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045 – Stephen MacKenzie – Invest WindsorEssex
In this episode of Making It In Ontario, Nick and Brendan speak with Stephen MacKenzie, the President and CEO of Invest WindsorEssex. Under his leadership, Windsor-Essex has become one of the most resilient manufacturing regions in Canada.
Their conversation included a discussion about the recent investment by NextStar Energy (a joint venture between Stellantis and LG Energy Solution EV) in Canada’s first EV battery manufacturing plant. The new plant represents a milestone in the evolution of Windsor’s manufacturing capabilities from (primarily) automotive to automobility. Stephen shared his insights on the four pillars of automobility: Connected, Autonomous, Secure, and Electric (or C.A.S.E.), and how this will lead to more opportunities for technology providers to participate in a quickly growing sector.
Invest WindsorEssex also works closely with local academic institutions that provide relevant training and education. St. Clair College is offering new courses on cybersecurity and electric vehicle technology, which align with the changing needs of the manufacturing industry.
As Stephen’s colleague Wendy Stark taught us in a previous episode, there is no static definition of economic development. As we discuss in this episode, the internet has disrupted things further. Historically, economic development professionals held vast amounts of information on any given region. While the internet provides much of that same information today, economic development professionals are highly skilled at connecting people and companies with knowledge and solutions in government, academia, and industry.
Tune in for a fascinating discussion on the future of manufacturing and automobility in Windsor-Essex.Episode Details
044 – Eclipse Automation
In this episode, Nick and Brendan take a drive out to Cambridge to discuss industrial automation with Eclipse Automation. The guests included Jacquelyne Dounedara, Talent Acquisition Specialist; Brian McIntosh, Apprenticeship Program Manager; Michelle Sangster, Chief Human Resource Officer at Eclipse and Managing Director at Accenture; Jules Topalian, Talent Development Manager; Allan Medhurst, Talent Acquisition Manager; Ryan Szusz, Manufacturing Manager. Aside from being a fascinating episode, this episode also holds the record for the most guests in a single episode with six, plus Brendan and Nick.
Since its founding in the early 2000s, the company has grown to over 900 employees globally. However, Brian McIntosh, Eclipse’s Apprenticeship Program Manager (who has been with Eclipse the longest out of anyone in the group), and the other guests agreed that the prevailing company culture today still embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of the founder(s).
According to Michelle Sangster, Eclipse’s Chief Human Resource Officer, more young people need to be made aware of the many career opportunities available in the industrial automation sector. As such, she has made youth and student outreach a central part of Eclipse’s human resources strategy. (This explains why Jacquelyne Dounedara and Eclipse were at DreamerDayFest in late October of 2022, where she and Nick first met.)
Eclipse was recently acquired by Accenture, as discussed in the episode. What does this mean for the future of automation? Have a listen to find out.Episode Details
043 – Downsview Aerospace Innovation & Research (DAIR)
In this episode, Nick visits Downsview Aerospace Innovation & Research (DAIR) to chat with Maryse Harvey, Executive Director, Andrew Petrou, Chair of the Board, and Phil Arthurs, Director of Operations. The conversation centred around their Green Fund – a $2.6M FedDev Ontario initiative intended to “…reduce the aerospace sector’s environmental footprint and help SMEs be globally competitive.”
In this episode, Nick visits Downsview Aerospace Innovation & Research (DAIR) to chat with Maryse Harvey, Executive Director, Andrew Petrou, Chair of the Board, and Phil Arthurs, Director of Operations. The conversation centred around their Green Fund – a $2.6M FedDev Ontario initiative intended to “…reduce the aerospace sector’s environmental footprint and help SMEs be globally competitive.”
In our previous episode with DAIR, Alex Tsoulis discussed the importance of ensuring that employees in the aerospace supply chain are properly trained. This episode continues this discussion and explains how the Green Fundcan help. Through its Green Fund, DAIR hopes to reduce the environmental impacts of aerospace manufacturing, foster innovation by taking down silos and encourage collaboration among aerospace SMEs, OEMs, academia, and the supply chain.
All guests explained the importance of this advanced and innovative industry. Over the years, Canada has produced brilliantly innovative planes – which today includes the Bombardier Global 7500 business jet (capable of Mach 1.015).
Have a listenEpisode Details
042 – Katarina Ilić & Matt Ewertowski – Voltera
In this episode, Nick drives out to Kitchener to chat with Katarina Ilić, co-founder and sales director at Voltera, and Matthew (Matt) Ewertowski, Voltera’s product manager. We first met Matt in a previous podcast episode discussing the additive manufacturing of electronics and the advantages and innovations that it enabled.
Voltera’s first additive manufacturing circuit board printer was the V-One. As Katarina explains, both the founding of the company and the invention of the V-One were in response to the painfully slow process of designing and manufacturing circuit boards during their time at university. Once out in the field, their customers started to modify (or ‘hack,’ as Kat puts it) the V-One to print onto other surfaces, like textiles. In response, Voltera began working on a new printer with multi-surface/multi-ink printing capabilities. In September 2022, they launched their new printer, the NOVA – see pictures below.
Voltera builds every printer at their facility in Kitchener. In fact, the podcast had to be recorded off-site at the Kitchener Public Library’s Heffner Studio due to all the space in their offices being wholly used for product assembly. Additionally, the NOVA and the V-One use components manufactured in Ontario, often less than 100km from their facility – see pictures below.
As they saw with V-One customers ‘hacking’ the printer to print onto other materials, the NOVA will be an innovative tool for countless other industries and products.
On a side note: As the producer of Making it in Ontario, Nick wanted to personally acknowledge the amazing recording space provided by the Kitchener Public Library’s Heffner Studio. As he mentions in the episode, “…it was a welcomed change of environment from the boardrooms and shop floors…” he’s used to recording in. We hope other podcast and audio producers will avail themselves of this incredible resource to take the quality of their recordings to the next level.Episode Details
041 – Shawn Horton – AIS Technologies Group
In this episode, Nick and Brendan visit Windsor’s AIS Technologies Group (AIS Tech) to chat with Shawn Horton, Director of Marketing & Business Development. AIS Tech is a manufacturing automation company working in the automotive, aerospace, agriculture, logistics, pharmaceutical, and food & beverage industries.
Traditional vision inspection systems rely on fixed camera systems looking at identical products in identical configurations. Today, AIS Tech is blending traditional inspection automation with artificial intelligence by developing software (including a cell phone app) that is so easy to use, program and understand, it can be used by anyone on the shop floor. The images taken with the app would be fed into an AI, providing a pass/fail on the part and logging the image for quality control.
As Shawn explained, this technology is not about replacing human inspectors with a robot. It’s about giving the inspector better tools to better do their jobs. In fact, the employees using the system are the ones who will need to program (or teach) the AI, therefore improving the quality and reliability of inspections without putting more stress on the employee performing the inspections.
Moving forward, Shawn believes that aerospace manufacturers would benefit significantly from AIS Tech’s technology as much of their manufacturing still involves paper tracking of parts.
Have a listen.Episode Details
040 – Scot Magnish – Harbour Technologies Inc.
In this episode, Nick chats with Scot Magnish, head of communications at Harbour Technologies Inc. (Harbour Tech). Harbour Tech is a traditional automotive tooling supplier that has recently expanded its operations to supply other industries like nuclear, aerospace, defence, and PPE. In 2022, the company celebrated its 50th anniversary.
In the episode, Scot explains what it took for Harbour Tech to expand into other industries and the opportunities that exist within them. He credits much of the company’s continued success to the vision and philosophy of its owners, who constantly keep their eyes open for other opportunities.
This philosophy was evident at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the need for PPE became urgent, and in response to Premier Ford’s call for help, the company pivoted quickly to develop the capabilities to make surgical gowns. To do this, they developed a new surgical gown made with flame-proof material and patented a new ‘hyper-sonic welding’ technique and tool (the welding horn).
Scot advises other companies looking to diversify their operations: “Don’t wait for opportunity. Go get it!” Companies need to put in the work and do the networking, attend industry functions (whatever that industry is) and get their name out there (as Harbour Tech did with defence and nuclear). “But once you’re there, you’re there!”
Have a listen.Episode Details
039 – Mike Greenley of MDA & Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown
In this episode, Nick and Brendan are joined by Mike Greenley, the CEO of Brampton-based space and robotics technology manufacturer MDA and Patrick Brown, the Mayor of Brampton. The conversation focuses on Ontario’s role in the future space economy, developing a diverse and multi-generational workforce, and the advantages of advanced manufacturing in Brampton.
As Mike notes, the rapid development of the private space industry and the falling cost of rocket launches has created a range of opportunities for manufacturers. Many are related to satellite communications, observation, and data gathering, others are related to space tourism and in-orbit assembly and manufacturing.
