All posts filed under: Volume 4, Issue 1 – Summer 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