. “There are no longer any new projects. They might go back to make some changes to improve production; but otherwise all of the drilling projects for heavy oil have disappeared.” The sluggish Canadian dollar has been no friend, either. “It has been challenging trying… Read More

Next-level lean

By Ian Marshall.  Think, for a moment, of manufacturers in your network that have implemented and sustained long-term lean programs. Five years, 10 years, 20 years? How about in your own operations? Is lean merely set of tools, or is it a way of doing business, embraced from the shop floor all the way up to the corner office? If you’re wary to disclose the answer, don’t fret — you’re not alone. The truth is most lean programs fail to deliver the hoped-for results. Or, at least, they falter over time. Even Shingo Prize winners — companies that have been recognized for excellence in lean — publicly struggle to realize endured success. The more disparaging part is that few stop to ask why. Most business owners and senior managers think about lean as a vehicle to improve business performance. But to motivate, engage, and bring the workforce along, there has to be a compelling reason that goes beyond reducing costs or increasing sales. There needs to be a bigger purpose, a bigger reason to change.… Read More

Why safety training isn’t enough [and what to do about it]

By Warren Clark.  How do you define workplace culture? What does it mean to you? Many times, I’ve heard it characterized as ‘the way we do things around here’ — taking the good, the bad, and the ugly implications along with it. All too often, manufacturers’ ‘safety programs’ are comprised of only the basic foundations of a safety system — policies, procedures, rules, responsibilities, new employee orientation, and training. But is training in all these areas enough? Should we be surprised then when safety outcomes don’t improve, or when we battle with the same recurring headaches day after day? Building and sustaining an enterprise-wide culture of safety requires a top-down strategy, wholly embraced and communicated by management. The ground-level buy-in, meanwhile, starts with action. Employees need to see unwavering support and action for safety, from both senior leadership and supervisors. They need to believe the company is willing to do whatever is necessary to protect the wellbeing of staff (even at the expense of profits). They want to see words become action. In addition, they… Read More

Parting thoughts

Editor Derek Lothian sits down with outgoing Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters CEO Jayson Myers for a candid Q&A on the future of the country’s manufacturing sector.  Derek Lothian denoted by the initials DL; Jayson Myers denoted by the initials JM. DL: Dr. Myers, thanks for taking the time. Since you started your career with Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) in 1991, a lot has changed in Prairie manufacturing: Sales have multiplied two-and-a-half times over — more than double the national pace. Employment has increased 38 per cent. And, in the last 15 years alone, average weekly earnings in the sector have swelled by 54 per cent — 16 points ahead of even the highest provincial rate of inflation [in Alberta]. Take us through the major milestones you’ve seen during your tenure. JM: There’s no doubt there has been a boom in Prairie manufacturing. Over the past 10 years, the centre of Canadian manufacturing activity clearly has shifted westward. When I joined CME in 1991, Canada and the U.S. had just signed a landmark free trade… Read More

The new era of FX management

Why currency markets are now top-of-mind for many small- and medium-sized manufacturers.  By Will Stanley.  Two decades ago, the practice of foreign exchange (FX) management was reserved primarily for multinational corporations and commodity traders. Today, with Prairie merchandise exports at an all-time high, it is an in-demand skill set that has become mission critical for even the smallest manufacturer. Few executives know this better than Casey Davis. Davis is the CEO of Morris Industries, an agricultural implement manufacturer with operations in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and sales in more than a dozen markets around the globe. Although exports currently account for half of the company’s annual revenue, international sales have spiked as high as 80 per cent in recent years. At any given time, Davis estimates Morris Industries is dealing in at least a handful of different currencies. “There was a time when we would be measuring foreign purchases against sales quarterly at best,” he recalls. “We’ve accelerated that quite a bit, especially leading up to our fiscal budget cycle. Now, we’re often looking at what… Read More

Speer: New interprovincial trade pact undermines the promise of Confederation

By Sean Speer.  July’s agreement between the premiers to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers earned considerable self-praise. The premiers called it “historic,” “unprecedented,” and “ground-breaking,” and committed to having the accord in-place for Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary next July 1. It all sounded pretty significant, especially for Western Canadian manufacturers and processors, who are subjected to the high costs of complying with these barriers — ranging from different employee standards to separate trucking regulations to competing weight definitions — and thus for whom an ambitious deal to establish free trade inside of Canada could be a significant financial boost. But underneath the small print and the premiers’ hyperbole lies disappointment. The agreement-in-principle may offer marginal relief for Prairie businesses, but it fails to offer real progress on establishing an economic union for Canada. Remember that Canadian Confederation was, in large part, motivated to eliminate barriers to trade and commerce among the provinces. The United States had just walked away from a free trade deal with us and part of the solution was to bind the provinces together… Read More

Harnessing our innovation infrastructure

The Prairies are home to some of the best R&D and commercialization assets on the planet — but are they being used to their full potential?  By Martin Cash.  One attribute most representative of Prairie manufacturing is part and parcel with perhaps its primary ongoing challenge: Innovation. With such a diversified base — from resource development supply and aerospace to ground transportation vehicles and agricultural implements — building the right supports to assist in research and development is not an easy task. Factor in geography, limited government resources, and a collective population roughly the size of the Greater Toronto Area, and there are immediately competitive restraints. That said, Prairie manufacturers are no strangers to competition, either. They thrive on it. But as the rest of the world vies for position at the top of the value chain, decisions on where and how to invest public dollars in manufacturing innovation have become more vital than ever before. It starts with accessibility, industry alignment, and a technological anticipation of the market. Take, for instance, the Winnipeg-based Composites… Read More

On the heels of the 11th annual Saskatchewan Manufacturing Week this November, Prairie Manufacturer Magazine asks three of the province’s foremost CEOs: What is the best advice you have ever received?