MDA is currently hard at work on the Canadarm3. The manufacturing of this flagship product, which is ultimately destined for NASA’s Gateway space station, will take place at MDA’s new facility on the west side of Brampton. To accommodate their current growth, MDA has hired more than 1,000 people in Brampton and other facilities across Canada over the last 18 months, and they want you to know that they are not done yet. If you are looking for a rewarding career in the future space economy MDA is looking for you!
To foster further innovation and collaboration in Canada’s space technology industry, Greenley and his team recently created the MDA LaunchPad. The LaunchPad (not to be confused with MDA’s cafeteria, The Lunch Pad, pictured below) enables small and medium-sized businesses to collaborate with MDA on a series of space technology projects. These projects are valuable in their own right, and also contribute to the growth and development of a broader industrial ecosystem led by a Brampton-based Canadian advanced manufacturing champion.Episode Details
038 – Paul Miller – Precision Record Pressing
In this episode, Nick and Brendan drive to Burlington to chat with Paul Miller, the Vice President of Sales at Precision Record Pressing. Initially a joint venture between Czech-based GZ Media and Burlington’s Isotope Music, Precision Record Pressing has emerged as one of North America’s largest vinyl record manufacturing facilities. Paul’s experience as the owner and founder of The Record Jacket Corporation brought him to Precision Record Pressing in 2015.
Over the past five years, Precision Record Pressing has increased its output from 20,000 records a month to nearly 75,000 records a day. Much of this is due to the surge in demand for vinyl records during the pandemic. Their manufacturing operations offer a mix of automated (highly productive and require less labour) and manual machinery (less efficient but allows the company to offer customers innovative designs). This combination enables Precision Record Pressing to operate at the scale necessary to meet customer demand while keeping lead times shorter than their competitors in the United States and Europe.
Precision Record Pressing has achieved increases in efficiency with a noticeably young and diverse workforce that is generally new to manufacturing. Their combination of technology and enthusiasm is evidence that when combined with the right leadership and investment, younger generations can play an important role in growing Ontario’s innovative and competitive advanced manufacturing industry.Episode Details
037 – Scott M. Fairley – Optimotive Technologies Inc.
In this episode, Nick and Brendan drive out to Oldcastle to meet with Scott M. Fairley, founder and CEO of Optimotive Technologies Inc to discuss their IRIS2 Mk1 autonomous ATV. According to Scott, Optimotive focuses on automating data collection in “…muddy, dusty, or otherwise unpredictable environments” (like aggregate piles) replacing the need for a person to do these repetitive and often dangerous tasks.
Optimotive does not sell autonomous robots. They sell the service of autonomous data collection from dangerous and remote environments. A company using their services will not need to retrain an employee to use IRIS2 and they will not be responsible for device maintenance, Optimotive will be. While the capabilities of their robot is quite impressive, Scott stresses that they are not there to replace any human jobs, simply to automate the non-job related, repetitive, and dangerous tasks.
Since IRIS2 will be working for extended periods in highly remote (and often dangerous) environments, Scott and Optimotive have designed and built a special Box that will be deployed along with IRIS2. The Box comes with a Starlink antenna (for constant communication and data transfer) and solar panels (for completely remote operations and battery charging).
Unlike many manufacturers, Optimotive has little trouble finding talented employees. Scott believes this is due to the healthy manufacturing culture in the Windsor-Essex region combined with the compelling and ‘cool’ nature of the products they produce.
His advice to other young people is to ‘…be curious, ask questions, and do not be afraid to fail!’ Have a listen.Episode Details
036 – Nour Hachem-Fawaz – Build a Dream
In this episode, Nick drives out to Windsor to chat with Nour Hachem-Fawaz, the president and founder of Build a Dream – a national organization helping companies diversify their workforce and their talent pipelines. In recognition of her work in this field, Nour was recently awarded the APMA’s Workforce Leadership Award as well as the Top 100 Women of Canada award.
Build a Dream’s work falls into two main categories: educating young women and girls (and their parents) about career opportunities in the STEAM fields and working with companies to help them attract, hire, and retain women. To do this, Nour and her team lead career expos (and other activities like #DreamerDayFest2022). These events connect young girls with mentors, provide panel discussions from successful women, meet-and-greet with potential employers, and provide guidance in exploring career pathways.
Nour and Build a Dream’s work with industry includes identifying shortcomings or blindspots in their attraction, retention, and advancement practices. A common challenge many companies face is the ‘revolving door’ of women who try to enter the industry but don’t stay. Nour gives one possible explanation for this: men are hired/promoted based on their perceived future potential where women are hired/promoted based on past performance. This has led to a culture where women must constantly prove themselves worthy of their jobs.
A culturally diverse workforce, in and of itself, is an asset for long-term stability. Advancing women in manufacturing is NOT a zero-sum game and having more women in the manufacturing workforce does not mean fewer men. The entire industry needs more employees and companies need to do a better job at attracting ‘the other 50 percent’. Have a listen and join the conversation.Episode Details
035 – Sarah McKenzie-Picot & Diane Burchett – Kepler Communications Inc.
In this episode, Nick and Brendan chat with Sarah McKenzie-Picot, Space Systems Designer & Assembly, Integration & Test Lead, and Diane Burchett, the Vice-President, Engineering at Kepler Communications Inc. The company was founded in 2015 by two University of Toronto graduate students. Today, the company works out of a building that was once used to make clothing. Now, it’s used to make satellites.
Kepler’s satellites communicate with the Earth (and each other) using an array, or ‘constellation,’ of satellites (19 currently). Since one satellite in the constellation will always be in range of a ground station, it allows for continuous, real-time communication and monitoring of the satellite network. To do this effectively, Kepler has had to build satellites that can transmit more data faster and more reliably than ever before. (Some of it involves lasers!)
Not unlike other companies working in advanced manufacturing sectors (like medical manufacturing), Kepler has successfully attracted a diverse range of young people to their ranks. Diane credits much of their success to their location in downtown Toronto, proximity to the University of Toronto, and the (out of this world) nature of the work they do (the things they make will go into space).
Thanks to companies like Kepler, you’ll soon be able to enjoy this podcast from orbit. Have a listen.Episode Details
034 – Derek Vella – Guelph Food Innovation Centre
On the heels of the Trillium Network’s online map of Ontario Dairy Manufacturers, Nick and Brendan take a drive out to the University of Guelph to speak with Guelph Food Innovation Centre (GFIC) director, Derek Vella. While the centre’s 100-year history focused on the science of dairy production, today they’re working on innovations in almost all types of food production and processing. This includes protein bars, meat analogues, cellular agriculture, functional beverages, and of course, ice cream.
As Derek explains, ice cream manufacturing is sophisticated. Did you know that ice cream can be too cold? It can, and the scientific and culinary implications of this fact are a growing field of research and innovation. While milk, cream, vanilla, chocolate, and strawberries have traditionally been the primary ingredients, today’s market demands different options in their ice cream and different flavours.
Derek also discusses the expansive career opportunities available in the field of food science. A growing population and dynamic consumer demand will continue to drive innovation. What this means (for young people in particular) is a delicious variety of job and career opportunities.
Have a listen and learn for yourself.Episode Details
033 – Jeff Cowling – Yorkville Sound
In this episode, Nick and Brendan sit down with Jeff Cowling, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Yorkville Sound. The company manufactures PA speakers, Traynor guitar and bass amplifiers, and is the contract speaker manufacturer for Canadian theater icon, IMAX.
The company was originally founded in Toronto in 1963 in the back room of the first Long & McQuade store by Pete Traynor. Jeff attributes much of Yorkville Sound’s successes to their business philosophy of stable survival rather than market dominance. Focusing on steady, consistent growth and stable operations exposed them to less risk as they grew their company over the years.
Additionally, the company’s manufacturing operations are heavily vertically integrated. Having almost all aspects of manufacturing under one roof allows for improved quality control and the ability to pivot quickly to shifting needs. Their manufacturing of ventilator components during the pandemic is an excellent example of this.
While their manufacturing philosophy is not universal, there are lessons and insights that other manufacturers could use on their shop floors. Crank it to 11 and have a listen.Episode Details
032 – Andrew Conway & Steve Cox – Dimachem
In this episode, Nick chats with Steve Cox and Andrew Conway, respectively, the president and vice president of Windsor, Ontario’s own, Dimachem, a supplier of industrial blended chemicals. First founded in 1972 and originally called Chemfil Canada Ltd., this year, the company celebrated their 50th year of operation.
Today, Dimachem continues to manufacture and innovate. A few years ago, they became the Canadian toll manufacturer of Pine-Sol for Clorox, pivoted their manufacturing to make hand sanitizer during the pandemic, and installed a multi-million dollar packaging machine.
Dimachem’s operations actually grew during the pandemic, and they were able (needed) to hire more staff. The secret to their success is their people. By empowering its employees with the latest technology and actively listening to their feedback, the company has cultivated a culture of adaptability that will ensure operational success for years to come.
