All posts filed under: Volume 1, Issue 4 – Spring 2017

Turning up the volume on ‘Prairie proud’

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

Manufacturing the Monarch way

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

Making the most of government funding

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

An old lesson for achieving new success

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

Developing strong leaders for stronger results

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

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

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

Up in the clouds

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

Our cheesiest article yet

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

A colony of innovation

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

Fishing tips for manufacturing social media success

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

Back to basics: Industry 4.0 and lessons from Bananarama

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

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