All posts filed under: 2019

Make the best of things by making the best future

Manufacturers make tonnes of amazing things, so why can’t the future be one of them? By Jeff Baker We humans are weird creatures. We tend to find comfort in patterns and symmetry. We seem to seek those things out in our entropic world, and we often assign some sort of meaning to these instances or happenings. Think about it for a second. There’s something weirdly satisfying about watching your car’s odometer flip from some variation of 99999 to 00000, or topping off at the gas pump to a whole dollar amount, or maybe it’s synching up Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon album with the 1939 classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, and watching the magic happen. Okay, that last one might not be for everyone, but it’s a heck of a way to spend a rainy afternoon. An auspicious occasion My point is that we’re on the verge of one of those moments: the numbers denoting the year on our calendars will change from 2019 to 2020. It’s the rolling over of… Read More

Lessons in Leadership

By Alison Kirkland In September of this year, I took on a new role as the CEO of the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC). Established in 2011 by the CEOs of organizations that support women entrepreneurs, WEOC is dedicated to the success of women business owners across the country. Until this year, it had been run on a volunteer basis by the inspired women who form the board. In April 2019, funding from the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy enabled the board to formalize the organization with the establishment of a national office. Assuming the role of CEO and establishing a fully staffed national office has been a big undertaking and there have been plenty of moments of self-doubt; of wondering what I had let myself in for by leaving a very comfortable position to take on something so new and as unformed as an entrepreneurial start up. As I searched for inspiration to write this article, I naturally went to the internet and Googled ‘leadership’. There were countless links ranging from key characteristics of successful… Read More

The Changing Face of Western Manufacturing

By Jayson Myers It’s been a turbulent time for prairie manufacturers. Low oil prices and the contraction of capital investment activity in the energy sector, trade problems with the United States and China, difficulties in getting pipelines built – all these factors have acted as a drag on manufacturing activity in Western Canada. The turning point was in 2012. Since then, manufacturing sales across the Prairies have lagged behind those in the rest of Canada. The value of goods produced and shipped by prairie manufacturers increased by 11.8 per cent from $101.9 billion in 2012 to an annualized $113.9 billion in 2019. In contrast, manufacturing sales in the rest of Canada rose by 19.4 per cent over that same period of time. Manufacturing activity has been especially strong in Ontario and Quebec. As a result, manufacturing sales across the country are on track to exceed $691 billion this year. With sales growth slowing, prairie manufacturers now account for 16.5 per cent of Canada’s manufacturing output, down from 17.4 per cent seven years ago. It doesn’t… Read More

Game Changers

Brought to you by Pinnacle Do you want to ensure your cherished memories survive for generations? Get them in print. That’s the advice Lifetouch Plant Manager, Brian Klassen, gave when meeting with Rhae Redekop, Executive Recruitment Consultant at Pinnacle. We’re talking about the Game Changers that are leading initiatives to evolve 160 years of technology to meet the demand of 8 million photos per year for what is traditionally known as “Picture Day.” “I think one of the difficulties in our industry is what I would call the Digital Dark Age. Your cell phone has a wonderful camera. But you’re not going to get as good an image, background choices or professional lighting as we provide. Where we add value is in quality and convenience. 97% of our photos ship within five days.” Maureen Drummond, Director of HR Canada adds, “Since our merger with Shutterfly, we can now put those memories on a whole host of other things like pillows, ornaments, calendars and memory books.” RR: To start, I would love to hear how each… Read More

Managing the Costs and Causes of Workplace Injury We love hearing from Prairie Manufacturer readers, through email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even face-to-face. You share with us the issues that are top of mind for you and your organization, and we work to bring you information and experts to help keep you on top of your game. Ask & Answered is your opportunity to share the questions that keep you up at night. Prairie Manufacturer will seek out subject matter experts to answer your questions and help your business thrive. In this issue, we spoke with Dorotea Cassels, Senior Physiotherapist, Work Injury Management Team, at The Wellness Institute in Winnipeg, about managing the costs and causes of workplace injury. Prairie Manufacturer (PM): What does sick leave cost an organization? Dorotea Cassels (DC): Financially there are WCB costs, wages paid to absent and replacement workers, and administrative costs. Productivity or delivery delays result in dissatisfied customers. Workplace culture is affected by an increase in stress and workload on present workers. Safety and quality may be affected… Read More