Have a listen to learn how they did it.Episode Details
031 – Hussam Haroun – Vineland
Haroun and his team have developed ‘Technology Roadmaps’ to make adoption of advanced technologies more accessible. The Vineland team uses their facility to demonstrate available technology and develop automated solutions. This presents an opportunity for Ontario producers and manufacturers who are interested in partnering with Vineland to commercialise their research.
Learn how Vineland is helping the horticulture and agri-food sectors in Ontario adopt the latest technologies and the strategies for how they did it.
Have a listen and don’t forget to check out the links below.Episode Details
030 – Gerd Grau, Matt Ewertowski – Additive Manufacturing Of Electronics
In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick chats with Gerd Grau, professor of electrical engineering at York University, and Matt Ewertowski, product manager at Voltera. After 4 years of collaboration, they have found new and innovative applications for additive manufacturing: the 3D printing of electronics and electronic circuits directly into other components.
Collectively, their goal is to develop this technology for all manufacturers, not just a few select industries. The best use cases for this new technology have yet to be written, but in the hands of an innovative advanced manufacturer, anything is possible. Combined with industry 4.0, Gerd and Matt’s work opens the door for novel manufacturing methodologies, as well as improved product quality and variety.
Listen now to learn how.Episode Details
029 – Sohrab Haghighat – SpaceRyde
However, what truly sets them apart is their solution for getting out of the lower atmosphere – traditionally, the most expensive, wasteful, and deadly part of the voyage. Rather than using more power, they simply use a balloon.
SpaceRyde’s solution is remarkably simple: float the rocket above 99 percent of the atmosphere with a weather balloon and launch from there. According to Haghighat, by doing so, they can build a rocket that uses “methodologies that are significantly cheaper than what it usually takes to manufacture a rocket…and these are savings that we can directly pass along to our customers.”
The density of the lower atmosphere makes it difficult to launch rockets. As the rocket accelerates through the atmosphere to reach an orbital speed of eight kilometres per second, atmospheric pressure pushes back on the vehicle (reaching a maximum point known as Max-Q). This increases the costs of building the launch vehicle, which must be designed to withstand these conditions.
The intense pace of technological development means that projects risk being outdated by launch day. According to Haghighat, the current wait times for a spot on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 are around two years and come at a cost of $1.1 Million for a load of 200 kilograms or less. SpaceRyde is looking to launch customer payloads to the orbital path of their choice for $250,000 and much more frequently. This is important because the current trajectory of space innovation is outpacing launch schedules, creating bottlenecks (especially in countries without domestic access to space). By having access to more frequent and affordable launches, the margin of error goes down and innovation can progress.
It’s impossible to predict all the innovations this new technology will spawn. However, orbit just got a lot closer for Canada and Ontario. Have a listen.Episode Details
028 – Jay Amer & Chris King – Economic Development in Ontario East
The first half of the episode focuses on the competitive advantages associated with the ‘not Toronto’ parts of Ontario, in this case parts east. More specifically, it focuses on eastern Ontario’s business attraction and retention strategies, and on economic developer’s efforts related to workforce development.
The second half of the episode focuses on Jay and Chris’ thoughts on the availability of industrial land in Ontario, a subject on which the Trillium Network has written extensively. The discussion here emphasizes the importance of industrial land. Jay and Chris explain to Nick and Brendan how investing in employment lands without a guaranteed return (i.e. a new factory) is one of the most pressing issues related to the availability of industrial land.Episode Details
027 – John Rawlins & Amar Zaidi – Big Nano
In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick speaks with John Rawlins and Amar Zaidi from BIG-nano in Cambridge, Ontario. John is the president, chief technical officer, and founder, and Amar is the company’s vice president and CEO. The company recently expanded their meltblown textile technology operation (thanks to a grant from FedDev Ontario) where they manufacture fibres at the nano-scale.
Meltblown technology, first developed in the 1970’s, is a textile fabrication method where a polymer melt is extruded through small nozzles surrounded by high speed blowing gas. The random nature of the deposited fibres form a nonwoven sheet which can be used for everything from surgical masks and gowns to water filtration, and much more.
As the guests explain (in great detail over the course of the episode), shrinking the size of individual fibres allows increased functional surface area of their textiles using a much wider range of polymers. In addition to making the next generation of PPE more breathable, more effective, and even biodegradable, this technology has uses outside of PPE like the manufacturing of battery components for electric vehicles.
To develop this technology (and related products), BIG-nano collaborated with numerous partners in Ontario’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem. John specifically mentioned funding and support from National Research Council (NRC), the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), NGen Canada, and the University of Waterloo. They have also worked collaboratively with other industrial partners and put their technology to use in a PPE supercluster.Episode Details
026 – Krystal Darling, Kory Graham, and Grant Luszczek – Tri-Mach
In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick sits down with three representatives from Tri-Mach; their CEO, Krystal Darling, their Senior director of Sales, Kory Graham, and their Marketing Manager Grant Luszczek. Headquartered in Elmira, Ontario (with other facilities across North America), the company recently expanded to a new facility to keep pace with their growth. Tri-Mach’s expertise and product lines are used by Canadian household brands like Maple Leaf Foods, Unilever, McNeil Personal Healthcare and Pepsi.
Since Tri-Mach’s customers are primarily in the food/beverage, and pharmaceutical manufacturing industries, their products have very specific performance requirements. The ability to simply, efficiently, and effectively clean their equipment with a hose was a critical design element. (For information on how they did this, skip to the Ever-Kleen discussion.)
One will notice a diverse range of genders and ages on their shop floor. But it wasn’t a happy accident that they got to this point. The Tri-Mach Group has been actively working to develop their skills pipeline, both internally and externally through training and upskilling programs. They have a welding school (The Skilled Trades Excellence Centre) on their shop floor where “…senior talent works with junior talent” to complete their CWB Tickets and TSSA Tickets. In addition to being the CEO, Krystal is a member of the Board of Governors at Conestoga College.
Tri-Mach has implemented innovative solutions to the many of the challenges we’ve studied at the Trillium Network (gender diversity, the skills gap, shortage of employable land, etc.). An admirable culture of employee support and ongoing innovation will ensure their continued success in Ontario’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem.Episode Details
025 – Greg Major & Ed Wisniewski – NORCAT
In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick Persichilli speaks with Greg Major, and Edward (Ed) Wisniewski from NORCAT. Greg is the Director of NORCAT’s Underground Centre, and Ed is their Chief Technology Officer. Over the course of the episode, Ed and Greg discuss the various activities that NORCAT is involved in. In addition to being an operational mine, the Underground Centre is a state of the art training facility, an R&D centre, a technology demonstration zone, and a Regional Innovation Centre (RIC).
The connection between advanced manufacturing and mining may not be immediately apparent. However, both industries have a lot in common: Both industries are struggling to recruit new talent due to perception challenges. Both are seeing an exodus of veteran workers as they retire. Both are working hard to adopt advanced technology to improve all aspects of their operations. In fact, testing and demonstrating new technology is one of the primary functions of NORCAT’s Underground Centre.
Recently, both the federal and provincial governments released their plans for Ontario’s and Canada’s Critical Minerals. As the need for our minerals increases (both globally and locally), it’s important the industry be able to grow and evolve to meet the growing needs. To NORCAT’s credit, Ontario’s Critical Minerals Strategy actually mentioned NORCAT by name as a recognized hub of technology development, testing, and innovation. “Sudbury-based NORCAT has underground facilities where companies can develop and test new technologies in an operating mine setting while also training their workforces.”
During the episode, Greg and Ed explain the evolution of the training technology developed at NORCAT over the years. For example, back in 1996 when overhead projectors and transparencies were still ubiquitous, they began looking at using virtual reality (VR) interfaces for training. Today, their training operations are even more advanced. (If you look at the title image of this blog post, you’ll notice that it’s not a photograph, but a digital image of a piece of mining equipment.) In addition to having further developed their VR training to include Augmented Reality (AR), they also include mental health training and awareness. As Greg says in the episode, “…it’s about training people above the neck. No more attitude of ‘Just rub some dirt in it’.”
Recently, several investment announcements have been made in Ontario regarding the shift to EV production. The implications of these announcements are that the mined battery materials will now flow through much shorter and local value/supply chains. As our mines and advanced manufacturing ecosystem get busier, NORCAT’s work in training will become even more important.Episode Details
024 – John Komar & Paula Ambra – ACE Wind Tunnel
In this episode, Nick speaks with ACE – Climatic Aerodynamic Wind Tunnel (ACE)’s Executive Director John Komar and ACE’s Project Manager for Project Arrow, Paula Ambra about the facility’s testing capabilities. ACE, which is located at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, is one of the most sophisticated of its kind in the world. John is quick to remind everyone that the facility is “…so much more than just a wind tunnel.” It is designed to provide a multitude of industries with world-class and independent testing capabilities to validate prototype products under a wide range of climatic conditions.
