The window of opportunity is open

I had the pleasure of participating in two important events in September; both were discussions about the state of Canadian manufacturing.

The first was a panel discussion hosted by Siemens and the Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management at the Ivey Business School with Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar, Jayson Myers of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, and moderator Paul Boothe, Director of the Lawrence National Centre.

The following day, I gave the keynote address at a CD Howe Institute event. The theme was “Rethinking Canadian Manufacturing”. Both of these events generated lively and thoughtful discussion about the manufacturing landscape in Canada, and we were able to focus on what Canada needs to do to be competitive in our rapidly changing global marketplace.

The discussion at Ivey was sparked by an important new report on the future of Canadian manufacturing, jointly prepared by the Lawrence Centre and Siemens. Click here to download report, ‘The Future of Canadian Manufacturing: Searching for Competitive Advantage’.

The report highlights that the private sector is primarily responsible for growth of Canadian manufacturing, but within a collaborative context. As I said during our panel discussion, we must collaborate with our customers, sometimes even with our competitors, with government entities on all levels, with universities and colleges, and with industry associations.

I was pleased that the report also says Canadian manufacturers need to focus on high value-added, high-quality goods and related services. Today, customers are demanding faster time to market, faster development of innovations. If we are to succeed, we must innovate faster, but we also must bring those innovations to market at record speed.

The report also points out that talent is our most important resource. There is an overwhelming need for a collaborative, innovative approach to training and education, to create a new workforce genuinely prepared to take on the new challenges of advanced manufacturing. Siemens Canada is leading the way in this area, through our Siemens Academy and other initiatives.

In my address at the CD Howe Institute event, I also referred to the same report, which includes some startling insights. It says Canadian “manufacturing was hard hit by the deep and prolonged recession that followed the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. Manufacturing GDP declined by almost 11% over the period from 2000 to 2014, while the rest of the economy grew by 41%.”

During the panel discussion, we agreed that the current challenges are a call to action for all of us. The window of opportunity is open, but will not remain open forever. If we do not act now, it will close, and manufacturing will go elsewhere.

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Robert Hardt, Linda Hasenfratz (Linamar) and Jayson Myers (CME)
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Paul Boothe (Ivey Lawrence Centre), Robert Hardt, Linda Hasenfratz (Linamar) and Jayson Myers (CME)

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