Manufacturing vision… 2020 and beyond

Shorthand for perfect vision, is 2020 the beginning of a new clarity for manufacturers? By David Quinn Cleopatra, the last Queen of Egypt, lived nearly 500 years closer to the release of the iPhone than to the construction of the Great Pyramids of Giza. It took humans less than 63 years to advance from the first successful powered flight of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk to having people land on the Moon. Oxford University in the United Kingdom was founded in 1249, nearly 100 years before the start of the Aztec civilization at Tenochtitlán in present day Mexico in 1325. And perhaps most mind-blowing is that everything you see today – right at this very moment – has happened in the past, not the present. This is due to an inherent processing lag of our brains and optic organs of about 50 milliseconds. By the time you actually ‘see’ something, it’s already happened and has probably moved on. So, what does all this have to do with manufacturing? The changes we see happening in… Read More

Manitoba Aerospace honours industry excellence

On November 28, 2019 Manitoba Aerospace held their 18th annual Aerospace All-Stars Awards of Excellence in Winnipeg, recognizing recipients for their achievements in the aerospace and defence industry. The event recognizes partners or individuals involved in or with the aerospace industry who have demonstrated excellence in a variety of areas from leadership to business growth. Award winners are nominated by their industry peers. “The annual All-Stars Dinner is an ideal forum for recognizing contributions to our aerospace community,” said Ron Drepaul, Chairman of the Board for Manitoba Aerospace. Three recipients were recognized this year for their outstanding achievements: Award of Excellence for Education & Training – Carolyn Geddert, University of Manitoba Faculty of Engineering Award of Excellence for Team Work and Business Growth – Approved Maintenance Organization Fleet Expansion Project Team Keewatin Air LP Award of Excellence for Technology Development – RADARSAT Constellation Mission Satellite Team Magellan Aerospace, Winnipeg Helping students and industry take flight “The All-Stars Dinner is also a major fundraiser for the Manitoba Aerospace Student Endowment Fund, said Drepaul.” “Through the generous… Read More

The New Beat of Alberta

The music has changed, but Alberta manufacturers are already grooving to a new rhythm By Jeff Baker Since Alberta’s establishment in 1905, its economy has always been export-oriented and export-dependent. With a small internal market located in an economically isolated region, industries of all sorts have relied on transport connections: rivers, rails, roads, air, and now the internet. From day one, Alberta’s economy has been one of volatility – booms and busts – with certain economic sectors taking the lead in development, production, exports, income, and then the inevitable downsides. From furs to grains to beef In the early days, when the Hudson Bay Company and the Northwest Company ruled the roost, fur was king, and commodities travelled by birch-bark canoes, York boats, and Red River carts on buffalo trails to the ports of the east and west. With the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 19th century, in-migration became tremendously easier, and this led to one of the first dramatic shifts in Alberta’s economy: from fur to grains and animal products.… Read More

just ask…Diversity and Inclusion

By Kimberley Puhach What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term diversity? You might initially think of ethnicity then perhaps gender. This is likely due to the focus on employment legislation dating back to 1986 with the federal government’s Employment Equity Act. This law was intended to increase representation and create equity for groups that were under-hired and underrepresented. Women, persons with disabilities, and Indigenous peoples are considered as part of this legislation to this day. Additionally, human rights legislation also provides protection from discrimination for protected groups as defined within the federal and provincial human rights laws. Fast forward 33 years. What does diversity and inclusion mean today, and how are we doing? I think we can agree that some progress has been made but there is still plenty left to do, including understanding the importance and value proposition for employers, employees, job candidates, citizens (current and future), and Canadian society at large. Diversity has – or at least should have – moved beyond legislation now that we… Read More

Harnessing the Power of Influencers

By Carrie Schroeder Manufacturing offers high-quality jobs with incredible opportunities for advancement. These jobs provide individuals across a wide range of educational backgrounds and professional interests lucrative and personally rewarding careers. Through extensive consultation and a nationwide survey, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters produced a summary paper, entitled Untapped Potential: Attracting and Engaging Women in Canadian Manufacturing. Over half the respondents stated that one of the main reasons there are relatively few women in the manufacturing workplace is that school-aged girls are not encouraged to consider manufacturing as a career option. Moreover, when asked how to attract more women to manufacturing, the top response – by a considerable margin – was to improve efforts to encourage girls to enroll in STEM fields and skilled trades programs. The broad perception of manufacturing being dirty, dark, dangerous, and dull continues to exist. As manufacturers, how do we challenge these misconceptions and share the reality that exists in our production facilities today? Further, how do we change the minds of the influencers that help guide the decisions of our… Read More