The next generation of vehicles will require advanced testing and this is what the $120,000,000 unique test facility at ACE was designed for. It offers a climatic wind tunnel, a large and a small climatic chamber, a climatic four-post shaker and a hemi-anechoic chamber with a multi-axis shake table.
What’s most compelling about ACE is that this kind of testing – once only available to companies who could afford to build their own facility – is now available to any company, by the hour. Allowing all companies access to this level of testing opens new doors for innovation in Ontario’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem and automobility sector.Episode Details
023 – Greta Cutulenco – Acerta
In this episode, Nick speaks with Greta Cutulenco. Greta is the co-founder and CEO of Acerta Alalytics, a Kitchener/Waterloo based artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning company. Their focus is providing AI solutions for manufacturing companies looking to improve quality control. In addition to her work with Acerta, Greta is also a sitting member of the Board of Directors for the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA).
AI and machine learning work by analyzing large datasets and letting the program decide for itself what course of action to take. This requires a lot of accurate data. As Greta points out in the episode, the automotive industry was a natural adopter of this technology because of the scale of their manufacturing process. However, any operation generating large sets of data can potentially benefit from AI and machine learning.
It’s a complex subject but Greta explains it well. Have a listen.Episode Details
022 – Danielle Cane & George Irwin – CAPPEM
Over the past two years, hundreds of Ontario manufacturers pivoted or established new facilities to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gowns, testing kits, and sanitizing materials. These products were essential to public health during the pandemic and these manufacturers have been heralded by governments, the business community, and the public alike. According to APMA President Flavio Volpe, the growth of PPE manufacturing in Ontario represented the ‘largest peacetime mobilization of Canada’s industrial capacity’ ever.
In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick chats with George Irwin and Danielle Cane from the recently formed Canadian Association of Personal Protective Equipment Manufacturers (CAPPEM), an association that represents more than 27 companies across Canada and that aims to ensure that Canada will never again be vulnerable to shortages of PPE during a time of pandemic or otherwise.
The episode focuses on both the successes and the challenges faced by Ontario PPE manufacturers. Throughout the episode, Danielle and George also remind us that local and domestic PPE manufacturers do not only create economic benefits, but they are also an important source of innovation- innovation that may potentially yield public health benefits.
For more about how George and his company, TreborRX (a proud CAPPEM member), are manufacturing world-class PPE in Ontario check out this video produced by our friends at Simcoe County.Episode Details
021 – Alex Tsoulis – Downsview Aerospace Innovation & Research (DAIR)
This episode of ‘Making it Ontario’ focuses on the aerospace industry in Ontario. Nick sits down with Alex Tsoulis, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Canada Aerospace’s Director of Business Development, Advanced Technologies. Alex also serves as the Advisor, Outreach and Membership Engagement for the Downsview Aerospace Innovation and Research (DAIR) Hub. A graduate of Ryerson University’s Aerospace Engineering Technology program, Alex has spent much of his career designing and developing structural components for commercial, military, and business aircraft. Through his work, he has built strong cross-sectoral relationships with government, academic, research, and industry organizations (as evidenced by his role with DAIR).
Throughout their conversation, Alex and Nick discuss efforts to grow Ontario’s aerospace supply chain, develop leading-edge training programs and production processes across the industry, and to position Ontario as a centre of excellence in aerospace research and innovation. Alex’s perspectives on the network of companies that make up Ontario’s aerospace industry, which he views as members of a team rather than competitors, are unique and refreshing.
Take a listen to this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’ to learn how Alex and his colleagues across Ontario’s aerospace supply chain are championing innovation in the golden age of aircraft manufacturing.Episode Details
020 – Andrea Johnson & Jeffrey McIsaac – IdeaWORKS at Mohawk College
On this week’s episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick chats with Andrea Johnson, the General Manager of the Centre Emerging Research Initiatives and Jeff McIsaac, the Dean of Applied Research at Mohawk College in Hamilton. Andrea and Jeff are central to the team leading IdeaWORKS, Mohawk’s hub of applied research and innovation. IdeaWORKS includes the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC), Sensor Systems and IOT Lab, Medical Technologies Innovation Centre (MTIC), and Energy and Power Innovation Centre, among other research centres and laboratories. IdeaWORKS and its affiliates work closely with start-ups, established companies, and community organizations, enhancing their capabilities with specialized expertise and access to industry leading equipment and facilities.
Much of Nick’s conversation with Andrea and Jeff focused on how IdeaWORKS helps companies bridge the ‘valley of death’. In this case, the valley of death refers to the period between the development and commercialization of a product or service. It is during this period that companies, especially start-ups, require significant investment and where the risk of failure is high, no matter how useful and innovative that product or service is.
The good news is that Andrea, Jeff, and their colleagues at Mohawk College are helping Ontario manufacturers – from start-ups to major international metal manufacturers – bridge this valley and commercialize innovative products and services. To learn more about how they do this take a listen to this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario.’Episode Details
019 – Christina Mack – Kingsway Foods
On this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick (and Brendan) are joined by Christina Mack, the President and CEO of Mississauga’s Kingsway Food. Kingsway Food produces vitamin premixes, ice cream flavouring, dips and dressings (including Dip-a-Chip brand products), and a new series of plant-based products.
Food manufacturers employ more than 85,000 people in Ontario, and are second only to the automotive industry in terms of their impact on the province’s economy. In addition to being absolutely essential to our well-being, food manufacturers are an important source of export revenue and innovation. The latter was made abundantly clear during our conversation with Christina.
A graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Chemical Engineering program, Christina brings a wealth of experience from her time working in the oil and gas industry, in meat processing, and in the financial services sector. Her entrepreneurial spirit, when combined with her passion for process improvement, product innovation, and her team at Kingsway, is infectious and key to the success of this small but well-established part of Ontario’s manufacturing ecosystem.
Throughout our conversation, we learn about how regulations related to food safety and weights and measures help create a competitive advantage for Canadian food manufacturers…regulations that are baked into manufacturers’ quality and process improvements (pun intended). We also learn about the different customers that food manufacturers serve, including retail, foodservice, and private labels, and the impact of COVID-19 on these market segments.
Grab your favourite Ontario-made snack (bonus points if you can pair it with one of Kingsway’s dips) and take a listen to this episode of ‘Making it Ontario’ to learn more about how industry leaders like Christina are bringing nutritious and delicious food to grocery stores and restaurants near you.Episode Details
018 – Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association Annual Conference
The conference is one the premier advanced manufacturing networking events in Ontario, and features senior government officials and industry leaders from Canada, the United States, the EU, and Asia.
Throughout the episode, Nick’s conversations focus on a range of themes related to the automotive industry and advanced manufacturing, including Industry 4.0, cybersecurity, and workforce diversity. In this episode we also learn about the exciting work happening at Ontario Tech University’s Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE), including their Climatic Aerodynamic Wind Tunnel and role in the APMA’s Project Arrow.
The Trillium Network would like to thank the APMA for facilitating this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’ and to our friends and colleagues who joined us on this episode.Episode Details
017 – Moira Harvey – The OAC
On this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick is joined by Moira Harvey, the Executive Director of the Ontario Aerospace Council (OAC). The OAC is a not-for-profit organization that represents more than 200 member companies involved in all facets of the aerospace industry. The organization’s purpose is to enhance recognition of Ontario’s capabilities as a leader in global aerospace markets and to build greater expertise to ensure continued growth and prosperity. With extensive experience leading the OAC and working at Messier-Bugatti-Dowty (now Safran), few people are able to speak as authoritatively about the industry as Moira.
The aerospace industry is a major contributor to Ontario’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem. Together, aircraft and aerospace component manufacturers directly employ more than 12,000 people, contribute nearly $1.7 billion to provincial GDP, and export more than $4 billion worth of product annually. Aircraft and aerospace component manufacturers, including Ontario-headquartered companies like MDA and Magellan, make outsized contributions to the provincial economy: average earnings are 16 per cent higher than the provincial average and aerospace manufacturers invest far more in R&D than other manufacturers. Innovation is baked into the industry’s DNA. Related Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) activities and the multiplier benefits associated with aerospace manufacturing bring the industry’s total contributions to provincial GDP to over $4 billion.
Ontario’s aerospace supply chain is extensive and focuses largely on commercial aircraft. A majority of the world’s commercial aircraft include Ontario-made content, and many rely primarily on Ontario-made landing gear and landing gear components (some estimate that Ontario manufactures almost half of the world’s commercial aircraft landing gear systems).
Ontario’s aerospace industry also includes a network of space-focused companies, including Honeywell (Ottawa and Cambridge), homegrown champion MDA (Brampton), and nanosatellite manufacturer Kepler Communications (manufacturing is located on Spadina Avenue in downtown Toronto – who knew?).
