All posts filed under: Volume 1, Issue 1 – Summer 2016

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