Alberta promotes healthy and safe workplaces

By Jody Young All workers should be able to come home safely at the end of their workday, from the first shift right through to retirement. That becomes more possible when government, employers and workers collaborate to create healthy and safe workplaces. A combination of best practices, education, awareness, and compliance with occupational health and safety (OHS) laws helps achieve that goal. By taking actions before an incident occurs, workplace illnesses and injuries can be prevented. We are accomplishing this by empowering workers, enforcing workplace health and safety laws, and enhancing partnerships between government and employers. Starting in 2019, the Alberta government introduced a prevention initiative that outlines priorities for the OHS system. The purpose is to align the system and coordinate efforts to battle those hazards that most impact worker health and safety and system costs. The three basic rights Health and safety committees and representatives support the three basic workers’ rights that are a key part of our OHS Act. Workers have the right to know about workplace hazards and how their employer… Read More

Make market exploration a New Year’s resolution

By Derek Lothian This past September marked the second anniversary of the entry into force of the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union. And, in just a few short weeks, on December 30, we will be celebrating the one-year milestone of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Both pacts were heralded as pioneering achievements in global policy — landmark accords that would redefine access to 38 key growth markets and spark unprecedented opportunity for Canadian manufacturers. While it is still far too early to gauge the effectiveness of these agreements, a look at export performance over the past decade is a clear indication of the need for Western Canadian companies to continue to diversify their customer bases. In 2009, manufacturers across the three Prairie provinces shipped a little more than $30 billion in goods to international jurisdictions — roughly 37 per cent of everything they produced. This included $5.3 billion in manufactured food products, $1.5 billion in transportation equipment, and $1 billion in agricultural implements. The… Read More

With Al Amarshi, Director of Eyesafe, with the Alberta Association of Optometrists

How does someone know if their safety eyewear is safety compliant? Be careful! The term ‘impact resistant’ does not necessarily mean that the eyewear is compliant to your provincial safety standards. Look for the following:  The manufacturer or supplier certification mark must be present on all approved safety frames, as well as the side shields and goggle piece. Look for the marking to ensure the frame and accessories meet the criteria for impact resistance. With Eyesafe, the frame will bear the label CSA Z94.3 (or ANSI Z87.1 if your provincial regulations permit ANSI compliant frames). The manufacturer initials or stamp will be on the lenses, and they must meet CSA Z94.3 standards for impact resistance. To ensure that you always receive compliant safety eyewear, purchase from a reputable eye care provider or program. Compared to regular eyewear, safety eyewear uses stronger materials that are generally shatter-proof and designed to prevent the lens from pushing into the eye. Safety eyewear also provides side protection. Your optometric clinic will choose the right lenses based on your prescription,… Read More

In order to make an omelette, you’ve got to break a few eggs

Disrupting and diversifying the status quo By Jeff Baker Whether it’s ideas, materials, or culture, in order to create something new, you often need to break something down before building or rebuilding. Buildings need footings and foundations; mines break rock to get ore which is then broken down again to get the minerals; metal needs cutting and bending to create machinery and goods. Disruption creates ‘white space’ which is the room needed to create something different, something out of the ordinary; something truly unique. It’s in those spaces, too, where we see a diversity of ideas and possibilities blossom into something outstanding. The people and companies you’ll meet in this issue are working to not only disrupt their businesses and sectors, but the entire world around them for the better. Since the last issue, we’ve heard from a good number of you about the contributors featured and the manufacturing stories we shared from across the region. The positive feedback is great, and it makes all of us at the magazine want to keep doing more… Read More

Would you eat these?

How two entrepreneurs are orchestrating a takeover of your pantry, one cricket at a time By Claudio La Rocca What makes two Italians decide to start a food business in Alberta that involves ground-up crickets? The answer is simpler than you might think. Silvia Ronzani, my business partner, and I arrived in Edmonton seven years ago to pursue our graduate studies at the University of Alberta. We both have backgrounds in environmental sciences and entomology (Ah… the first clue!). In what can only be described as a fateful event four years ago, one of our colleagues brought in a bunch of dried grasshoppers for everyone to try during a lab meeting. That’s probably because the idea of edible insects was already floating around. We tried them, and as any Italians worth their salt would do, we graded them based on taste, texture, and potential. Did I mention we are also a couple of food nerds? That took us down a path of discovery of what edible insects are, why they were becoming so popular, and… Read More