  Steven Hoffrogge, President & CEO, Crestline Coach.  As a leader, the most precious commodity you have is your time. How you make decisions, how you prioritize competing demands can determine whether you are a drag or draft on your organization’s progress. In most situations, time aids you in making better decisions. It allows you to gather more information, consult others, and critically examine your own thought process. The reality, however, is that you don’t always have time, so being able to identify what decisions you can make versus the decisions you need to make is an indispensable skill. This really hit home around the year 2000, as I was exposed to a senior leadership team in the midst of a turnaround. One particular individual, who has since become a mentor of mine, taught me there is a great art and wisdom to choosing when and how to act. It was U.S. President Eisenhower who said, “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” Every morning, I come into the office and… Read More

The pursuit of excellence

Meet two Saskatchewan manufacturers finding lean success the second time around.  By Joanne Paulson.  Three years ago, the management team at Degelman Industries knew something had to change. The Regina-based manufacturer of farm equipment opened its doors in 1963, eventually moving into an 11,000-square-foot plant three years later. In the decades that followed, the company expanded its product line to include livestock and tillage equipment, land rollers, dozer blades, and other industrial goods, growing its facility to 160,000 square feet, with 300 employees. Business was booming — but they weren’t meeting their deadlines. “In the fall of 2013, we were in rough shape,” recalls operations manager Justin Kleckner. “We couldn’t supply our customers with accurate delivery times. We had trouble capturing the cost variances. We weren’t as efficient as we could be. Priorities were constantly changing, and demand was as well. It hit a point where we decided we couldn’t do it anymore.” Enter lean. Degelman, which had flirted with lean manufacturing implementation 13 years earlier, knew it was time to give it another try;… Read More

Homegrown private equity

This isn’t ‘Toronto money’ — it’s your neighbours’ savings, investing in a prosperous Prairie manufacturing sector.  By Joanne Paulson.  Private equity has long been marred in mystery and misconception. Once considered the ‘bank of last resort’ by many business owners, private equity firms were shunned as out-of-touch investors from far-off places, whose only mission was to strip cost and maximize shareholder returns. For a growing number of Prairie manufacturers, however, that notion could not be further from reality. Just ask Steven Hoffrogge, president and CEO of Crestline Coach. The Saskatoon-based ambulance and bus manufacturer underwent a private equity-backed management buyout in 2004 with the help of PFM Capital — located 250 kilometres south, in Regina. Since that acquisition, the two organizations have walked hand-in-hand through a top-down corporate transformation. “This company is probably three times the size it was, in revenue, from when PFM first became involved,” says Hoffrogge. “We’ve gone from fewer than 75 employees to approaching 200 today. We have expanded our footprint as it relates to where our customers are located as… Read More

The anatomy of an effective kaizen

By Dave Hogg.  In lean, the term kaizen is made up of two separate Sino-Japanese words: Kai, meaning ‘change’ and zen, defined as ‘for the better’ — compounded quite literally as ‘change for the better.’ It is a methodology and mindset, which must be sustainable. When that philosophy is implemented in the workplace, it triggers everyone to continuously look for small ways to improve processes. Doing 1,000 things one per cent better is far more advantageous than doing a single thing 1,000 per cent better. A quick history The Second World War gave birth to Training Within Industry (TWI), a system of standardized work that reverse-telescoped the duration of employee training — a necessity given the historic need for increased productivity. Through TWI, some critical training was cut from five years to six months, with identical competence. After the war, this approach helped evolve kaizen thinking into a powerful, common sense tool to rapidly solve specific problems. At first, kaizens took weeks or months to complete. Many decades later, in the 1980s, the Association for… Read More

Moving inland

The growing role of inland ports on the landlocked Prairies.  By Craig Slater.  Shipping goods to market sounds like a straightforward task. Experience, however, reminds us that is not always the case. Every advance in transportation innovation, from the wheel to the 18 wheeler, has been designed to move goods to their destination quicker. For manufacturers, this speed can be the difference between competiveness and bankruptcy. But the latest shift in the logistics equation has little to do with cutting-edge technology or breakthrough invention. Instead, the Prairies are rewriting the rules on traditional shipping hotbeds, diving headfirst into the world of ‘inland ports’ — specialized distribution, warehousing, and industrial centres connected directly into the intermodal transportation network. In Manitoba, the 20,000-acre CentrePort, near Winnipeg, is North America’s largest inland port, and amongst the most recognizable. Its tri-modal facility — boasting rail, air, and truck capacity — along with its strategic location in the geographic centre of Canada are big reasons why some of the province’s largest manufacturers have become tenants, including Boeing, MacDon, and Winpak.… Read More

