All posts filed under: 2019

So, manufacturing… we meet again

By Jeff Baker Hi, I’m Jeff. I’m the new editor of Prairie Manufacturer Magazine. In March, I was asked to join the Prairie Manufacturer team and take over the editorial reins of this ground-breaking magazine. I’m excited to be at the helm of this publication, helping Prairie manufacturers tell their stories to their peers and beyond. I’m definitely not a stranger to the world of manufacturing, especially in Alberta. Over nearly 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to see inside numerous manufacturing facilities and spend time connecting with the owners, executives, and leaders who are leading the transformation of the industry across the Prairies. Now wearing my Editor’s hat, I get to uncover the hidden stories and help Prairie manufacturers just like you share the innovative, creative, and ground-breaking work that’s going on in the region and changing the face of manufacturing not only here, but across the globe. But enough about me, Prairie Manufacturer is about you, the manufacturers. When you break it down, manufacturing is about making things… whether that’s making more things,… Read More

Hearing (and answering) the call of opportunity

By Émilie McKinney My name is Émilie McKinney. I am 18 years old, and a youth from Swan Lake First Nation in Manitoba. I live with my mom and business partner, Natalie Foidart, in nearby Somerset. I’m a Fancy Shawl dancer, a post-secondary student at Maskwacis Cultural College in Alberta, and best of all, I am the founder of Anishinaabe Bimishimo Corporation. I was a high school student at at École Régional Notre-Dame, had just turned 16 and had already travelled a few countries to hoop dance. There was a winter Pow Wow coming up that advertised a jingle dress special. I had grown out of my jingle dress and wanted to make myself a new one. I called our local elder, from whom we used to get our jingle cones, and sadly his cone maker had passed away, and he couldn’t get any more jingle cones made. We headed to a trading post in Winnipeg to purchase jingle cones. I asked the clerk to see the jingles behind the counter. They were so expensive!… Read More

How can more Canadian manufacturing companies succeed?

Many manufacturing businesses have mastered the art of running “lean and mean”: achieving maximum efficiency on the production line is prioritized as key to business growth. But are we giving the same attention and priority to our workforce, the employees who are ultimately responsible for delivering this business growth? We’ve all heard the mantra that employees are a company’s greatest asset, but how do you know this to be true? General statements carry little weight without measurable roadmaps to achieving them. Unlike production efficiency (where reduced costs + increased production = greater revenue) workforce optimization can be hard to measure, but not impossible. What if you could learn from real-business examples of what can result when you put the right person in the right position and empower them to drive change? Or hear more about the employees who gave their companies a competitive edge and the business leaders who enabled them? Enter Game Changers, a new series coming soon to Prairie Manufacturer, brought to you by Pinnacle. Each article in this series will tell the… Read More

Prairie Innovation: A Keystone of Manufacturing Success

The Prairies are a hotbed of innovation, but is our walk nearly as strong as our talk? By Jayson Myers Maybe it’s the water… or the fresh air. I think the wide-open spaces make a big difference. So, too, do the long distances between communities and the diversity of people who call Western Canada home. For me, the Prairies have always been a hotbed of innovation. The grandeur of the environment makes a natural impression on the Prairie spirit, as does the need to overcome the challenges of climate and geography. The prominence of Prairie agriculture and Western Canada’s resource-rich economy have helped engender the type of practical problem-solving that is at the heart of innovation. Of course, they have created ready markets for innovative manufacturers as well. From a business point of view, there’s simply the need to create value for customers in a fiercely competitive global market – no one in Western Canada can grow their business without reaching beyond local customers. From the oil sands, agricultural equipment, and aerospace to artificial intelligence,… Read More

Lifelong learning: Is your organization curious enough to keep learning?

