Staying strong: The 2015 Canadian manufacturing study finds industry maintains strength during rocky times

Wednesday December 16, 2015
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Dec. 16, 2015 - In a year of fluctuating markets with some international powerhouses displaying months of economic decline (China, anyone?), Canada has managed to stay afloat. In fact, according to the data we collected from the 10th annual Canadian Manufacturing Study, very little of our economy has actually changed.

Conducted by Manufacturing AUTOMATION in conjunction with the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC), the annual survey is designed to give insight into the Canadian manufacturing sector. And that it certainly did, providing segment snapshots and particular year-to-year comparisons of our economic performance.

The good news is that for the sixth consecutive year, production has increased for more than half (56.34 per cent) of respondents, though that number isn’t quite as strong as last year’s 59.4 per cent. In turn, nearly 70 per cent reported annual revenues below $49 million, this is a jump up from last year’s 63 per cent. Meanwhile, a number of respondents noted they plan to increase engineering/R&D, sales and service, and sourcing over the next three years. Where will this expansion take place? Nearly three-quarters of respondents say they plan to stay close to home and expand in Canada.

So what’s holding Canada’s competitiveness back? 52.3 per cent of respondents suggest it is the availability of skilled labour. This number is up from last year’s reported 51.4 per cent and 30.8 per cent in 2013.

While Canada maintained strong numbers in 2015, it’s important we proceed with caution, as survey data hints 2016 could be a year of change for many. While 22.9 per cent of respondents say they have already experienced a turnaround, 38.1 per cent say they expect to see improvements sometime in 2016, while 10.7 per cent say their year is 2017 and beyond. Alas, only time will tell what changes will occur, but I must say I’m already looking forward to next year’s data.

HIGHLIGHTS:
• The average hourly wage has just barely inched up over the last year, according to respondents. This year’s average hourly wage for workers on the plant floor is $22.41 — just 17 cents up from last year’s average of $22.24.

• Nearly 70 per cent reported annual revenues below $49 million, this is up from last year’s 63 per cent.

• 58.11 per cent — more than half of this year’s respondents — say they do not use robotics in their manufacturing operations.

• Nearly three-quarters of respondents listed Canada as the number-one location for expansion, followed by the United States. Canada is also the top spot respondents say they are interested in acquiring customers from. A number of respondents also listed Mexico, South America and Asia as their preferred location for expansion.

• Just under 60 per cent anticipate their company will increase spending on capital equipment and technology over the next three years. This is down slightly from last year’s 61 per cent. Meanwhile, about 32 per cent noted no change at all, which is a touch higher than last year’s 31.7 per cent.

• Production was the top area cited for expansion over the next three years by more than half — 60 per cent — of respondents, similar to the 61 per cent from last year.

• Like previous years, the availability of skilled trades and labour cost rare the top two barriers to future competitiveness. Increased competitive from Asia, low Canadian dollar, and poor oil price were suggested responses from respondents.

• Lean manufacturing was the clear plant improvement strategy of choice, deployed by 51 per cent of respondents. This is down slightly from last year’s 52 per cent. What’s interesting to note is that the “none” category has decreased while the percentage of respondents who have implemented Six Sigma and software integration services has increased.

• About 51.76 per cent of respondents have seen an increase in demands from current customers, but this is down from last year’s 58.5 per cent. Strangely enough, this is almost the exact same as the 51.8 per cent who saw an increase in 2013.

For more in-depth details on the study, CLICK HERE.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2015 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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