A large proportion of the supply chain supplies Bombardier, the world’s most prominent manufacturers of business aircraft. In addition to the company’s aircraft assembly plants east of Ontario’s border (just kidding – we love our friends in Quebec), Bombardier’s Downsview facility has long helped anchor the province’s supply chain. It has also served as an important hub for R&D and innovation, much of which occurs today at the Downsview Aerospace Innovation & Research (DAIR) hub. Bombardier is, however, winding down production in Downsview as they prepare to move into their new home in Mississauga, adjacent to Pearson Airport. This facility, which will employ more than 2,000 people and is scheduled to open in 2023, is expected to serve as a beacon of excellence that will project Ontario’s aerospace industry into the future.
Take a listen to this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’ to learn more about what this transformative investment means for Ontario’s economy and advanced manufacturing ecosystem, and about the fascinating initiatives being led by Moira and her team at the OAC.Episode Details
016 – Economic Development in Ontario
The answer depends on who you ask. Economic developers play diverse roles in supporting similarly diverse local and regional economies across the province. What they all have in common, however, is an intimate understanding of the competitive advantages that are on offer in their communities.
In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick is joined by three prominent members of Ontario’s community of economic developers: Wendy Stark (Director, Business Retention and Expansion – Invest Windsor-Essex), Cephas Panschow (Development Commissioner – Town of Tillsonburg), and Ken Scholtens (Manager, Business Development and Expedited Services – Niagara Economic Development).
While much of the conversation focused specifically on how economic developers support manufacturing in Ontario, our guests also identified several important functions and responsibilities of economic developers. First, economic developers provide a valuable interface between business and government. In other words, they speak both languages and can help ‘translate’ when necessary. Second, the strategies necessary to attract and retain particular types of businesses – including particular types of manufacturing – are nuanced and can vary from region-to-region and business-to-business. Third, not all investments are created equal, and not every investment is right for an individual region or municipality. That said, manufacturing investments tend to be more desirable than others, given the extent of their economic benefits vis-a-vis other industries (e.g. warehousing and logistics, retail). Finally, and perhaps most important, economies don’t grow by accident. They are the result of the combined and intentional efforts of a network of stakeholders – and these networks almost always include economic developers.
If you want to learn more about the work of economic developers (you know, the folks who bring you economic development) and how they support manufacturing, then this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario‘ is for you.Episode Details
015 – Ian Howcroft – Skills Ontario
On this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Skills Ontario CEO and Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing board member Ian Howcroft sits down with Nick to talk about promoting manufacturing careers to younger generations, the importance of investing in training, and how manufacturers can better access Ontario’s skilled and talented workforce.
For manufacturers, the importance of and challenges associated with skills, talent, and workforce development are not new. As Ian reminds us, these are complex multi-generational issues that take place within a dynamic economy. Ensuring that manufacturers have access to talent was an issue in the past, is an issue today, and will be an issue in years to come. The same can be said about ensuring that younger generations of the workforce are made aware of the opportunities and career pathways available to them in manufacturing, trades, and STEM-related occupations.
Ian provides some advice for manufacturers throughout the episode. He notes that successful companies tend to invest in their workforce, make connections with educational institutions and organizations like Skills Ontario, and seek the help of partner organizations with skills and workforce development mandates (some of which can be found in the Trillium Network’s directory of ecosystem partners). If skills, talent, and workforce development are important to you and your organization, this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’ is for you.Episode Details
014 – Linda Stephenson – Cosmetics in Ontario
A chemist, botanist, and microbiologist by trade, Linda has over 30 years of experience in the cosmetics industry, including a stint at one of Ontario’s most successful cosmetics companies, Make-up Art Cosmetics (MAC). Founded in 1984, MAC found a market niche by offering products that featured innovative colours and quality not available from their competitors. Thanks to a company culture of professionalism, celebrity endorsements (including Madonna), and a ‘makeup counter experience’ led by professional makeup artists (rather than department store employees), the company grew quickly. In 1994, the company was bought by global cosmetics manufacturers Estée Lauder, which helped them grow into the international brand they are today.
Cosmetics manufacturers like Estée Lauder, Cosmetica Laboratories, Crystal Claire, and Lush employ nearly 7,000 people in Ontario, primarily in the GTA. Some make their own products from start to finish, while some manufacture for private labels (similar to what food processors refer to as ‘co-packing’). These companies make more than just makeup – their product offerings include deodorants and antiperspirants, sunscreen, lotions, shaving cream, soaps and shampoo, hand sanitizer and hair care products.
As seen elsewhere in manufacturing, foreign companies often prefer Ontario for manufacturing lower-volume product runs where quality is essential. Linda specifically mentioned how Ontario cosmetics manufacturers are known for short runs, quick turn-arounds, and their attention to detail (many offer ‘turn-key’ services, taking a product from concept to finished good). As such, companies choose Ontario to manufacture specialized cosmetic products over competing jurisdictions like New Jersey, which focus more on commoditized production. The rules and regulations governing cosmetics manufacturing in Ontario, which are among the most stringent in the world, also engender a global reputation for quality.
Allowing for shorter product runs reduces barriers to entry and competitiveness, especially for smaller companies. Furthermore, the market for cosmetics (makeup in particular) is different from other sectors in that the connection between product quality and cost is not always clear. Brand image (largely affected by marketing) plays an important role in affecting consumer behaviour. The desire to purchase a specific item of makeup can be driven by a celebrity sponsor just as easily as the quality of the product itself – sometimes even despite the quality of the product.
Keeping up with consumer demands and industry trends (like ‘greener’ packaging, specialized products, and vegan ingredients) requires companies to find innovative ways to evolve their processes. Changing product formulations while maintaining quality and performance requires innovation and skill – things that Linda admits Ontario has in abundance.
Ontario’s cosmetics manufacturing industry is world class. Have a listen and learn for yourself on this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’.
Select cosmetics and personal care product manufacturers in Ontario include:
- Apollo Health and Beauty Care – North York
- APR Beauty Group – Scarborough
- Canadian Custom Packaging – North York
- Clamar Cosmetics – Pickering
- Cosmetica Laboratories – Scarborough
- Crystal Claire Cosmetics – Scarborough
- CSR Cosmetic Solutions – Barrie
- DECIEM – Etobicoke
- Estée Lauder – Markham and Scarborough
- Lush Cosmetics – Etobicoke
- Orchard Custom Beauty – Mississauga
- Pinnacle Cosmetics – Etobicoke
- Scents Alive – Vaughan
- Sigan Industries – Brampton
013 – Linsey Pecile, Ed Dawson, and Yvonne Pilon – Windsor Tech
Windsor today is seeing an evolution from ‘automotive’ manufacturing to what Yvonne and others call, ‘automobility’. (See timestamp for discussion.) As the evolution of the automobile (and auto manufacturing) continues, the technology used is also evolving – and falling in cost. ‘Digital Twins’ is one of those pieces of technology and the focus of Ed and Linsey in the VR Cave.
A ‘Digital Twin’ is a computer simulation of a physical product or process. Currently making use of this technology is a previous podcast guest – Windsor’s own Jonathon Azzopardi from LAVAL Tool. By setting up his gun drill in a digital rendering of his shop floor in the VR Cave, he gained valuable insights about its placement and operation that he would not have otherwise had. While this technology is not necessarily new, the fact that SME’s like LAVAL Tool are using it is a recent development.
As the costs of this (and other) technology comes down, other industries are finding uses for it. Yvonne has seen this shift coming for some time now. Windsor’s automotive industry will continue to drive economic prosperity in the region. However, the influx of new technology being used by the automotive industry will undoubtedly end up being used by other sectors and companies as well. Yvonne gave the example of Industry 4.0 helping greenhouses identify various species of bugs in their crops – a traditionally slow and analogue process. (See timestamp for discussion)
Have a listen and see what’s going on in Windsor today.Episode Details
012 – David Yeaman – Molded Precision Components
Their discussion covered MediCA Park, the challenges and opportunities of Industry 4.0, and the importance of company culture. According to David, a company’s ability to adapt to challenges is directly linked to its culture. The example he gave was the adoption of lights-out manufacturing, which is only possible with Industry 4.0 technology.
All new technology comes with risks – people will need to be retrained, new processes will need to be created, and the financial costs of the technology needs to be factored in. Unless the employees tasked with using this technology are ready to embrace it, your company won’t see the full benefits. David attributes most of MPC’s ability to thrive during challenging times to the prevailing culture of innovation at his company.
On a wider, industry level, culture played a role in the development of MediCA Park. When the COVID-19 pandemic wrought havoc on our supply chains and affected our ability to locally produce personal protective equipment (PPE), MPC went to work making them. They worked alongside the town of Oro-Medonte, NGen, and the federal and provincial governments to create a medical supply manufacturing hub, today known as MediCA Park. It would not have been possible without a healthy ecosystem of support and a culture innovation among Ontario manufacturers as a whole.
