All posts tagged: Latest Issue

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

Good neighbours and global leaders

By Derek Lothian.  The last 12 years of my career have been — in one way, shape, or form — tied to manufacturing on the Prairies. One of my favourite jobs came in my early 20s, overseeing sales and marketing for a small agricultural equipment start-up. It was quintessentially Saskatchewanian: A handful of farmers with no manufacturing experience whatsoever running production out of a quonset to satisfy a growing global customer base. It was one of the few situations where inexperience (and even a bit of ignorance) was an undeniable asset. We didn’t know the ‘right way’ to do things, so we made it up on the fly. Sometimes we got burned; but, more often than not, we persevered. And we were a better, more resilient company because of it. My first hands-on experience with exporting came in 2007. We had just struck a deal with a North Dakota distributor, and there was interest bubbling from potential partners in Western Europe. Concepts I had never heard of before — rules of origin labelling, receivables insurance,… Read More

From plant to pint: Beer, and the case for growing the local value chain

By Mark Heise.  When you think of Regina, Saskatchewan, what do you think of? The Saskatchewan Roughriders? The RCMP Depot? The Italian Star Deli? What about beer? Earlier this year, the Queen City was named to the list of the top 30 beer destinations in the world, joining the likes of Dublin, Ireland, and — of course — the iconic home of Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany. But what has made this place so special? Why are craft beer sales here expected to jump by 30 per cent industry-wide in 2018 alone? The answer isn’t a complicated one: It starts with what goes into the product. I’ll give you a few examples. Take AGT Food and Ingredients — the crown jewel of Saskatchewan’s agri-processing sector, and one of the largest exporters of pulse crops on the planet. At Rebellion Brewing, we bucked tradition and found a way to incorporate AGT’s King Red Lentils (coincidentally, which were developed at the University of Saskatchewan) into what has become our best-selling product, the Lentil Cream Ale. On a much smaller… Read More

Rethinking competitive advantage

Superclusters and economic development.  By David Froh.  Prairie people have always seen the advantages of our wide-open spaces — they are a blank canvas of opportunity. These endless possibilities have fostered a culture where we have become accustomed to creating great things. As you will read throughout this issue of Prairie Manufacturer Magazine, Saskatchewan’s tradition of innovation is more than a century old, and continues strong today. Family-owned enterprises like Dutch Industries, SeedMaster, DOT Technology Corporation, and Degelman Industries literally started in farmyard quonsets, and then expanded to serve global markets. The path to prosperity in this province has always been built upon trade — and that, as they say, takes a village. You need to find quality suppliers, nurture distribution channels, and earn trust with customers. The common denominator is understanding the value proposition and partnering with those that complement the business. Traditional economic development is often thought of as a zero-sum game with winners and losers, where regions fiercely compete for investment, sometimes to their detriment. Such an approach is not sustainable. It… Read More

Quick lessons for the modern lean leader

By Stewart Bellamy.  Looking back now on more than five decades in manufacturing, I often think about just how much more may have been accomplished had I — and the companies I worked with — been exposed to this ‘lean stuff’ earlier. After 20 years as a continuous improvement practitioner, plus countless hours of ongoing personal study time, one thing has become abundantly clear: A lean journey is infinite. The more you learn, the more there is to know. What follows are a few observations from my career on several key elements routinely misunderstood, or not even considered, in many lean initiatives. High quality, quick delivery, low cost — pick any two Have you ever seen this statement posted in a business? Maybe it’s just the unwritten mantra of the owner? Either way, it’s not an uncommon thought. The premise is that you can have high quality and fast delivery, but it won’t be cheap. You can have high quality and low cost, but it won’t be fast. Or, you can have fast delivery and… Read More

The bruises and triumphs of our second-generation succession

By Ryan Sailer.  For us, it never was a decision if we would take over the family business. It’s not like we sat down when we were all 10 or 12 years old and said, “Okay, this is the road map. This is what you guys will be doing; here’s how it will look, and here’s how it will work.” My two brothers and I (Jason, older than me by two years, and Scott, younger than me by three years) generally had an interest in the business. And, when we were still in high school, we always held summer jobs in various positions at the shop. We did everything, from sweeping the parking lot and driving forklift to servicing end-customers’ trailer brakes and unloading trucks. As we grew, we found we shared a passion for fixing problems and things that bugged us. That inherently led us to take on more responsibility year after year. It was around 2007 and 2008 we found our way into critical roles in the business. With this responsibility, we were… Read More