Sask Polytech helps manufacturers unleash value through collaboration

By Dr. Larry Rosia Disruptive technologies, external factors such as globalization and international trade pressures, and shifting business models are just a few of the things forcing change across many sectors. Manufacturing is no exception. Manufacturers are critically important to Saskatchewan’s economy. According to the Government of Saskatchewan, manufacturing makes up seven per cent of the province’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2017, the most recent year statistics are available, manufacturing shipments totalled $16 billion. The strength of the manufacturing sector is its people, for they are the ones who keep the industry innovative. As part of our mission to educate students and provide skilled and successful graduates, Saskatchewan Polytechnic is focused on ensuring that companies have access to graduates with the skills and experience they need to be competitive. Applied Research Expertise Collaboration is, of course, a key component to innovation. Manufacturers that partner with Sask Polytech are discovering that collaboration has the power to unleash incredible value. This is especially apparent with companies that choose to partner with us on applied research projects.… Read More

Game Changers

Brought to you by Pinnacle “If West Nile kills one person, malaria kills hundreds of thousands every year.” Steve Kroft, President & CEO of Conviron, says as he leans back in his chair with his hands steepled in front of him in conversation with Rhae Redekop, Pinnacle Senior Recruitment Consultant, about the Game Changers within his organization that contributed to 40% growth this year over last. “We had a customer in Maryland a number of years ago, The National Institute of Health (NIH) agency in the US. They were doing research into malaria and needed controlled environments to house mosquitoes infected with the disease. Through strategic questioning we were able to determine that they needed rooms that were a certain level of containment, pressure, temperature and humidity. Mosquitos will go dormant at less than 50 degrees. In the event they escaped the screened cages inside of the rooms, the researchers needed to be able to very quickly lower temperature with the push of a button. Once the bugs were dormant, someone could go in, sweep… Read More

Employer Considerations on Termination of Employment

By Jeff Palamar of Taylor McCaffrey LLP Be Aware The best time for an employer to get legal advice on termination of employment issues is before hiring the employee. The second best time is before the termination actually takes place. Whether considering a termination with or without just cause there are always options, risks and potential costs. With complete control over the timing of things, an employer has no excuse for not becoming well informed before taking action. Termination of Employment Generally An employer can quite properly decide to terminate a non-unionized employee “just because” it wants to do so. It cannot terminate for “illegal” reasons however, such as by discriminating against the employee contrary to human rights legislation or because the employee has exercised rights under some other statute. Typically there is a reverse onus and the employer must prove its reasoning was not illegally tainted. Failing to do this can lead to the employee being reinstated, with back pay and other remedies as appropriate. Termination With Just Cause To terminate with just cause,… Read More

Leadership, Technology, People, and Process: Recipes for the Future of Prairie Food Manufacturing

By Jayson Myers The numbers speak for themselves. Food processing is a major contributor to the economic prosperity of all Canadians. It is the largest manufacturing sector in the country. Food manufacturers produce and ship around $108 billion worth of product annually – that amounts to 15 per cent of all sales by Canadian manufacturers. When input costs are netted out, food processing accounts every year for just over 14 per cent of the total value added by Canada’s manufacturing sector and 1.5 per cent of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product – the total value generated by the Canadian economy as a whole. More than 238,000 people are directly employed by food processing companies across Canada. What’s more, in addition to helping put food on the table for Canadian families, the sector generates over $35 billion in export revenue, with offshore sales going in large part to the United States, China, and Japan. It’s a dynamic industry. Sales have increased by 21 per cent over the last five years, growing twice as fast as for the… Read More

Booming biotechnology

It’s the overnight manufacturing success that’s been millennia in the making By Jeff Baker Biotechnology. Even in 2019, that word alone remains enough to put a shiver down the spines of many people. It can sound familiar-enough, but there’s something behind the term that elicits a hesitance among many. Maybe your mind goes to such popular portrayals as Audrey Junior, the giant Venus flytrap with shark-like teeth from 1960’s cult-classic movie Little Shop of Horrors, or to Peter Parker being bitten by a genetically engineered spider, giving him spider-like abilities and superpowers. Or perhaps you’re thinking of Lee Majors’ portrayal of superhuman strongman Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man, who was rebuilt with bionic implants that enhance his strength, vision, and speed. Better…stronger…faster… Hollywood may make biotechnology seem like a far-off dream, but the sector is real and is helping shape a more prosperous and sustainable future for Canadian industry. What the heck is biotech? The United Nations defines biotechnology as any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives to… Read More