An ambassador’s outlook

Former Canadian ambassador to the United States Gary Doer on cross-border trade, energy policy, and ‘bumper sticker politics’.  By Derek Lothian.  PHOTO CREDIT: THE CANADIAN PRESS / JUSTIN TANG.  Gary Doer is no stranger to the public spotlight. Heralded as a consensus builder by those of seemingly every political stripe, his résumé is among the most decorated in the country: Provincial cabinet minister, leader of the opposition, three terms as premier of Manitoba, and more than six years as Canada’s Ambassador to the United States. Since returning to Winnipeg from Washington this past January, however, Doer has been enjoying life free from underneath the microscope. He has joined five boards of directors, including Investors Group and Great West Life, and sits as co-chair of the Canada Institute at the D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. It is a change of pace that has allowed the 68-year-old to remain connected to one of his true passions and an issue that has become a hallmark of his career: Canada-U.S. trade. Amidst one of the most contentious… Read More

Three effortless web design and marketing tips for manufacturers

By Ryan Yedersberger.  In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changin’.” Dylan’s 1964 counterculture hit, ranked 59th on Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 songs of all time, was about many issues of the day — social injustice, government inaction, and inequality, to name a few. It was, in no way, about marketing. Although it very well could’ve been. Few industries have undergone the complete transformation that marketing has over the past five decades. Prairie manufacturers have not been immune to these changes. Yet, many still prefer to focus on ‘classic’ methods to generate sales leads, such as word-of-mouth, trade shows, print catalogues, and cold calling. While these are still important in the manufacturing world, they alone are not enough. According to a B2B research paper published by ThomasNet, 90 per cent of industrial buyers now do some form of online research before choosing a supplier or placing an order. Having a strong digital presence is no longer optional for ‘when sales pick up’ — it is a precursor to… Read More

With Dr. Amy Bender, sleep scientist with the Calgary-based Centre for Sleep & Human Performance

How much sleep do executives need to function at optimal performance? Business executives have a lot in common with elite athletes when it comes to mental exertion and the sleep needed to perform at a high level. Although there is a great deal of individual variability (women, for instance, typically require 20-30 minutes more sleep than men), the recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is between 7-9 hours per day. Even if you feel you are performing well on reduced sleep, it may be an illusion. In fact, only five per cent of the population requires fewer than six hours’ sleep. Ideally, executives should wake up refreshed without an alarm clock. If you find yourself regularly hitting the snooze button or relying on caffeine to get you through the day, you’re likely not receiving enough shut-eye. And if you snore, cannot fall asleep within 30 minutes, or get more sleep but still feel exhausted, seek help from a sleep professional. These could be signs you have an underlying sleep disorder. What are the… Read More

A new industrial dimension

3D printing is no longer a fringe technology or inane fad — it is a manufacturing tool here to stay.  By Craig Slater.  Once little more than sci-fi fantasy, 3D printing has long since proven its potential in mainstream manufacturing circles, leaving behind a trail of inspired technologists and giddy salespeople. Unlike subtractive manufacturing, where a component or product is derived from the removal (and, often, consequent combination) of material, 3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing, which involves synthesizing three-dimensional objects through successive material layering. Although the technology has only garnered widespread profile in the past decade, it has been standard practice with many companies around the world for more than 30 years.  Industrial modelling is one of the longest-standing applications. In the past, when manufacturers endeavoured to design and test a new product, it was not uncommon to wait weeks for a prototype — and, then, if additional changes were required, came more delay, racking up untold costs in shipping, engineering, and lost-time. Today, using 3D printers, multiple prototypes can be produced in… Read More

Monkeys be damned, the sky is not falling

By Derek Lothian.  Anyone that has sat through one of my presentations has likely heard me recall the ‘experiment’ of the five monkeys in a cage. As the story goes, a group of scientists place five monkeys into a caged enclosure. In the middle of the cage, there is a ladder; and, directly above the ladder, hanging from the ceiling, there is a banana. The first monkey walks around, looks up, sees the banana, and starts climbing the ladder. Right before it reaches the top, a scientist sprays the monkey with ice water. Now, monkeys hate water — let alone ice water — so the monkey shakes it off, jumps down, and goes to sit in the corner. A second monkey paces around, looks up, sees the banana, and starts climbing the ladder. That monkey is also sprayed with water, comes back down, and sits in the corner. This is repeated until all five monkeys have been sprayed with ice water — the banana still dangling from the ceiling. One of the monkeys is then… Read More

Seven types of people manufacturing leaders must surround themselves with

By Charles Loewen.  I often say that I won the ovarian lottery. Many of us did. We were born into prosperous times, in a stable and well-educated nation, to good parents, in healthy communities. Some individuals spend years, or decades, navigating the labyrinth of educational opportunities and career pathways — many even retire before discovering their true passion. I, on the other hand, was born into mine. The great-grandson of a sawmill operator, our family business has always been rooted in manufacturing. The products have changed, absolutely. But after 110 years, to see the Loewen name — now synonymous with premium windows and doors — still woven into the fabric of Steinbach, Manitoba, is a testament to four generations of entrepreneurship, innovation, and pure, old-fashioned hard work. Our family members, however, could not have done it on their own, and neither could have I. Whether you’re fabricating windows or washing machines, doors or duck decoys, all manufacturers share one, universal input that has a disproportionate bearing on the success of any venture: Human capital. People.… Read More

