All posts filed under: Volume 3, Issue 4 – Spring 2019

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