Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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High loonie sends manufacturers packing


May 10, 2010
By Mary Del


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The rising loonie is starting to take its toll on Canadian-based companies, tempting them to set up shop elsewhere. Omron is just one of the latest manufacturers to make the decisions to set up shop elsewhere.

Japanese-owned Omron Automotive Electrics Inc., is shutting down an assembly plant near Toronto and moving production — mostly switches for power seats and windows for Ford and General Motors cars — to its St. Charles, Illinois plant. The move will add close to 250 jobs to the Illinois plant.

“Both our Canadian and St. Charles facilities have been operating at low capacity, so consolidation into just one made sense,” Dawn Hoffman, Omron’s Canada-based human resources director, told Chicago Business.

She noted the Canadian dollar currently is trading nearly at parity with the U.S. dollar — up almost 20% in the past year — and added, “With the strong dollar here, we’ve lost a ton of manufacturing in Canada. It makes it very difficult to produce here for export.”

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The newspaper also reports that another St. Charles manufacturer, Bison Gear & Engineering Corp., made an announcement this week at the expense of the Canadian manufacturing industry. The company recently purchased the rights to make a line of small electric motors previously produced by Von Weise Gear Co. in Cambridge, Ontario, before the plant was shut down and liquidated last year. The motors power mobile heating and air-conditioning units in school buses and semi-truck cabs.