It’s an economic roller coaster but this ain’t no amusement park

By Jayson Myers.  Manufacturing on the Prairies is a lot like riding a roller coaster. And, sometimes, it seems as if manufacturers are riding more than one. The steep climb in oil and other commodity markets that occurred both before and after the recession gave way two years ago to plummeting prices, dramatic declines in business investment, and resource projects either cancelled or postponed. Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar that was trading at par only two-and-a-half years ago lost a third of its value by last February, only to rebound by more than 15 per cent over the next three months. The U.S. economy that was strengthening for most of 2015 is now showing signs of weakness. Never mind the problems in Europe and Japan, the BRICS that were supposed to drive economic growth into the future have become industrial basket cases. I include China in that assessment as well. Now, the Fort McMurray wildfire. Hold on, there’s probably more to come. None of these wild gyrations in markets were predicted. The fire certainly wasn’t. They… Read More

Four decades of lean on the Prairies

By Dave Hogg.  Sure, there are some smoky clouds over the Prairies these days. As Confucius put it, however: “The greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.” Count me in as one observer who believes the future for Prairie manufacturers has never been brighter — even though the challenges to come will be greater. I have been travelling across Western Canada for close to 40 years now, and can tell you first-hand that manufacturers here are uniquely equipped with the adaptability and focus on value that others lack to succeed in the global marketplace. When the early lean manufacturing consortia movement began circa 2000, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta led the rest of the country. Their natural organic collaboration brought together manufacturers (many of whom competed with one another) seeking excellence in continuous improvement, practical innovation, agility, and — ultimately — productivity. These are the same attributes needed to greet the future. Unlocking the value Lurking throughout this three-province patchwork is a growing awareness of the power of lean… Read More

Mind the gap

Three innovators in higher learning answer the question:  How will education evolve over the next decade to advance the world-class manufacturing workforce of tomorrow? Dr. Deborah Hurst, Dean, Faculty of Business, Athabasca University For the last five years, the skilled labour gap has received plenty of public attention in Canada, but not for the reason you probably think. The biggest challenge facing the industry today is not a lack of skilled labour, but a lack of experienced management. Manufacturing has traditionally been considered the process that turns raw materials into physical products. But the business of manufacturing has changed. This extremely diverse, constantly accelerating industry faces intense challenges, such as: Strengthening efficiencies while maximizing cost effectiveness; incorporating analytics and big data into processes; shortening time to market; and, at the same time, increasing accuracy — all while enhancing strategic positioning. The manufacturing sector has massive reach, bolstering exports and global trade, and is the second largest contributor to Canadian GDP. With the continual evolution and increases in complexity of the manufacturing industry, managers need to… Read More

Thinking big

How Aboriginal economic development is reshaping manufacturing on the Prairies.  By Martin Cash.  Jim Nowakowski knew he’d have to be patient when he began succession planning for his Saskatoon manufacturing firm, JNE Welding — a company he founded in 1980, which has grown to become one of the largest custom steel fabricators in the province. But, for Nowakowski, that patience was tested as the bottom collapsed out of the price of oil and expansion in the potash industry dug in its heels. The latter was particularly impactful. For years, JNE’s capacity and capabilities expanded alongside developments in the potash sector. Take, for example, the 38-foot high, 33-foot wide, and

The burning question

How will legalized marijuana impact manufacturers?  By Joanne Paulson.  Here is the big, two-headed problem with marijuana: It is hard to tell if someone is impaired, and it is equally hard to test for it. Ever since the Liberal government came into power with a stated policy to legalize pot, Canadian manufacturers have been asking how new legislation might affect their operations — particularly with respect to liability and workplace safety. They are concerned enough that they have been calling Winnipeg labour and employment lawyer Shereese Qually for advice. Qually, a partner with Taylor McCaffrey LLP, explains that, on the legal and policy side of the conversation, marijuana fits logically into the same category as alcohol and prescription drugs. Those substances are legal, but they can, and often do, affect on-the-job employee performance. “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s legal to be impaired at work — it’s not,” explains Qually. “We have drug and alcohol policies that address impairment, and prohibit that kind of contact at work, whether it’s bringing it to work or… Read More

CME Manitoba’s (un)conventional (un)conference a huge success

The largest manufacturing conference on the Prairies. 350 attendees  •  100+ companies  •  Rave reviews.  By Jill Knaggs.  Dare to Compete — Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters’ (CME) flagship provincial conference — has long been touted as the can’t-miss event of the year by many Manitoba manufacturers, large and small. 2016 was no different, with more than 350 delegates converging on Winnipeg’s RBC Convention Centre this past March, to pack in a full day of professional development, shared learning, and industry networking opportunities. “Attending CME Manitoba’s annual conference has become a must-do for me, and it’s because of the value I receive each year,” explains Dan Oldcorn, training and development coordinator with MacDon Industries. “(Un)conference 2016 was no exception. I learned new things, reconnected with great people, and came away motivated and inspired.” In the spirit of continuous improvement, CME takes steps to ensure attendee feedback is heard and drives future iterations of the event. This year’s (Un)conference theme was the result of a desire to shift focus away from the ‘same old conversations’ and towards innovative topics… Read More

Meet the new kids on the block

PHOTO CREDIT: DANIEL CRUMP.  By Jill Knaggs.  By every measure, CME Manitoba goes to great lengths to ensure Dare to Compete remains the ‘must-attend’ manufacturing event in Western Canada. For Vice President Ron Koslowsky, that effort to push limits and do things differently than they’ve been done in the past is a point of pride. “Not only do we want delegates to hear from leaders on the issues that are most important to them,” says Koslowsky, “our goal is for participants to come away with implementable ideas to better address challenges as they innovate, improve, and grow.” But while specific topics often change, several overarching themes may not. Workforce development has become a staple focus for conference organizers — a natural fit, given CME Manitoba’s Discovery Program finals, widely considered one of the premier industry-education initiatives in the country, take place the same day. “Bringing together young people with manufacturing leaders allows for a unique mentorship experience,” adds Koslowsky. “Enabling secondary students to experience the broader event with the added insight of a senior businessperson… Read More