David offers specific steps company owners and managers can take to quantify, monitor, and cultivate a company culture of innovation. If you’re looking to start your journey, David has some advice for you.Episode Details
011 – Eva Kwan, Talissa Watson, Shannon Miller – Bridges, not Barriers Report
In February of 2021, the Trillium Network released a report on gender diversity in Ontario manufacturing. One of the conclusions of that report highlighted the importance of manufacturers having a diversified workforce. While having a culturally and gender-diversified workforce can and does provide long-term stability, the report also concluded that, in a post-pandemic world, “…manufacturers have a substantial amount of work to do when it comes to better engaging underrepresented demographics.” That report highlighted five companies that had found success in this effort. But how can other companies reach these goals?
In the new report, ‘Bridges, not Barriers: Advancing Racialized Women in Ontario Manufacturing‘, we provided actionable recommendations for manufacturing companies to advance their workforce diversity efforts. To develop these lessons, we interviewed three racialized women manufacturing business leaders to see what their paths to success looked like. Through conversations with Peng-Sang Cau of ATS Automation, Kathy Cheng of Redwood Classics Apparel, and Niru Somayajula of Sensor Technology Ltd., we compiled a list of 6 lessons other companies can learn from when building their workforce diversity development strategies.
As we continue to research and write about this subject, one thing is clear: companies that manage to find a way to engage with racialized women will have a competitive advantage over those that do not. Moreover, providing opportunities to advance in manufacturing has positive socioeconomic impacts on the communities that historically underrepresented groups exist in.
This podcast episode features Nick’s interview with three of the report’s authors, Eva Kwan, Shannon Miller, and Talissa Watson, wherein they discuss in detail the six lessons of the report:
- Collect data
- Invest in employee education and development
- Invest in entrepreneurship through education and program development
- Ensure procurement practices are accessible to diverse networks of suppliers
- Develop and showcase diverse and culturally competent leaders
- Recognize and address implicit biases
Have a listen.Episode Details
010 – Jonathon Azzopardi – Laval Tool
In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, President and CEO of LAVAL Tool and Mould Ltd., Jonathon Azzopardi, shares his thoughts about the future of scale manufacturing. As he explains, chasing scale manufacturing contracts is addictive because, if successful, it means a lot of revenue for your company. However, he warns that if you can’t land the next large scale contract (for whatever reason), you need a backup plan.
China and other low-cost regions cut their unit costs by manufacturing at a very large scale with low-cost labor. Jonathon’s plan is to use advanced manufacturing technology to bring costs down. We recently attempted to better define advanced manufacturing which proved harder than expected. However, for Jonathon, the definition is simple: advanced manufacturing = regional, flexible manufacturing (see timestamp below for discussion). He wants to use advanced manufacturing to ensure that if Ontario needs a product, we can affordably manufacture it ourselves.
Jonathon has already started his journey to make regional flexible manufacturing a reality here in Ontario – and he’s starting with his own shop. In the podcast, he explains how using digital twins on his shop floor helps to improve processes (see timestamp below for discussion). Figuring out how to use the latest technology to cut costs in manufacturing will undoubtedly open the door for new opportunities for Ontario’s manufacturing ecosystem. Learn more about these opportunities on this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’.Episode Details
009 – Paul Madden – Former 3M Canada President and Trillium Board Member
The Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing and our partners spend a great deal of time wrestling with questions about how technology, labour markets, trade agreements, and public policy affect manufacturers. One critically important aspect of manufacturing, however, is too often overlooked or taken for granted: customers.
In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, former Canadian and international 3M executive (and current Trillium Network board member) Paul Madden reminds us that to remain competitive, Ontario manufacturers – and the organizations that support them – must know exactly who their customers are and what it takes to keep them satisfied.
Who customers are and what customers value differs across and within industries. Ontario’s automotive assemblers rely on complex international supply chains and ship the majority of their product to the United States. They rely on mass production techniques (i.e. scale) and international trade agreements in order to satisfy their customers, most of which are car dealerships south of the border. These companies must also invest heavily in advanced manufacturing technologies, which provide a foundation for competitiveness but require large investments and carry certain risks.
Ontario’s commercial bakeries (which employ upwards of 23,000 people) are similar to automotive assemblers in that they rely on advanced manufacturing technologies to achieve economies of scale. However, they have the ability to source inputs (e.g. flour, grain) domestically and ship the majority of their products to customers within the province. Suppose you are in Ontario and ate bread today. It’s highly likely that it was made locally with Canadian-grown grain and that those in charge at the company that made it are not nearly as preoccupied with the finer points of trade agreements as those at, say, Toyota or Ford. And you, the customer, are probably a bit happier knowing that your bread was made close to home.
Other customers demand more customized or even ‘bespoke’ products. This could be anything from craft beer or wine to robots or electronics. And if that’s what our customers want, it will be hard to do this at scale and with the same technologies that automotive assemblers or commercial bakeries (or international breweries, for that matter) use.
So what kind of advanced manufacturing ecosystem should we aspire to have in Ontario? Don’t ask us – ask our customers. Paul reminds us not to lose track of this.
Paul and Nick also discuss the lessons learned over a career at 3M, how Ontario’s manufacturing is perceived internationally, and the competitive advantages held by manufacturers that consistently and eagerly invest in new production technologies. Take a listen to all of this and more on this week’s episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’.Episode Details
008 – Season 1 Recap with Nick and Brendan
The general mood in the province has certainly changed since we launched ‘Making it in Ontario’, the official podcast of the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing, in April 2021. At that time, less than two percent of the population of Ontario was fully vaccinated – today we are nearing fifty percent. Restaurants, hair salons, and fitness centres are open or are preparing to open. It’s time to enjoy the summer, it’s time to get back to work, and it’s time to identify what the ‘new normal’ will look like.
We at the Trillium Network were certainly fortunate to be able to welcome so many amazing guests to the podcast over the past few months. Guests like Jayson Myers, Sandra Pupatello, Tony Clement, Kim and Simmie Thiara, John Romano, Aaron Tisdelle, Max Preston, and Robert Graup. We learned a lot, and in this episode – the first of Season 2 – Nick and Brendan discuss some of what was learned and why it is important.
So what did we learn?
We learned that we were right about a number of things. Namely, Ontario has a robust and exciting advanced manufacturing ecosystem replete with great personalities and a diverse network of companies and supporting organizations. We also learned that manufacturing is not a monolithic endeavour. Companies and industries are diverse in size, scope, and structure. HOWEVER, many face similar challenges. These may be related to skills and talent. They may be related to trade. And for many (err…most), challenges related to supply chains – be it semiconductors or cardboard packaging – are keeping people awake at night.
Finally, we learned that in order to succeed in a post-pandemic economy there are some things that need to change. Manufacturers need to change how they engage women, younger persons, and persons from historically excluded demographics if they want to succeed (so do companies in a lot of other industries, for that matter). We are excited to learn about and from manufacturers that are seeing success on this front. It’s a unique situation where what makes moral sense also makes economic sense.
Manufacturers and policy-makers also need to work together to identify solutions to challenges related to supply chains and to leverage the new North American trade agreement. Everyone needs to work together to identify and capitalize on the opportunities to further integrate new production technologies (i.e. Industry 4.0) into our advanced manufacturing ecosystem. These changes are critical if Ontario manufacturers want to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy.
The Trillium Network supports these and other initiatives through a steady flow of information, insight, and knowledge. Some of these insights come from the highest levels (who else is excited to see the results of this year’s census?). Some come directly from those who are making things or supporting manufacturers on a day-to-day basis. This information is disseminated through our podcast, company profiles, video updates, and other publications. It also helps identify not only the challenges that manufacturers face, but how they can solve these challenges.
It is going to be hard to top some of the conversations we had in Season 1 of ‘Making it in Ontario’ – but we will do our best. If you have any ideas about guests or topics we should cover on the podcast, please feel free to get in touch. Otherwise, have a safe and happy summer and enjoy the podcast.Episode Details
007 – Tony Clement and Sandra Pupatello – Reshoring Canada
Over the last year and a half, these challenges have emerged as a top concern for industry stakeholders, whether they are related to semiconductors, vaccines, PPE, consumer goods, or building materials (in no particular order). Throughout all this, one organization has emerged in an effort to address these challenges: Reshoring Canada.
In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick and Brendan are joined by Sandra Pupatello and Tony Clement, the co-founders of Reshoring Canada. Once political adversaries, Pupatello and Clement have joined forces to promote the benefits of reshoring in Canada and advocate for pro-reshoring policies through collaborations with industry, government, and labour. These are issues that transcend party lines, and in our opinion, there are few persons better equipped to take on an initiative such as this than our friends Sandra and Tony.
As our partners and collaborators are well aware, we at the Trillium Network celebrate initiatives that 1) support manufacturing and 2) are informed by data. As such, there is lots to celebrate about the work being done by Reshoring Canada. Their work is data-driven. One of those sources of data is an ongoing survey of manufacturers and industry partners being conducted in collaboration with Trillium Network partners such as the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA), the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), the Canadian Tooling and Machining Association (CTMA), the Canadian Association of Moldmakers (CAMM), and Automate Canada. If you are a manufacturer or industry partner we strongly encourage you to take the survey. If you know someone who should take this survey, please pass this information along.
