All posts filed under: Volume 3, Issue 1 – Summer 2018

Can’t we all just get along?

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

Excelling in a world of change

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

The smart money is investing in our young people

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

What does lean have to do with HR?

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

How to recruit top manufacturing talent in a competitive market

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

Hire more women: The solution for the manufacturing skills gap

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

Moving the needle on Mission: Zero

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

The business case for and against a unionized workforce

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

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

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

Dare to Compete 2018

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

Next-generation manufacturing is in good hands

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

Varying perspectives versus groupthink

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

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

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