CME Manitoba’s annual Gala Awards Dinner sets the gold standard

By Jill Knaggs.  CME Manitoba’s nominations committee faces a unique challenge. Every year, it becomes increasingly difficult to define a clear leader amongst an ever-growing field of standout players in the Manitoba manufacturing community. “The competition is impressive” says Hugh Eliasson, retired deputy minister of jobs and the economy for the Manitoba government, and member of the nomination committee. “You’d think it would get easier over time, but with the quality of business — the sheer number of visionary leaders and innovators in Manitoba — it just gets harder and harder to select from a growing list of deserving nominees.” Two local business leaders, however, and three organizations stood out above the competition in 2016, and were recognized at the March 23 Gala Awards Dinner for their outstanding contributions in achieving world-class benchmarks in the manufacturing and exporting sector. Attracting more than 500 senior industry leaders, policymakers, and community champions, the gala has evolved into a veritable who’s who in Prairie manufacturing, drawing in some of Canada’s most influential chief executives, like Paul Soubry, president… Read More

Welcome to the New West

Manitoba’s inclusion in the New West Partnership will open doors, and markets.  By Joanne Paulson.  When Brian Pallister’s Conservatives were elected in Manitoba this spring, their commitment to enter as the fourth signatory into the New West Partnership Trade Agreement was greeted with open arms by the province’s manufacturers. The policy marks a pro-trade pivot from the previous NDP government, which declined to join the New West Partnership when it was formed in 2010 by British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The pact ensures reciprocity and a level playing field for businesses, removing barriers to trade, investment, and labour mobility. Over the past five years, access to interprovincial infrastructure markets has been a key sticking point for many Manitoba manufacturers. But that’s all about to change. Ron Koslowsky, vice president of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) and a leading voice on manufacturing in the province, says the procurement issue “hit the fur” last fall, when Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall questioned why Manitoba companies should be allowed to bid on projects further west, while Manitoba firms continued… Read More

The sky is the limit

Meet one Prairie manufacturer taking ‘drone’ technology to new heights.  By Karen Brownlee.  Flying has always inspired the imagination. It took imagination, after all, to conceive that flying was first possible for humans. But once we took flight, we were able to look back on where we had originated with awe. The ability to gaze down upon our world offered us a new means to consider how we live, work, and play. That bird’s eye view allowed us to gather new information and evoke fresh perspectives. We then invented new ways of capturing and building upon that vista through the use of cameras and other imaging equipment. And then we eliminated the need for us humans to climb into the cockpit altogether. Whatever you call them — drones, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), remote piloted aircraft systems — they have given way to a new industry of opportunity, and have inspired imaginations yet again. Agriculture, construction, mining — sectors woven through every facet of our economy are now scrambling to understand the capabilities and limitations of… Read More

Brexit at a glance

Hours after British citizens voted to secede from the European Union, Prairie Manufacturer Magazine Editor Derek Lothian sat down to answer three pressing questions on what the ‘Brexit’ may mean for Canadian manufacturers.    Will the referendum results alter the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union? The U.K.’s departure from the E.U. will undoubtedly have implications on CETA — the largest and most ambitious trade pact ever negotiated by Canada. There are two clear-cut downsides: First, the U.K. accounts for roughly three per cent of Canadian exports on its own — our nation’s third largest trading partner. Exclusion from CETA will likely keep intact many, if not all, of the tariff and non-tariff barriers currently in place until a new, U.K.-specific deal can be reached. And that could take years. Manufacturers that have invested or planned to invest in the U.K. as an access point to Europe will then need to re-strategize, and explore other avenues of market entry, as Britain will no longer fall under CETA — an… Read More

Opinion: From the ballot box to the ‘innovation box’

By Derek Lothian.  Fresh off his third straight majority mandate, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has vowed to implement Canada’s first ‘innovation box’ incentive, aimed at accelerating corporate investment in research and development. This proposed program, dubbed the Saskatchewan Commercial Innovation Incentive (SCII), was one of only a handful of policy priorities set forth in the Saskatchewan Party’s re-election platform. In short, it is expected to provide a six per cent corporate tax rate reduction on income earned from intellectual property (IP) commercialized in the province, for a period of at least 10 — possibly 15 — years. The question still up for debate is: What qualifies as IP? In similar models around the world, that benchmark has historically been patents. And while few argue that patents should, in fact, fall under the eligible criteria, it is important that the benefit extends beyond patents alone. The reason for this is simply the pace of technology. In many industries that Western Canadian manufacturers serve, the innovation cycle is shorter now than ever before. Take, for example, agricultural… Read More

“This year, all bets are off”