Initiatives like Reshoring Canada remind us how critical manufacturing and supply chains are to economic prosperity in Ontario and throughout Canada. To learn more about Reshoring Canada, check out their website, or better yet, take a listen to what Sandra and Tony have to say on this week’s episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’.Episode Details
006 – John Romano – Nickel Brook Brewing Co.
John and Brendan’s passion for Ontario’s craft brewing industry is evident throughout the episode. This passion is reflected in their love of Ontario craft beer and their interest in the industry’s explosive growth over the past two decades (the fastest-growing segment of manufacturing in terms of proportional employment growth!), which is documented in a recent Trillium Network report.
Throughout the episode, we learn more about the craft brewing process, the industry’s evolution, the experience of brewery owners during COVID, and the potential trajectory of the industry over the next five years. Craft brewing is an example of a highly localized segment of Ontario manufacturing that extends into the hospitality, tourism, and agri-food industries. Its growth is also due to specialized and craft-based production, the result of consumer demand for new and innovative products and a closer connection to the people who make their beer.
We also learn more about our friend John throughout the episode. A former aerospace engineer, John brings his problem-solving and relationship-development skills and talents into the brewery every day. He is a brewing industry veteran and led his company through its evolution from a small ‘u-brew’ facility to becoming a fixture in the Burlington community (he’s even been asked to run for mayor.) Recently, he purchased the former Big Rock brewery in Etobicoke (this brewery will be coming online this summer!).
The conversation expands on both the distinct nature of the craft brewing industry and highlights similarities between craft brewing and other segments of Ontario manufacturing. Like other manufacturers in Ontario, we learn that craft brewers exist because of their ability to specialize and innovate. This was one of the primary topics of discussion on a previous episode of ‘Making it Ontario,’ where NGen CEO Jayson Myers notes that the ability to specialize offers Ontario manufacturers a competitive advantage but also limits their ability to scale up their activities.
We discussed the nature of collaboration within the craft brewing industry and how collaboration – even among competitors – can benefit the entire industry. We also discussed how craft brewers, like manufacturers generally, were affected by COVID. Many craft brewers pivoted and produced sanitizer and other essential goods during the pandemic. Most felt the pinch associated with disrupted supply chains and an increase in the cost of materials. Almost all were forced to innovate and evolve in order to maintain production and ensure the health and safety of staff, customers, and suppliers.
We also discussed some of the differences between craft brewing and other segments of Ontario. One of the most striking differences is the perspectives of craft brewers on co-packing and contract manufacturing; practices that are common throughout manufacturing. While these practices are certainly not uncommon in Ontario’s craft brewing industry, the perspectives of craft brewers are…to put it diplomatically…mixed.
Another difference is how craft brewers interface with their customers. Unlike the internationally-owned breweries that serve Ontario, craft breweries and their staff – including the people that brew the beer – interface with their customers in their production facility. During the pandemic, they have also begun to interface with customers through home delivery by brewery staff and virtually through beer tastings. Craft breweries make a great product. They also offer customers an experience that connects them to the brewing process and the people brewing the beer.
So sit back, crack a cold Ontario craft beer (if that’s your thing – if it’s not, try one of their ready-to-drink cocktails, kombucha, or soft drinks), and enjoy this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’.Episode Details
005 – Jayson Myers – NGen Canada
As CEO, Jayson’s task “…is to build world-leading advanced manufacturing capabilities in Canada for the benefit of Canadians. And I think, perhaps over the past year or so, we’ve seen how important it is to make things here in Canada – it helps to save lives.” With over 35 years of industry experience, Jayson has witnessed a lot of change in this sector – and we wanted to get his thoughts about how we got to where we are and where he thinks we are headed. Few people in Canada are as well-equipped to comment on Canada’s and Ontario’s competitive advantages in manufacturing as Jayson. However, as discussed in the episode, many of us in Canada have often struggled to put our finger on what exactly gives us this edge.
As an economist by trade (and heart), Jayson has been watching Canada’s and Ontario’s manufacturing ecosystem evolve for some time now. As he mentions, one of NGen’s primary goals is to help identify and articulate these competitive advantages. However, as we came to learn, today’s advantages are not what they used to be 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Back in the ’80s, Ontario was considered a low-cost manufacturing region that attracted foreign investment. When our wages began to rise, we needed a different angle. We were once considered a low-volume producer until we proved we could manufacture efficiently at scale. At one point, we were also regarded as low-tech extensions of US plants until places like Waterloo and Toronto started being called silicon valley north.
Our competitive advantage has evolved as the result of things like free trade, globalization, digitization, and continuous innovation. Without getting too academic, one of the best ways to make a name for yourself as a manufacturer is to either do something no one else can do, or produce more with less. The best way to achieve both is to employ the best and latest advanced manufacturing technology.
Unlike Digital Twins, Augmented Reality, and Artificial Intelligence, the idea of Advanced Manufacturing is not new. What has changed are the tools available to manufacturers. In a recent blog post, our Managing Director, Brendan Sweeney, pointed out that a consensus definition of advanced manufacturing doesn’t seem to exist. While depth and scope varied among the proposed definitions, most seemed to involve some measure of improving productivity as an ultimate goal. However, as Jayson points out in the episode, there are stark differences between how the US and Canada measure and define ‘productivity.’ (Jayson explains in some detail in the episode. See timestamp below.) Regardless of how you define Advanced Manufacturing or Productivity, one thing is clear: companies who don’t adopt the latest technology are often the first ones to fail.
Ontario manufacturing has proven its ability to adapt to disruption allowing for world-class specialization and customization of production. However, if we are too specialized, we can’t be efficient. We’ve also proven our ability to manufacture efficiently at scale. But if we chase scale in search of efficiency, we can’t pivot as well. All stakeholders in Ontario’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem collectively need to decide who/what we want to be as a manufacturing region.
What can we build here? Anything. Who can we sell it to? Anyone we want. If, as Jayson puts it, “Our mission is to build world-leading advanced manufacturing capabilities in Canada for the benefit of Canadians…” then we have some soul-searching to do. We cannot be all things to all customers and we can’t keep letting our talent be bought out. We’ve proven our capabilities and our ability to pivot. We can do and make anything. The question is: what’s next?Episode Details
004 – Aaron Tisdelle – Girotti Machine
In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick and Brendan take a drive down to St. Catharines Ontario to chat with Aaron Tisdelle, 3rd generation owner and president of Girotti Machine. During the discussion, they chatted about what a job in manufacturing can offer young people, the impacts of not having enough young people in the trades, and what Aaron would like to see done about the barriers to entry. The short answer is, a lot.
One issue that has come up frequently in our podcasts is that people (younger persons in particular) are often unaware of the diversity of opportunities available in manufacturing. For Aaron and other owners, this problem has not only affected their productivity, it’s altered their job description over the years.
Finding, hiring, and retaining talent in manufacturing used to be as simple as posting a job in the local paper. At least, this is what it was like in the post-war era when Aaron’s grandfather and great uncle founded Girotti Machine. Today, not only are fewer and fewer people applying for those jobs, fewer and fewer people are even aware of what jobs are available. Simmie Thiara, in a recent episode about gender diversity in manufacturing, says quite simply that young people, young girls in particular, are not aware that making things for a living can be how you make a living. Additionally, those that are aware, regardless of gender, are often discouraged (systemically) from entering the field because of the prevailing perceptions of manufacturing.
This (among other reasons) is why Aaron is as active as he is in organizations like the Niagara Industrial Association (NIA) where he serves as Vice-Chair. Simply moving the job postings online vs. posting in the local paper won’t solve the problem. What’s needed is a cultural shift in the perceptions of a job in manufacturing. Unfortunately, and despite the tireless work of Aaron and the NIA (and countless other organizations), the problem is larger than them. While this is not to imply that they can’t affect change, it’s important to know what changes they need to strive for in order to help solve the problem.
As Donald Cyr, Chair of the NIA, shared with the Trillium Network, Canada is heading for a ‘demographic cliff’ (see Figure 1) where fewer and fewer younger persons will be entering the education system. This means that even fewer people will now be looking for jobs in manufacturing than before and employers will have to compete even harder for talent.
According to every guest interviewed for this podcast series (as well as several others who we discuss this issue with), the main barriers to getting more people into jobs in manufacturing can be distilled into three main overarching issues:
- The lack of awareness of jobs available in manufacturing
- The systemic discouragement of young people looking to get into the field
- The assumption that manufacturing jobs are too physically demanding
The problem with these three main barriers is they work symbiotically to make the problem much more complex and difficult to solve. Since the perception is that jobs in manufacturing are physically straining, young persons looking for ‘satisfying careers’ are led away from manufacturing, which in turn leads to a reduced number of people aware of the jobs available.
