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CAMM, Automate Canada release ‘Made in Canada’ plan for SME manufacturers


Photo: ChristopherBernard/Getty Images

The Canadian Association of Moldmakers (CAMM) and Automate Canada have developed a strategy aimed at increasing conversation on “Made in Canada” manufacturing processes for SMEs.

The report, compiled from the results of industry focus groups, provides a list of recommendations and observations from the SME segment of Canada’s advanced manufacturing sector, which the associations say have so far been largely excluded from policymaking conversations.

“This is a broader examination of the state of advanced manufacturing in Canada with a focus on small- and medium-sized manufacturing facilities which are the heart of many towns and mid-sized communities across Canada,” says Jonathon Azzopardi, CAMM chair, about the Advanced Manufacturing is “Made in Canada”: An SME Perspective report. “The impact of COVID-19 has only further amplified the need for action now.”

The document highlights that past studies in the industrial automation and moldmaking sectors focus heavily on the capabilities of larger firms while SMEs have been overlooked. The associations cite a 2017 McKinsey report that says a lack of support has led U.S.-based small and mid-size firms to not be able to keep up with the gains of large companies, rendering them unable to invest in new equipment and technologies.

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“MGI concluded that this was a concerning trend that impacts large firms because they face more risk without a healthy ecosystem of domestic suppliers to provide more agility and opportunities for collaboration,” says the CAMM and Automate Canada report. “This prescient conclusion is being played out in Canada.”

The associations identify objectives for industry and suggest how other institutions and government can support a strong, sustainable domestic manufacturing sector in Canada under the following three topic umbrellas.

Skills and talent development

The associations stress the need for a skilled talent pipeline, which can be achieved by more apprentices, improved access for underrepresented or disadvantaged workers, and streamlining the process for temporary foreign workers.

Among the action items:

  • Encourage students, parents, teachers and counsellors to visit facilities for tours
  • Rally companies to participate in Manufacturing Day, held annually on the first Friday in October
  • Push to integrate First Robotics into school curriculums and support First Robotics teams
  • Re-assess how labour costs are measured, encouraging a more holistic approach that considers logistics, risk, demand, proximity to other suppliers, etc.
  • Increase diversity and inclusion through strategic plans, participation in Girls Day, and working with organizations like Build a Dream
  • Improve access to NGen’s AmpUp (Accelerating Manufacturing Performance Upskilling Program)

Technology adoption and culture of innovation

SMEs need support with the transition to Industry 4.0 and implementing digital transformation plans, says the report. Incentives to “buy Canadian” or develop new products and patents will help to close the productivity gap between Canada and the U.S.

Among the action items:

  • Increase use of robotics and cobots
  • Ensure that existing programs and services are well used and well known
  • Push for government to back a technology adoption centre that works to lower the perceived risk of tech adoption
  • Suggest companies implement innovation catalyst programs and mentorship programs, and/or appoint a chief innovation officer
  • Support “Buy Canadian” at all government levels and encourage large firms to reconsider their purchasing structure to include local suppliers through incentives
  • Continue local investment through support of community initiatives and venture funds

Branding and collaboration

The report says that promoting Canada’s advanced manufacturing sector as a source of quality products and innovation is key to strengthening the industry.

Among the action items:

  • Develop a coordinated marketing strategy for CAMM, Automate Canada and members to push the “Made in Canada” message
  • Use messaging and social media to appeal to the new generation of workers
  • Connect companies through strategic alliances
  • Ensure regions across Canada have a seat at the table – not just companies in the GTA, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa regions – by nominating members for inclusion at policymaking discussions

“The time is now to not only talk about our value but to show our strength in a collaborative approach,” says Shelley Fellows, Automate Canada board chair.

The moldmaking and industrial automation sectors employ 58,000 skilled workers and contribute $7.2 billion to Canada’s GDP.

The strategy was developed with assistance from the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation, Institute of Border Logistics and Security, Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing, and CAMM and Automate Canada member companies.