The U.S. election, and how it could alter North American manufacturing as we know it.  By Derek Lothian.  There are few people more familiar with cross-border business than Birgit Matthiesen. A former customs officer and 25-year veteran of the Canadian Embassy in Washington, Matthiesen now serves as director of Canada-U.S. business affairs for Arent Fox LLP, a prominent K Street law firm and private lobbying organization. She is frequently tapped by industry groups on both sides of the 49th Parallel for her take on the state of the world’s most complex and integrated economic relationship. These days, however, knee-deep in the thralls of a historic U.S. election cycle, even Matthiesen finds herself with more questions than answers. “There is a lot of trepidation in Canada and the United States,” she laments. “Nothing harms business or the bottom line more than uncertainty, and these are very uncertain times — socially and in terms of long-term corporate strategy.” As the U.S. primary season draws to a close and the two top-of-ticket candidates all but shore up their… Read More

Se7en deadly marketing sins manufacturers should avoid

By Ryan Townend.  We’re Canadians — we don’t like talking about ourselves. Instead, we’ve historically preferred to let our work do the talking for us. For decades, that approach served us just fine. Manufacturing surged on the back of innovation, sheer determination, and quality of service, while the rest of the economy rode a wave of commodity demand and resource development. But a lot has changed in the past 50 years. That little thing called the Internet was introduced, for starters, and the world has consequently become a much smaller place. What previously could only be done in a capital-intensive factory can now be accomplished in a home office, and the global borders of competition have all but evaporated. Marketing now matters. The truth is: It’s always mattered. But never before has it been such a defining line between growth and stagnation. The problem is many manufacturers find it intrinsically unnatural. Often, at best, it is a function isolated from the rest of the company — a department or lonesome individual for which there is… Read More

Bringing the world to our doorstep

Fifty-two countries represented, $500 million in sales reason to celebrate the 39th edition of Canada’s Farm Progress Show.  By Derek Lothian.  It is known on the Prairies as the ‘backyard’ showcase for agricultural equipment manufacturers. But outside our own borders, Canada’s Farm Progress Show has become the global destination for the latest in ag technology. Agbor Ndoma, executive director of the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Development in Nigeria, is one of more than 700 visitors who traveled to Regina from 52 countries this past June to take in the show. He was the first Nigerian delegate in the event’s 39-year history. Ndoma came away exceptionally impressed with the volume of Canadian-made innovation, including with IntraGrain Technologies, a local manufacturer of mobile grain storage monitoring systems. “In Nigeria, it can be terribly hot. Right now, if you put any grain into storage, you should be able to track the temperature and moisture content at the same time,” Ndoma explains. “The technology that I saw [at the show] with IntraGrain is so incredible. I can have the… Read More

No country for old men

Once a male-dominated industry, manufacturers are now embracing women in executive roles.  By Jonathan Hamelin.  When it comes to changing demographics in manufacturing, Hayley Milloy is more than happy to throw around titles. Milloy is the marketing and program coordinator for Women in Manufacturing, a national association based in Independence, Ohio, dedicated to supporting, promoting, and inspiring females pursuing a career in the manufacturing industry. Today, women comprise roughly 36 per cent of the manufacturing workforce in Canada, compared to 29 per cent in the U.S. Of that number, however, the corner office is becoming especially female-centric. “We represent nearly 700 members, from around 350 companies,” says Milloy. “Half our members hold titles such as CEO, president, or director — mid- to high-level leadership roles.” Back at home on the Prairies, Richelle Titemore is a shining example. Titemore is the CEO of S3 Enterprises Inc. in Swift Current — a group of companies providing manufacturing solutions to the agricultural equipment sector. “In North America, the institutional barriers for success in all industries, including manufacturing, have really… Read More

Small innovations, enormous possibilities

By Pat Rediger. Nan·o·tech·nol·o·gy (noun):  Science, engineering, and technology executed at the nanoscale — equivalent to one billionth of one metre. Manufacturers like to think big. In today’s competitive global economy, it’s a prerequisite to success. But many experts, like Andrew Myles with the National Research Council, are encouraging companies to set their sights much ‘smaller’ — to the nanoscale, to be exact. “One nanometre compared to one millimetre is the same as one millimetre compared to one kilometre — a million-fold difference,” explains Myles. “We’re talking about molecules and the assembly of atoms. If you’re making a layered system, you may be laying down thin films that are only nanometres thick.” At the National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) in Edmonton, Myles is responsible for the organization’s Innovation Centre and Industrial Innovation Support Program. The centre currently houses roughly 20 private businesses actively exploring commercial applications for nanotechnology and nanoscale production. Although nanotechnology is not exclusive to any one sector, Myles believes manufacturers stand at the forefront of the opportunity. Coatings, for example, represent one area… Read More

Can’t we all just get along?

By Derek Lothian, Editor, Prairie Manufacturer Magazine​ The title of Scott Gilmore’s April 19 Maclean’s op-ed is equal parts incendiary clickbait and honest critique of the state of our federation: Canada is not a country. Talk about a headline. “If we can’t build pipelines, move beer, or find some common ground,” he argues, “we may have a fatal problem.” Perhaps more important than a commentary on pan-provincial trade woes, Gilmore dissects the growing list of divisions between Canadian people — in terms of identity, geography, prosperity, understanding, and, heck, even our willingness to understand. It had me thinking about what that means for the future of Canadian manufacturing — not entirely how we make things or how they get to market, but who makes them and whether we will be able to collectively reimagine a supply chain that is more person than product. We write a lot in Prairie Manufacturer Magazine about the emergence of Industry 4.0. This summer issue is no different. And don’t kid yourself: The ability to understand and deploy advanced technologies may very… Read More

