All posts filed under: Volume 3, Issue 3 – Winter 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