By John Chaput From the moment we’re born, we begin learning. We master the basics first: breathing, seeing, crying, eating, and so on. Then we start learning because we are curious, and our world expands around us. Much of what we learn when we are young is retained pretty much instantly. As we get older and our learning becomes more sophisticated, we need more effort and repetition to retain the things we have experienced or been taught. I’m sure we can all remember studying for the moment we will be asked in elementary school to recite our multiplication tables or a poem. How much effort does it take to successfully write a university or college exam? What about learning a new business process or technique? These are examples of how learning gets more difficult over time. Lifelong learning means having curiosity to explore new methods, processes, and possibilities while gaining a new perspective and being open to change. It means listening with the intention of understanding; asking genuinely inquisitive questions that lead you to new… Read More

It’s time to get strategic about employee benefits

Get your employee benefits package working for you; not the other way ‘round By Earl Shindruk It is 2019, and there is no shortage of economic and political factors, both provincially and nationally, that an owner must be responsive to. An expenditure that is perhaps the easiest to control, yet the most demoralizing to reduce, is the workforce. When less production is needed to meet decreasing consumer spending, I’ve seen companies in the last few years reduce as much as 70% of their workforce. As a benefits broker, I’ve worked with companies to develop creative compensation strategies that help to manage labour expenditures, reduce the peak and valley syndrome of a workforce, and strengthen a team by focusing on retaining skilled workers. With so many benefit providers in the market, and so many options for plans, how does a company choose the benefit plan that will provide them the maximum value? You start with your business objectives and audience – and use these to shape your strategy. At the most basic level, the Objectives of… Read More

Not your grandfather’s tractor

Equipment in today’s agricultural operations is a far cry from what it used to be By Jeff Baker & Laurel Johanson Since the term “tractor” was coined in 1896, tractors and other agricultural equipment have undergone multiple cycles of re-invention that continue to this day. Today you can find machines with 360-degree LED lighting systems for night work, GPS auto-steer, and electro-hydraulic systems all controlled with the push of a button. Prairie manufacturers, like Manitoba’s Versatile, have been contributing to these technological innovations for decades. But have the principles of farming really changed since the days of steam engines and horse carts? The answer is complicated, but one thing is certain: agricultural equipment is a far cry from what it used to be, and machines are larger and smarter than ever before. It’s about the people Danny Mann, Department Head of Biosystems Engineering at the University of Manitoba, says his focus is on the design of agricultural machinery specifically from the perspective of the human operator. “My research has always been: what is the impact… Read More

Charting a New Path, Together

By Martin Cash For many years it’s been understood that for the economies of the Prairie provinces to prosper, there needs to be greater engagement with Indigenous populations. Prairie manufacturers understand the value of increasing Indigenous participation in the industry and momentum is building to try to bridge the gap. That said, there’s plenty of ground to make up. Of the 40 companies who recently participated in a Procurement Opportunities for Indigenous Business event with government procurement officials organized by the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce in Winnipeg, there were no manufacturers. The federal government’s Indigenous Business Directory has about 1,800 companies registered, and while 145 of them are designated as manufacturing, several of them are marketing companies or service suppliers “linked” to manufacturing. Inroads are being made in the manufacturing sector in terms of labour force involvement and enterprise ownership and the sector is likely no better or worse than others. Darrell Brown, president of the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce, is not aware of any manufacturing companies within his membership. He said structural impediments for… Read More

Women in Manufacturing: Is your team as welcoming as you think?

Opening the door for more helps you unlock hidden potential in your organization By Carrie Schroeder Awhile back as I walked into a large meeting, I was greeted by one of my male colleagues who said, “I think I now know how you feel.” I was confused at first then quickly realized the comment was referring to the gender imbalance in the room. It brought a smile to my face. You see, throughout my career in manufacturing, I have often been the only woman in the meeting room. This time the table was turned, this was our first Women in Manufacturing (WIM) meeting in Manitoba, and the women outnumbered the men. This was an unusual situation for my male colleague to experience! Don’t get me wrong; I wish there would have been more men in the room that day, because we need to engage men as well as women in the WIM initiative to build a strong ecosystem of change. One of the biggest challenges facing women in manufacturing is the male-centric work culture. Experience… Read More

With Bonnie Bain, P.Ag., CPA, CGA, Senior Relationship Manager, Corporate & Senior Accounts with Farm Credit Canada