Excelling in a world of change

By Ben Voss​ I always like to begin stories with a little perspective on history. I grew up in small-town Saskatchewan at a time when the normal career path was to obtain your education and then leave this great province to pursue your life’s ambition elsewhere. I, unlike many, chose to stay. I remember attending session after session put on by the local economic development agencies and chambers of commerce, which listed off the many reasons why Saskatchewan was a great place to setup manufacturing businesses. Reasonable wages, a skilled and readily available workforce, cheap real estate (often in small towns with low taxes), and low utility rates were all considered attractive reasons to open a factory here. Remarkably, in less than two short decades, those low-cost advantages inverted to high-cost challenges. The boom arrived and, with it, a great deal of opportunity and growth. Changebecame the most popular buzzword in many executive offices. ‘Adapt or die,’ they said. Some have, unfortunately, went the way of the latter. Others have merely survived. But there are… Read More

The smart money is investing in our young people

By Steve McLellan Imagine these situations: Elaine is a recent widow. Her husband did all the banking and, during their 40 years of marriage, she worked, looked after the house, and raised their three children. Now she is the family broker, investment advisor, and budgeter. She is finding the task a challenge. Isaac is a proud, recent graduate of the Saskatchewan Polytechnic CAD technician program and, after 12 years of school and the additional two years of study to get his diploma, he is ready to make some money and start living life. While he has some student loans, he believes that with his newfound income in manufacturing he will soon be in the ‘big money’ and will not have to rely on Kraft Dinner for supper five nights a week. A sure sign of his future success is that he received notice in the mail he’s been pre-approved for three credit cards and has signed up for them all. Susan, meanwhile, moved to Canada from Somalia as a refugee and saw this country as… Read More

What does lean have to do with HR?

By Rodelle Genoway. There are many common misconceptions about human resources. Let’s start by addressing HR’s function. More often than not, the layman thinks of it as ‘hiring and firing.’ But that’s only partly correct. The role of HR has evolved immensely over the past two decades. It has shifted from being purely administrative in nature to a ‘business partner’ model, grounded in the leadership of an organization. Modern HR is about creating systems to ensure human capital is working as effectively and efficiently as possible — and in a manner that complies with employment law. Under that definition, those of you familiar with lean can already see the correlation. Lean and HR are about developing systems to optimize business processes — only one is physical and the other is intangible. For an organization to reach its full potential, equal attention must be paid to both. After spending several years with manufacturers across the Prairies either conducting lean training or assisting in lean assessments, one thing has become crystal clear: The root cause of most… Read More

How to recruit top manufacturing talent in a competitive market

By Dale Driedger. We all know Manitoba is a manufacturing hub. With such a high number of manufacturers proportionate to our population, recruiting top talent in this industry is already competitive. And it’s about to get tougher. According to Canada’s Urban Futures Institute, some 9.8 million Canadian baby boomers are approaching retirement. By 2020, the number of Canadians retiring each year will be 425,000. With their departures will be a drain in knowledge, experience, and leadership in our workforce. It will be near-impossible for companies to keep up with the amount of job openings compared to the number of retirees. Sure, schools are turning out lots of people in the skilled trades, but only time can produce the leaders with the experience needed to fill senior roles.​ What are Manitoba manufacturers to do? It’s not all doom and gloom. Companies that invest in succession planning will position themselves for success. Every role has different hiring requirements. If you haven’t identified how long it would take to recruit for each role in your company, and then… Read More

Hire more women: The solution for the manufacturing skills gap

Females account for only 28 per cent of the national manufacturing workforce — and far less on the Prairies. By Martin Cash. The manufacturing industry needs more people like Tammy Wisminity. For the past three years, the 41-year-old single mother has operated a universal grinder at Standard Machine in Saskatoon, putting the final touches on extra-large wheel bearings for mining equipment and large industrial trucks. After a decade-long career as a farmhand, she was already accustomed to shedding career stereotypes. Manufacturing, however, has budded into her true calling. And she believes if more women knew about the immense opportunity in the sector, more would be likely to join her in the workforce. “Every day for me is something interesting, something different,” says Wisminity. “Lots of women, I’m sure, would love to get into this type of work and do something they are passionate about.” That has been the rallying cry for manufacturing leaders across the country, who are now fully engaged in a coast-to-coast initiative to increase female participation in ‘non-traditional’ occupations. The transition being… Read More

Moving the needle on Mission: Zero

Three OH&S leaders share their best advice on eliminating lost-time injuries and building a culture of safety. By Joanne Paulson. Workplace safety has come a long way over the past decade. In Saskatchewan, for example, Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) numbers show the lost-time injury rate per 100 workers stood at 1.86 last year. Only five years ago, it was more than 36 per cent higher, at 2.54. Over the same period, the total injury rate fell from 7.8 to 5.25. That’s progress.​ Most experts credit this success to a tidal change in safety culture, as organizations continue to build robust internal safety programs and governments tighten regulations. Jon Harnish, manufacturing safety officer with C&V Portables in Calgary, has witnessed this shift first-hand. “Ten years ago, a safety program was still a grumble. But, now, people are into it — after a while, it just became a part of daily life,” he says. “I see a change with newer people entering the industry. They’re excited to work for a company where protection is mandatory. They’re coming… Read More