For the health of it

Saskatchewan food manufacturers use innovative technologies to create healthy products including plant-based proteins, nutritional oils, teas and much more By Joanne Paulson Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, killing more than 500 residents and leaving thousands unsheltered and hungry. The 2016 storm was the country’s most destructive disaster since the 2010 earthquake. The people at Mera Food’s plant protein processing facility in neighbouring Dominican Republic knew what had happened. And they knew what Haiti needed. Food. “It wasn’t so bad where we were, but parts of Haiti were just destroyed,” said Wayne Goranson, founder and owner of Mera Food and its parent company, Mera Group. “Our guys volunteered over the weekend to make extra product, and we loaded up the truck with nine tonnes of food – mostly soymilk – and took it across the border and did distributions in schools, Artists for Peace and Justice, city hall, everywhere we could in the southern part of the island.” Mera Food makes shake-style beverages from soybean and other protein-rich plants such as lentils and chickpeas. Nutritionally, it’s… Read More

just ask…LGBTQ2S+

When there’s a full spectrum of colour, the world is a more interesting and diverse place By Kimberley Puhach The rainbow and the alphabet. What does LGBTQ2S+ mean, and why does it matter that you know? As has been the case with earlier Just Ask columns, this topic comes with so much curiosity, and if we are being honest, likely fear as well. It also comes with misunderstanding and, perhaps, judgement. In this article, not being expert myself, I felt it important to share perspectives from folks with lived experience from the community. This would allow for knowledge sharing in a respectful way. Building bridges of understanding and providing a forum for information and healthy dialogue are core to these articles as a start to your own self-education. In that spirit, I took my own advice to just ask. I have the honour of knowing members of the community that represent varied perspectives and lived experience on gender and sexual identity. Three of them were gracious and kind about providing their insights. Cynthia Fortlage was… Read More

This fall will be more about Canadian unity than electing government

By Derek Lothian I’m a huge fan of political fiction. When the first season of House of Cards debuted on Netflix, I remember binging all 13 episodes back-to-back over the course of a single night. All the President’s Men, meanwhile, remains — in my not-so-humble opinion — one of the top five movies ever made. And Selina Meyer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s character in Veep, is probably the best original television persona of the past decade. Don’t @ me. You can therefore appreciate my giddiness when I stumbled across an article a few weeks back from Philippe Fournier entitled, Imagining a federal election without Alberta or Quebec. Some folks drive in from the lake on the August long weekend to restock on beer; I do so to pick up the latest issues of Maclean’s and The Economist. It’s a mystery why I don’t get invited to more parties. I do, though, have friends — honest — several of whom live in the Ottawa bubble, where I spent six years of my professional life. One of the questions… Read More

How Saskatchewan is creating a culture of safety

By Phil Germain In 2008, Saskatchewan had the second worst workplace total injury rate in the country. For every 100 full-time workers, more than 10 workers were injured on the job. Fast forward to today and the province’s workplace Time Loss injury rate has dropped to the fifth highest in Canada. Impressive as this shift is, it doesn’t merit a gold star. However, it does suggest that Saskatchewan is moving in the right direction. Pivotal on our path has been our ambitious goal of Mission: Zero — zero injuries, zero fatalities, and zero suffering. Launched in 2008 by WorkSafe Saskatchewan — the partnership between the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) and the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety — Mission: Zero was initially a call to action for employers and workers to prevent injuries and save lives on the job. In 2009, Mission: Zero was adopted by Safe Saskatchewan (the organization that co-ordinates injury prevention efforts in the province) as a prevention goal for everyone to pursue — both on and off the job.… Read More

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

just ask… Indigenous

Indigenous, Aboriginal, Indian or First Nation, have you asked this question? No? Why does it matter? By Kimberley Puhach Language is powerful. Words can become labels that divide and perpetuate ignorance. They can also build bridges toward respect, understanding, and inclusivity. In Canada, this is fundamental to our ongoing path toward reconciliation and inclusion between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. There is learning required; there is replacing of old habits or ways of thinking required. But these changes are not unique to non-Indigenous people. I along with most Indigenous people, represent the intergenerational impacts of assimilation policies and cultural genocide. We too are learning who we were in order to reclaim who we are. We are all not in the same place of that reclamation process. It is complex and it is humbling, especially with regard to language. The upside? Some of us are asking as many—and maybe the same—questions non-Indigenous people want answered. Some of us are still learning with respect to language, so there is no better time than the present for non-Indigenous people… 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