What is agriculture? A typical definition includes words like ‘farming’, ‘tillage’, ‘husbandry’, but agriculture is so much more! Agriculture today includes manufacturing which supplies the latest technology in crop production, animal production, transportation, food processing, packaging, and more. Agriculture also includes the scientists developing new disease resistant crops, geneticists advancing animal production, and food safety technicians ensuring we have a safe food supply. In Canada alone, 1 in 8 jobs is in agriculture, employing 2.3 million Canadians, and the sector contributes over $100 billion (or 11 per cent) to Canada’s GDP. How has technology advanced agriculture? New processing equipment and methods have improved food and animal safety. Drones, robots, driverless tractors – information technology has certainly found a great partner in agriculture! GPS enables agricultural producers to employ variable rate technology, ensuring efficient use of inputs, and helps minimize waste, save money, and maximize production. The ability to analyze and mine the data that these systems collect represents opportunity for even further advancements. New crops that are disease- and pest-resistant, have a longer shelf life,… Read More

A century of lessons learned or forgotten?

By Ron Koslowsky One-hundred years ago, in 1919, Winnipeg was home to the infamous General Strike, which would change the future of the city, the province, and, arguably, the entire country. It was also the same year as the formation of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) — or Canadian Manufacturers Association, as it was known at the time. It is likely that strike was a catalyst. Opinions on why events unfolded in that fateful year have varied, but we do know that after a few weeks of a broad-based work stoppage, including by many non-unionized workers, violence erupted, and several strikers were killed in a clash with the Royal North-West Mounted Police. In Canada’s vigorous expansion after 1897, the West was in the vanguard, and Winnipeg was its capital with a bright future. But the Great War that disproportionately affected Western Canadians and the opening of the Panama Canal led to tough times and depressed wages. Another worry was that the communist revolution in then-Soviet Union would encourage similar uprisings around the world. Finally, many… Read More

Looking back on 50 years, and what lies ahead

By Peter Nygård When I look back over the last five decades, I wonder how I got here. Where did this all start? I surely never imagined I would have all these beautiful buildings and my name in lights in Times Square. What I did want was to do the best job and rise to the top. Everything was, and still is, a competition with me — in sports or anything, the ‘medal’ is the ultimate goal. This company got built because we were dedicated to being the best. We paid very close attention to every detail and didn’t waste our time reaching for over-optimistic goals. We did anything we could to get the job done, and we did it just a little bit better every single day. It also included vision. But vision without execution is just hallucination. Anyone can have vision — the difference really is execution, and the big difference for our company is that we have been executing to translate our vision into reality. My focus has always been about learning… Read More

Are you creating certainty in an uncertain world of trade?

By Rick Riess Several years ago, the state of international trade was in a very different place. Still powering back from the financial crisis of 2007-09, the United States was leading the way in forging a new generation of ambitious trade deals — one with the European Union and another involving nearly a dozen Pacific Rim countries. The World Trade Organization (WTO) was likewise working to eliminate trade barriers, both through a sweeping global trade facilitation agreement designed to help cut through the bureaucratic ‘red tape’ associated with moving goods across borders, as well as the biggest update to a worldwide deal on free trade in information technology goods in nearly 20 years. The direction of things, however, suddenly changed in 2016 when, fuelled by a widespread backlash against globalization and an upsurge in populism, the British electorate voted to exit the E.U., coupled with a change in U.S. trade priorities. Among other effects, these two pivotal events have assisted to create the greatest level of uncertainty for traders in living memory.     With… Read More

Culture first, tools second

By Brent Timmerman I’ve watched organizations and teams try their best to incorporate lean into their fabric and face many frustrations as they struggle to make lean an integral part of how they operate. Sometimes I wonder if these organizations really know why they want to adopt lean. Is it to improve efficiency? Is it to save money? Is it because they want to ‘be like Toyota?’ Before an organization starts a lean journey, the leaders need to understand their rationale, and they need to recognize that the wrong rationale will cause problems. We recognize the Toyota Production System as the origin of many of today’s lean practices; however, the last word, system, is crucial. That is how Toyota views lean — as a system for leading, managing, and operating every day. Toyota doesn’t see lean as a collection of tools, but as an integrated ecosystem they have developed through learning over many decades of experience. This ecosystem has many attributes — some that are visible to outsiders, and many that are hard to see.… Read More