SaskInnov8s

A look at eight Saskatchewan innovations and how they’ve changed — or are changing — manufacturing and the Canadian economy.  By Joanne Paulson.  The innovative spirit of Saskatchewan was a natural outcome of its early days, harkening to a time of ploughs and pioneers. While much has changed, that drive to create — to solve problems — has not. According to the Western Development Museum, Saskatchewan is home to 3,200 patents. Thousands of other unrecorded inventions and process innovations have been successfully commercialized. Some of these advances have led to the genesis of the province’s thriving manufacturing sector — an industry that, through 2017, employed 28,000 people and generated more than $16 billion in sales. And while we can’t tell all these stories in one issue, we’ve selected eight of them we think capture the spirit that has earned Saskatchewan an international reputation for manufacturing and economic ingenuity. Canola & Canola Oil If there has ever been a crop to revolutionize agriculture on the Prairies, it’s canola. Farmers here originally planted hardy grains, such as… Read More

Saskatchewan’s ‘Iron Triangle’ a hub for ag manufacturing innovation

By J. Robert Shanks.  Gifted with a rich farming tradition and 40 per cent of Canada’s arable land, Saskatchewan is synonymous with agriculture in the minds of many. But the reputation belongs with more than farmers alone. The province is also home to a burgeoning shortline and OEM agricultural manufacturing base, which — in 2017 — exported roughly $300 million in product to markets around the world. The strength of the industry is, perhaps, not surprising — especially given that 85 per cent of Saskatchewan’s GDP is generated outside of its high-profile resource sectors. Ag manufacturers have proven to be one of the brightest and most creative stars of Saskatchewan’s economy. Largely composed of small businesses, they have built a sterling international reputation for quality and innovation, and the ‘made in Saskatchewan’ brand is sought after at trade shows and equipment showcases from Red Deer to Germany to Kazahkstan, and everywhere in between. Many of these businesses are located outside of the province’s two largest cities. The rural area east of Saskatoon in particular has… Read More

This ‘family squabble’ may mean finding new friends

The Canada-U.S. trade relationship is on shaky ground — and that may have long-term impacts, regardless of how NAFTA negotiations play out. By Martin Cash & Derek Lothian.  They say you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. So, if the current Canada-U.S. trade rift constitutes — as President Trump purports — a ‘family squabble,’ the question is: Is it time for Western Canadian manufacturers to find new friends? While the world as we know it isn’t coming to an end, the fracture of international trade norms is shaking up traditional business dynamics for many Prairie manufacturers. Yet, the actual macroeconomic impact has been modest — at least so far. According to Statistics Canada, the country’s trade gap in June dropped to $626 million, down from $2.7 billion a month earlier. The bilateral trade surplus with the U.S., meanwhile, hit $4.1 billion — a 24 per cent spike and the largest increase in more than a year. Those numbers came one month after the U.S. imposed 25 per cent tariffs on Canadian… Read More

What’s hot and what’s not in export markets

By Jayson Myers.  It’s mind-boggling how a year that began with so much promise for Prairie manufacturers — and for the world economy in general — now appears to be careering toward trade wars, trade sanctions, and inflation. It was only last year the global economy began running on all cylinders again, after a lengthy hiatus following the 2008 financial meltdown. True, there are still plenty of risks in financial markets, and Canada — along with many other countries — will need to work off record levels of household, private, and public sector debt. But, for the first half of 2018, Canada, the United States, and a majority of the world’s leading economies were in full growth mode. Year-over-year, global trade grew eight per cent in the first six months of this year. Western Canadian manufacturers have had a good start to the year as well. Manufacturing sales for the first half of 2018 were about seven per cent higher than for the same period last year. Exports by Prairie manufacturers are up by almost… Read More

New online platform preaches the importance of safety training

By Derek Lothian.  Ken Ricketts is an avowed safety evangelist. When you first meet Ricketts, the executive director of the Safety Association of Saskatchewan Manufacturers (SASM), it is difficult not to be captivated by his passion. Much like a good Baptist minister, he is compelling in his delivery, articulate and thoughtful with his words, and convincing with his message. Rickett’s crusade is to make the province’s manufacturing sector the safest in the world — zero fatalities and zero injuries. And, although he still has a way to go, if you consider the trending numbers, you can’t ignore he is converting a growing crowd of followers. Between 2014 and 2017, lost-time claims in the industry plummeted by 40 per cent, equating to close to 3,000 more worker days’ worth of increased productivity. No-lost-time claims, meanwhile, dropped by a third. Over that same timeframe, the cumulative cost of injury also edged downward, by 18 per cent. The question is how to sustain and accelerate that momentum. According to Ricketts, finding new ways to connect with shop floor… Read More

