All posts filed under: 2018

New year, same game

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

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

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

Agri-food economy can thrive despite headwinds

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

The real hurdles of implementing lean across a virtual team

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

just ask…

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

Drilling at a discount

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

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

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

Safety starts here.

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

We can do it!

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

Manitoba Aerospace honours industry excellence

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

Onto the next chapter

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

Prairie manufacturers can be cautiously optimistic for 2019

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

New software tool available to identify workplace impairment

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

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

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

Good neighbours and global leaders

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

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

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

Rethinking competitive advantage

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

Quick lessons for the modern lean leader

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

The bruises and triumphs of our second-generation succession

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

SaskInnov8s

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

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

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

This ‘family squabble’ may mean finding new friends

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

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

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

New online platform preaches the importance of safety training

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

Point / Counterpoint

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

Embracing excellence 2018

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

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

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

Back to the future

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

It’s all about the people

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

Industry 4.0: Are Prairie manufacturers ready?

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

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

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

Reversing the workplace civility crisis

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

Conversation with the minister

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

Paving the protein highway

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

Why are we still talking about innovation?

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

The factory of the future

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

Big tax changes here for small businesses

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

A new northern light

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

Maintaining the status Moe

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

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

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

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 www.daretocompete.ca 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