All posts filed under: Volume 2, Issue 4 – Spring 2018

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