So let’s unpack this beginning with the third point. As Aaron says in the podcast, “If you’re lifting anything heavier than 40 pounds in my shop, you’ve got a hole in your head. I’ve got dollies and cranes you can use!” Technology has reduced or eliminated risks on the shop floor. A lack of sheer physical strength is no longer the barrier to (or prerequisite for) employment that it once was. While working in a machine shop is more physically demanding than working in an accounting firm, it is far less so than in the past.
The parents of students in grade eight and nine (or even earlier) need better education themselves as to what a job in the skilled trades can mean.
This brings us to the second point: If the stakeholders in a young person’s life (read their parents, teachers, guidance counsellors, and friends) are better aware of how a job in advanced manufacturing is different from their original perceptions, the discussion of salary and job security can take place. The parents of students in grade eight and nine (or even earlier) need better education themselves as to what a job in the skilled trades can mean. Their influence on the future generation needs to be better informed. In the podcast, Aaron goes into detail about the pay structure he uses in his shop for the young people he employs. When they realize they could start saving for an actual home by the time they are twenty, it helps them (and their parents) to see the reality of a manufacturing job.
This brings us back to the first point: a lack of awareness of the jobs available in manufacturing. The best remedy for this problem is curiosity – the very thing that is being stifled by the presence of the second and third barrier. Children are born curious but that curiosity is too often eroded as they get older. Something needs to fan the flames of curiosity and help fill the talent pipeline so that Ontario manufacturers can continue to compete globally.Episode Details
003 – Kim and Simmie Thiara – Acetronic Industrial Controls
In March of this year, the Trillium Network published a report that focused on five Ontario manufacturers that have made progress on gender diversity. While many reports have been published over years describing how manufacturers need to employ more women, ours focused on those manufacturers who have actually made progress. We revisit this report in our conversation with Kim and Simmie Thiara on this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, the official podcast of the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing.
In order to compete globally, Ontario manufacturers need to hire more women. However, as Simmie points out in the podcast, that won’t happen organically – at least not until there is a cultural shift in manufacturing.
What the companies in the report all had in common was they approached the problem with the intent to solve it. There were no happy accidents. But in order to manage something, you need to measure it. Therefore, setting parameters for success and measuring progress was critical. Part of that process was to identify barriers to their goals: why don’t more women want to work here?
In order to compete globally, Ontario manufacturers need to hire more women. However, as Simmie points out in the podcast, that won’t happen organically – at least not until there is a cultural shift in manufacturing. At the company level, the goal of hiring more women must be present throughout policies, values, and culture. Unfortunately, those can be difficult to change. But when company leaders actively promote this cultural shift, the chance of success increases.
As it stands now, most manufacturers have work to do if they want to engage more women. Over the course of the episode, Kim and daughter Simmie explained how they dealt with unwanted male interactions in their jobs because, unfortunately, this type of attention is still a reality for many women. Kim’s approach historically has been to simply pretend she didn’t hear the comment. This spared her contemporaries a lot of awkwardness and worked fairly well for her in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. She internalized. Simmie, however, is of a younger generation and her tolerance for this kind of behavior is not the same as her mother’s. She does not internalize. Her approach is to make the offending male just as uncomfortable as her. She might be onto something.
In order to make progress, it may be that more offending men need to feel uncomfortable. The problem is that people (not just men) have a difficult time sympathising with other people’s situations if they can not relate to them. Most men will never understand the discomfort of navigating an awkward conversation with a colleague, and that’s part of the problem. If more offending men start to get called out, it might make more of them think twice about what comes out of their mouths and how those words may make others feel.
As Dr. Brendan Sweeney is fond of saying, “In order to compete globally, Ontario’s manufacturing sector needs to attract the best and brightest. 50% of the best and brightest are women.” If it wasn’t clear before, it should be now: women are critical to the future competitiveness of Ontario manufacturers. Those manufacturers that succeed in engaging women will be more competitive than those that don’t.
In addition to tearing down the barriers that hinder women in manufacturing, Simmie Thiara wants to make sure young people realize manufacturing can be an excellent career choice. She notes that many parents insist their children go to university in hopes that they will become doctors, lawyers, or teachers. There is too seldom a conversation around the dinner table about the rewards of a career in manufacturing. That needs to change.
“There needs to be an education or an awareness (about manufacturing) created at a much younger age,” points out Simmie. “I don’t think we’re aware of how many jobs are available to us.”
“There needs to be an education or an awareness (about manufacturing) created at a much younger age,” points out Simmie. “I don’t think we’re aware of how many jobs are available to us.” If she succeeds her mother in the chief executive officer role, Simmie Thiara will make AceTronic a three-generation family business. That is rare in Ontario manufacturing. Even more rare is a woman taking over from her mother (also a woman) to head that company (we can’t think of another case – can you?).
To keep a family-owned company going beyond a single generation requires a passion for the business, Kim Thiara says. The history of manufacturing in Ontario is littered with companies that failed or were sold to larger, often foreign enterprises after the founding entrepreneur died or left the business. The 2017 sale of Burlington’s Etratech, a manufacturer of electronics with applications for electrified vehicles, to the Michigan-based Gentherm is a case in point. Gentherm closed this plant in March 2020 and consolidated the work previously done in Burlington into a plant in Celaya, Mexico. That’s one less jewel in Ontario’s crown as the result of a decision made in Michigan.
In order to move forward, Ontario’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem will need to address the challenges of COVID19 and gender diversification if it hopes to survive – the same challenges Acetronic and Kim and Simmie Thiara are facing daily. They’ve made progress and continue to do so. Have a listen to see how they’re moving forward.Episode Details
002 – Max Preston – Smart Attend/Axiom
In this episode Nick and Shannon sit down with Max Preston from the Axiom Group and Robert Graup from Intex Tooling (a subsidiary of the Axiom Group) and discuss everything from lunchpails to Formula 1 to Industry 4.0. In a Trillium Network first, the podcast is accompanied by a profile of the Axiom Group, which we encourage everyone to read, maybe while you listen to the podcast. Our profile of Axiom and more than 100 other innovative Ontario manufacturers can be found on our website.
Axiom is a fascinating company. At least we think so. If you had a chance to watch our quarterly video update with Brendan (err… ‘Dr. Sweeney’) last week you’ll know that we at the Trillium Network appreciate those who don’t wait around for someone to solve their problems when an off-the-shelf solution isn’t readily available. We appreciate and encourage people and organizations to create their own solutions. You may end up solving those problems in a more time – and cost-effective way. You will create knowledge while doing so. And if you are like our friends at Axiom, you may also develop new revenue streams in the process.
Max and Robert also teach us some important lessons about Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 is often conceived of as a ‘tool’ available to manufacturers. However, after listening to this podcast, we think about Industry 4.0 a bit differently. We think that Industry 4.0 is better conceived of as a ‘toolbelt’ in which manufacturers can keep the digital tools most relevant to their needs. Much like the contents of a carpenter’s tool belt will differ from an electricians tool belt, digital tools will invariably differ from manufacturer-to-manufacturer and industry-to-industry.
To benefit from Industry 4.0, those tools must also provide an appropriate solution to the problem that manufacturers are looking to solve. As such, Max and Robert teach us that the technologies associated with Industry 4.0 are deployed in very specific ways (or at least they should be).
For those who have watched the aforementioned quarterly video update, you’ll know that we like a good sports analogy. In the podcast, Max compares Industry 4.0 to Formula 1 motor racing to help us understand how and why Industry 4.0 should be deployed:
“If you want to improve your lap times, the team needs to understand where the losses are coming from. If your driver is braking 10 feet too soon, then you don’t need to know the fuel/air mixture in the engine.”
In other words, collect the data you need for the problem you need to fix.
Max’s colleague Robert uses Industry 4.0 in very specific ways. In his case, it is more about using the company’s Smart Attend software to manage production schedules than it is about production itself. If starting work on Project X on Wednesday is contingent on a machine finishing Project Y on Tuesday, then understanding why that machine shut down for a period on Monday is critical information to staying on schedule.
Industry 4.0 is in many ways synonymous with advanced manufacturing. That brings us to an important point, and something we get asked a lot (and that we ask ourselves a lot): just what, exactly, is advanced manufacturing? Good question. Our answer: it depends who you ask. This is something we discuss in the first episode of ‘Making it Ontario‘, and a topic that we take a deeper dive into next week in a short piece that we hope will serve as an important conversation starter for manufacturers and other industry stakeholders.
Stay tuned for that and the third episode of ‘Making it Ontario’, where Nick and Shannon sit down with Kim and Simmie Thiara of Acetronic Industrial Controls to discuss the doing business during COVID19 and Trilliums report, Gender Diversity and Ontario Manufacturing: Lessons from 5 leading Companies.Episode Details