Point / Counterpoint

Is preparation for this issue of Prairie Manufacturer Magazine, Editor Derek Lothian and one of our guest columnists, Stewart Bellamy (Page 14), found themselves embroiled in a debate: When it comes to manufacturing, is it lean, Lean, or LEAN? Does it even matter? Can the capitalization of a word actually have real-world, operational implications? Read their thoughts and then you decide. It’s Lean By Stewart Bellamy Is it lean, Lean or LEAN? Many would contend that it’s just a word — that it doesn’t matter. I beg to differ. In this context, it’s Lean, and it’s a term, not simply a word. Let’s start with why it isn’t lean. Consider the origins of the term lean production. It was first proposed in the late 1980s by John Krafcik — a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology research team, led by Jim Womack, that studied automotive production methods at multiple companies across 14 countries. Krafcik was describing the results being achieved by Toyota’s production system when compared to the rest of the pack. Basically, it… Read More

Embracing excellence 2018

  By Laurel Johanson.  It’s fitting that the 2018 Canadian Lean Conference ended with a showstopping Broadway musical number. By the time keynote speaker Paul Huschilt was doing high-kicks across the stage at the RBC Convention Centre’s ballroom to demonstrate the benefits of humour in the workplace, the enthusiastic conference crowd seemed ready to join him. For the end of a week-long conference, there was a surprising amount of energy still in the air. Such was the spirit of the 2018 edition of Canada’s largest lean event, hosted by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Manitoba (CME) every three years. The conference took place June 4-7 this year in Winnipeg, with over 1,000 delegates attending from all across Canada. The scope of the conference had never been bigger, with 15 workshops, 18 plant tours, 36 practitioner presentations, and seven keynote addresses included in this year’s programming. Right from the start, the atmosphere was teeming with energy and enthusiasm from delegates, educators, tour guides, and speakers alike. Take Billy Taylor as a prime example. Taylor, director of commercial… Read More

Can’t we all just get along?

By Derek Lothian, Editor, Prairie Manufacturer Magazine​ The title of Scott Gilmore’s April 19 Maclean’s op-ed is equal parts incendiary clickbait and honest critique of the state of our federation: Canada is not a country. Talk about a headline. “If we can’t build pipelines, move beer, or find some common ground,” he argues, “we may have a fatal problem.” Perhaps more important than a commentary on pan-provincial trade woes, Gilmore dissects the growing list of divisions between Canadian people — in terms of identity, geography, prosperity, understanding, and, heck, even our willingness to understand. It had me thinking about what that means for the future of Canadian manufacturing — not entirely how we make things or how they get to market, but who makes them and whether we will be able to collectively reimagine a supply chain that is more person than product. We write a lot in Prairie Manufacturer Magazine about the emergence of Industry 4.0. This summer issue is no different. And don’t kid yourself: The ability to understand and deploy advanced technologies may very… Read More

Excelling in a world of change

By Ben Voss​ I always like to begin stories with a little perspective on history. I grew up in small-town Saskatchewan at a time when the normal career path was to obtain your education and then leave this great province to pursue your life’s ambition elsewhere. I, unlike many, chose to stay. I remember attending session after session put on by the local economic development agencies and chambers of commerce, which listed off the many reasons why Saskatchewan was a great place to setup manufacturing businesses. Reasonable wages, a skilled and readily available workforce, cheap real estate (often in small towns with low taxes), and low utility rates were all considered attractive reasons to open a factory here. Remarkably, in less than two short decades, those low-cost advantages inverted to high-cost challenges. The boom arrived and, with it, a great deal of opportunity and growth. Changebecame the most popular buzzword in many executive offices. ‘Adapt or die,’ they said. Some have, unfortunately, went the way of the latter. Others have merely survived. But there are… Read More

The smart money is investing in our young people

By Steve McLellan Imagine these situations: Elaine is a recent widow. Her husband did all the banking and, during their 40 years of marriage, she worked, looked after the house, and raised their three children. Now she is the family broker, investment advisor, and budgeter. She is finding the task a challenge. Isaac is a proud, recent graduate of the Saskatchewan Polytechnic CAD technician program and, after 12 years of school and the additional two years of study to get his diploma, he is ready to make some money and start living life. While he has some student loans, he believes that with his newfound income in manufacturing he will soon be in the ‘big money’ and will not have to rely on Kraft Dinner for supper five nights a week. A sure sign of his future success is that he received notice in the mail he’s been pre-approved for three credit cards and has signed up for them all. Susan, meanwhile, moved to Canada from Somalia as a refugee and saw this country as… Read More