It’s lonely at the top

By John Graham It’s often said ‘it’s lonely at the top.’ Studies indicate up to 40 per cent of all employees claim they feel lonely at work, and none more so than the individuals responsible for leading our manufacturing companies. Most people believe life at the top of an organization is relatively glamourous and easy.  Senior business leaders, however, must keep their focus on all aspects of their companies.  They often feel they have few, if any, trusted advisors. Larger organizations may have a board of directors, from whom regular input, feedback, and mentoring is obtained. But what about smaller manufacturers? Who can help them? What can they do? Where do they go?  Today’s marketplace is extremely competitive. In most cases, Canadian manufacturers must export abroad to find new customer markets and grow their businesses. This requirement to be competitive on the global stage means manufacturers must strive to continually learn more about the industry, customers, and competition; constantly invest in and improve their day-to-day operations; attract, train, and grow the very best people; and,… Read More

Manitoba, manufactured

Meet 15 local companies helping to redefine modern manufacturing By Martin Cash \With a population of only 1.34 million people, spread across a landmass more than two-and-a-half times the size of the entire United Kingdom, Manitoba does not exactly fit the mold of a global manufacturing hotbed. Sure, the province has coastal access — albeit through the isolated Port of Churchill, which is in a deep freeze eight months of the year — and its capital, Winnipeg, is a short, 80-minute drive to one of the busiest commercial U.S. border crossings west of the Ambassador Bridge, but its isolation in the geographic centre of Canada, coupled with the fact it has no major resource development sector to serve as a catalyst, has stacked the odds against it. Yet, Manitoba endures. Home to one of the most diversified regional economies in the country, Manitoba’s manufacturing base accounts for $19.8 billion in annual sales — a 23 per cent increase over a decade ago — as well as 61,700 jobs. That’s roughly one out of every 10… Read More

Welcome to the age of disruption

From cars made out of food to the latest in ‘smart factory’ technology, the future in Manitoba is already here By Laurel Johanson A car made of flax and a motorcycle made of hemp: If these sound like inventions from the mind of a science fiction writer, think again. These products and others like them are actually the creations of the Composites Innovation Centre (CIC) in Winnipeg. At the CIC, almost anything goes when it comes to the types of products they generate. Anything that has material at its core, really, is fair game. Take the flax-based Kestrel Car, for example. The car was a pilot project with an Alberta company that looked at the applicability of using flax in woven and unwoven states to see if it could be formed into car parts. As it turns out, it could. Though it didn’t go into the commercial production stage, the Kestrel Car managed to demonstrate that agriculturally-based composite materials could be viable alternatives to traditional automobile parts. CIC Chief Executive Officer Doug McCartney says the applications… Read More

An introduction to Hoshin Kanri

The tool for keeping your New Year’s business resolutions By Erwin Matusoc On a year-to-year basis, many organizations leverage various strategic planning processes to formulate their best and most competitive strategies to stay on top of the market. Often, these processes take on a very ‘top-down’ approach, where the executive team sets and cascades goals, usually based on financial metrics. It is then up to front-line management to address problems and deploy appropriate methodologies to make it happen. The result is, almost always, a disconnect between the how and the why — where the interpretation of priorities and directives become detached to the purpose of the strategy. That has wide-ranging and detrimental effects, from weak performance and stifled employee development to a breakdown in organizational morale. Through my years guiding senior manufacturing leaders and conducting lean assessments, I can say with confidence that most businesses have too many priorities, insufficient detail and a lack of clarity around execution, and a poor system of accountability. When I ask about their strategic plan, what I routinely see… Read More

