Enterprise Minnesota Magazine - November 2012
HELPING MANUFACTURERS GROW PROFITABLY
Canadian and Minnesota manufacturers share industry challenges and best practices.
In a lively exchange with Canadian manufacturers last month, Enterprise Minnesota’s president and CEO Bob Kill found that Minnesota manufacturers share many challenges with our neighbors to the north.
Kill helped kick off a visit by Canadian manufacturers who were in Minnesota to tour six manufacturing facilities in Alexandria and the Twin Cities. Their tour was sponsored by Innovation Insights, a manufacturing best practices exchange program for Canadian industry. The program is delivered by the National Research Council – Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), Canada’s largest trade and industry association. The visitors toured Douglas Machine, Donnelly Custom Manufacturing, Medtronic, 3M Innovation Center, New Flyer and Arctic Cat.
Kill used the results of the 2012 State of Manufacturing® poll to show the Canadians in real terms how Minnesota manufacturers temper their overall optimism with concerns regarding the availability of qualified workers. Enterprise Minnesota’s annual State of Manufacturing® poll is a nationally-recognized project that probes Minnesota manufacturing executives’ attitudes, opinions and experiences regarding their own businesses and industry.
The conversation that followed his presentation revealed several commonalities between the two groups.
After one Canadian executive described how Canada’s qualified worker shortage is more acute in welding, machining and engineering and in rural areas, Kill discussed how Minnesota manufacturers have sought out partnerships with both private and public entities to attract and develop a larger pool of qualified talent. When the city of Alexandria built a new high school, he said, manufacturers rallied to have it include advanced manufacturing.
Manufacturers in both countries have worked to dispel the myth that manufacturing jobs are dirty and monotonous by opening their plants to students and parents for tours. One Canadian manufacturer said he starts recruiting potential employees as early as elementary school, to encourage students to pursue relevant classes in high school.
When asked about the rising cost of employee-based health and wellness benefits, Kill said the State of Manufacturing® revealed it is a top concern. “A lot of manufacturers have tried to figure out how to embrace wellness with practical means into the company. Wellness is something companies can invest in to their benefit,” Kill told manufacturers. The visitors saw technologies and processes in action on plant floors and networked with company employees during their tour. Hosting companies learned from their guests, as well.
“The Canadian manufacturers’ visit provided a great exchange of ideas for best continuous improvement practices,” said Rick Paulsen, president and CEO of Douglas Machine in Alexandria.
Paulsen said he especially appreciated the wrap-up session, in which each participant shared both a positive and constructive comment about his company’s operations. “The feedback was important to our continuous improvement journey,” he said.
Diane de Jong, executive director of Innovations Insights, also felt the exchange was “mutually beneficial” for the Canadian and Minnesotan manufacturers. “Each and every site we visited was world class and offered value-add for all,” she said.
To read more about Innovations Insights in Canada, go to www.innovationsinsights.ca.
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