The business case for and against a unionized workforce

Point/Counterpoint In an industry facing unprecedented change and challenge, debate is everything. At Prairie Manufacturer Magazine, Point/Counterpoint is our effort to contribute to furthering the conversation. Each quarter, we will bring you two competing viewpoints on a pressing manufacturing issue to help inform and guide your business decisions. Who knows — we may even change your opinion. The argument for By Sudhir Sandhu The rise of unions coincided with the Industrial Revolution and the concurrent conflict between industrialists and urban workers. Early on, this conflict was often a violent class struggle. While the violence subsided, the conflict orientation remains. Given this history, agreement is a distant bridge for proponents and opponents of unionization. Invariably, arguments for and against unionization become embroiled in questions of fairness, individual versus collective rights, and an existential struggle for power between labour and employers. There is ample objective evidence to make the case that unionization is good for the firm and the economy as whole. The benefits of unionization are evident from both microeconomic and macroeconomic perspectives. For the macroeconomic case,… Read More

“The more things change, the more they stay the same”

Dave Hogg reflects on three decades in the lean consortia movement, and what they can tell us about the future of Canadian manufacturing. By Dave Hogg. ​What a century this has been for manufacturing. ​Ford’s flow production design — the true root of lean — exploded onto the world stage in 1914, which made it possible to build an unheard-of 9,000 cars per day. Similar technologies boosted the World War II effort, with one high-performing plant churning out 17 B17 bombers in each 24-hour cycle. Then, in 1950, Toyota turned to flow manufacturing principles to stave off bankruptcy, beginning the lean revolution we know today. ​Experts are realizing that lean will be a crucial factor in setting the stage for the next advanced manufacturing landscape — commonly referred to as Industry 4.0. In fact, lean is found today in virtually every area of human endeavour; and those with the foresight to have it already in place are finding the future a friendlier place to be, no matter who they serve. ​To be clear, Dan Jones,… Read More

Dare to Compete 2018

By Prairie Manufacturer Magazine Staff. ​This year, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters’ (CME) Dare to Compete conference saw 220 delegates, 27 exhibitors, three keynotes, and 20 presenters. Participants walked away with practical toolkits and thought-provoking content. ​Dr. David Posen, a.k.a. Doc Calm, expert on stress, was a crowd favourite that led us all to think about our working habits as leaders and influencers, while Tannis Osterman from CanSustain took us through the delicate balancing act of production, profit, and global environmental concerns. ​What did attendees have to say? ​“It was truly a valuable day for me both from a learning and networking perspective.” ​“I noted that people stayed until the end, which you don’t often see at a conference. Dr. Posen was awesome.” ​“Keynote speakers the last two years were excellent (Andrew Coyne and John Ibbitson). The panel at lunch was also excellent.” ​Plan to attend Dare to Compete 2019 on March 19 and the CME Gala Dinner on March 21 — both in Winnipeg. Visit for more information. ​2018 CME Gala Awards Dinner Made-in-Manitoba… Read More

Next-generation manufacturing is in good hands

By Jayson Myers. ​I was blown away this year by my visit to Hannover Messe. Thanks to the folks at Siemens Canada, I had the chance to spend a few days in April wandering around Germany’s annual industrial showcase, which attracts more than 200,000 attendees. I made it to most of the 27 halls on the exhibition grounds — many of them larger than football fields, full of the latest manufacturing technologies from around the world. The sheer scale of the show is impressive. The technologies were pretty cool, too (especially the robots). There were robotic flying foxes, robots winning at ping pong, robots playing the piano, as well as ‘co-bots’ assembling cars. What really caught my attention, though, wasn’t the technology at all. It was the excitement of the hundreds of young people who were at the show as visitors, exhibitors, students, and seminar participants. I spent a lot of time learning about many of the technologies on display from young engineers and technicians, girls and guys, who clearly enjoyed explaining — or, better… Read More

Varying perspectives versus groupthink

Why diversity on boards is good for business By Alison Kirkland If the role of the board of directors is to support and advance the strategic direction of an organization, one might assume that a group of like-minded individuals would be most effective in achieving that goal. The growing body of research and intense discussion around board diversity, however, is showing the opposite to be true. ​Diversity isn’t about rogue directors with their own agendas, but rather individuals with different knowledge and experiences, who will trigger discussions that contribute to the success of an organization. The complexity of situations that confront boards and the speed at which the business environment changes means there is not just one answer to a question or a singular way to approach a challenge. Varying perspectives arising from gender, age, cultural background, geography, expertise, and experience mean the insights shared and the questions asked of the CEO result in better decision-making, which, in turn, yields better organizational performance. ​The Status of Women Canada report, Women on Boards: A Competitive Edge,… Read More

With Sean Devin, partner and technology strategist with Saskatoon-based MNP LLP

Are small- to mid-sized manufacturing companies on the Prairies really a cybersecurity target? Absolutely — and the question itself starts to shape the reasoning why. Cybersecurity attacks happen to all sizes of organizations, in all industries, everywhere in the world. Even if you’re operating in a rural community selling only to local customers, you can be as much of a target as a global conglomerate with a highly integrated supply chain. ​Think of it as a numbers game. As a hacker, I could go after one large company that invests heavily in protecting itself against digital vulnerabilities, or I could pursue several small companies that tend to not invest heavily in cybersecurity. I would have a higher chance of breaching the latter and could conceivably acquire the same volume of sensitive data in a fraction of the time, and at a lower risk. What information do I have that anyone would want? ​Many companies — particularly those in the SME segment — make the mistake of assuming their data is not ‘sensitive’ or worth enough… Read More