just ask… Gender dynamics

By Kimberley Puhach As promised in the last issue of Prairie Manufacturer Magazine, let’s start another conversation that explores diversity and inclusion — specifically, gender dynamics. It is only a starting point to continue the dialogue. Hopefully, you will find some value in the information and continue your own learning journey with a few new thoughts and ideas on how to engage respectfully. No matter what your level of knowledge or understanding in the area of gender dynamics and its role in our workplaces and society at-large, I am sure you already have thoughts, ideas, or firm opinions. You may even be confused and full of questions. How you view gender roles, how you have been socialized, and your beliefs on what the interaction and relationship between genders should be are factors. The progress in gender dynamics came about through changing ideas on gender roles. It is not a new topic. Modern feminism and every aspect of the spectrum has been alive and well since the early 1800s and is at the core of what… Read More

Manitoba’s path to safety success

By Jamie Hall The workplace safety landscape in Manitoba looks much different today than it did even five years ago. A comprehensive strategy for workplace injury and illness prevention, released in 2014, has led to a significant decrease in the number of injuries on the job, more productive partnerships with industry, and greater employer and worker access to services related to workplace safety and health. The effect of these changes has been significant — not only to workers themselves, who are now less likely to be injured, but to colleagues, family members, and friends, who are less likely to face the loss of a loved one or the repercussions of a life-changing injury. For many employers, the changes have meant a healthier, more productive workforce and a reduction in overall WCB costs. These changes began with the creation of SAFE Work Manitoba as a separate arm of the WCB and the public agency dedicated to workplace injury and illness prevention. It was charged with carrying out the new prevention strategy. From the start, its leaders… Read More

My manufacturing story, three generations in the making

By Carrie Schroeder I first became involved in manufacturing 30 years ago. It wasn’t something I planned to do, but once I started, I was hooked. Every day was different. I had the opportunity to setup processes, and try my hand in a variety of areas, from purchasing and scheduling to sales and operations. Each added responsibility came with greater personal and professional accountability. There were no lessons more valuable than those earned by doing. I was fortunate to have an employer that generally supported me in my role; and I was consequently very comfortable being the only woman in the room during meetings. That said, I also enjoyed the camaraderie on those seemingly rare occasions when I crossed paths with other females in the same industry. I remember meeting up to swap stories after-hours and share insights on how to progress in a predominantly male environment. There is no denying that manufacturing has provided me with a lucrative career and endless opportunity for growth. As with any sector, it has presented its challenges, absolutely… Read More

Preparing for the future: Are you ready?

By Jayson Myers Manufacturers across Canada face a whirlwind of change. Whether measured in terms of customer demand, competitive pressures, government and stakeholder expectations, political risk, skills requirements, or technology, the business environment in which manufacturers are operating is being rapidly transformed. And, manufacturers themselves are responding by introducing new products, new production and business processes, as well as new marketing practices, organizational models, and business strategies. Prairie manufacturers are no exception. A recent survey by Statistics Canada shows that a higher percentage of manufacturers in Western Canada are introducing innovations than across Canada as a whole. Given the thousands of companies surveyed, the results are significant. According to the report, 85 per cent of manufacturers coast-to-coast and 88 per cent of Western Canadian manufacturers have introduced some form of innovation in their business over the past three years.  The survey blows away many preconceived notions that Canada’s manufacturers are risk averse and slow to innovate. Manufacturing is, in fact, the second most innovative sector in Canada — only in the information technology sector has… Read More

With Neal Curry, executive director of Made Safe

Why is industry safety so important? Safety is a central aspect to our daily lives. Workplace health and safety are important for the wellbeing of both employees and employers, because a serious workplace injury or even death can change lives forever and impact a business immensely. All people want to work in a safe environment and return home safely at the end of the day. Everyone in the workplace has a responsibility to make that happen. All industries, including manufacturing, have safety risks, but companies should be dedicated to creating and maintaining a plan to ensure the safety of their employees. Why should leadership care about safety? Having a safe work environment not only ensures the safety of employees, it also benefits you as a business owner. By developing and supporting a safety program, you are creating a productive work environment, which then leads to increased profitability, as well as employee and customer retention. When a workplace is safe, employees can feel comfortable and confident to do the job they need to do. By investing… Read More