Industry Watch
Dec. 14, 2015 - Walking through September’s Canadian Manufacturing and Technology Show (CMTS) gave me cause to realize how lucky we all are to live in these times, and made me pause to reflect on my own personal 35-year journey. We (myself and other people approximately my age) straddle two great industrial generations; an older generation that brought the PLC into the mainstream, and a new generation that is doing the same thing with the Internet of Things (IoT).
Oct. 23, 2015 - The NFL season is just underway, and I for one am glad Brady’s suspension was overturned. I won’t take sides on the debate — was the punishment too harsh, or the processes too flawed, or was he even guilty of an offense to begin with — but, as a sports fan, and as one of the growing throng of “poolies,” I’m glad he’s in the equation.
Oct. 2, 2015 - People fall into one of two categories when it comes to the topic of IT: they have embraced it and are always looking for more ways to get more information from it, or, they are aware of the potential it may have but feel woefully behind and out of date. There’s a third category though, smaller than the first two, but growing steadily. It’s the people that have invested heavily in information systems and have collected mountains of data, but are now wondering what it all means, and if it was worth the effort and cost.
Jun. 25, 2015 - This thought has been on my mind quite a bit lately, perhaps it’s because I just visited a 90-year-old friend in his new retirement home.
May 20, 2015 - We live in a precarious time. As some get richer, many others drift towards unsustainability, and our middle class is shrinking. When people slide into unsustainability, it often becomes the responsibility of government to meet their needs. Many people in the middle class don’t even realize it, but they too have slid into positions of unsustainability, where they can’t accomplish the critical things on their list without some form of government aid; things like subsidies for their children’s tuition, relief from debt, extra allowances or benefits just to make ends meet every month.
Mar. 27, 2015 - I saw Elvis last night, not the Elvis, but a play at the Grand Theatre in London, Ont., that chronicled his life, music and relationship with Tom Parker (the Colonel). I was not a big Elvis fan growing up, but the play moved me and the story it told left me with a simple thought: his was a remarkable life, and an unfortunate death. I wanted to know and experience more, so I did what many of us frequently do; I started YouTubing him.
Feb. 27, 2015 - Last November, I had the pleasure of visiting Atlanta for a tradeshow (FabTech) we were exhibiting in. It’s been a long time since I had been there, and much had changed. I was impressed with its parks and buildings, its air of confidence, and the friendliness of its people. When it comes right down to it though, great cities are made by the people that live there.
Nov. 24, 2014 - Up until the industrial revolution, the typical working man (forgive the political incorrectness for now) was able to easily measure the achievements of his efforts by, for example, how much wood was chopped; how many cows were milked; how many miles of fences mended or rows tilled; how much seed was sown and how much crops were harvested. The payoff for every day’s effort invested was not just the tactile results, but also the pride and satisfaction that went with it.
Oct. 24, 2014 - Many years ago, I read Steven Covey’s landmark book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I have read many other good books since that time, but this one still stands out as a foundational book for me, especially as I consider the roles in my life where my abilities as a leader matter.
Sept. 29, 2014 - My father-in-law is 81. It’s been over a quarter of a century since he retired from Goodyear, but every year he still attends the company golf tournament, and he keeps connected with many of his former colleagues. The bulk of his career was in the time where people spent their whole working life with a single company, and where there was a reciprocated loyalty between employer and employee. (I still don’t dare to buy a different brand of tires because I know he would notice it right away, and in a small way, it would offend him.)  
Many Canadian manufacturers are producing advancements and innovations that have the potential to help these companies — and the industry as a whole — grow and create jobs. Many governments are trying to do their part to fan any small sparks of growth, or to encourage employers to take leaps of faith to make fresh investments in their region. But for some of the traditional manufacturing regions that have been hardest hit in the recent decade, this will not be enough. Organized labour needs to participate in any potential manufacturing revival, and our governments may need to play a new role, too.
In recent decades, it seems to me that the manufacturing industry has been a slow — and often times reluctant — adopter of information technology. CAD/CAM and ERP systems have been a big part of the manufacturing world for a while now, but in the majority of plants I visit, this is about the extent of it. Meanwhile, there’s a new revolution happening — M2M (machine-to-machine) and the Internet of Things — that, so far, seems to be ignoring the plant floor.
There are many instances when our processes regularly lose production time — before shift end, before and after breaks, or as a result of extra setup or maintenance time, adjustment time and time waiting for parts. All of this is lost time that has to be made up or accounted for.
“Entrepreneur is just another word for unemployed.” This remark is doubly cutting — first, because my wife made it; and second, because more often than not, I realize it’s true.
Early in my entrepreneurial career, my father tried to impress upon me the importance of good accounting disciplines. His words of advice — “you can’t improve what you don’t measure” — fell on relatively deaf ears most of those early years. I was too busy trying to bring in new business or trying to get things working. I saw the accounting function as something that was useful mostly to the bank and the tax man. With all of the more important tasks on my own plate, I ascribed to the wisdom of the classic Kenny Roger’s song, “The Gambler”: “There’ll be time enough for counting, when the dealing is done.”
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