The first fall event in Chatham-Kent proves to be a call to arms for manufacturers in the area. Thanks to NH Global Design Inc. for hosting this event!
The first fall SIG Event for Chatham-Kent was hosted by NH Global Design Inc. in Chatham and the focus of this event was Business Planning….Survival for today and beyond under the pressures of:
- Local operating costs (taxes, energy costs, commodities etc)
- Low profit margins and the effects on local retention and quality of life for employees
- Legislative obligations and seemingly out of sync with the need to stimulate manufacturing (i.e. bill 168)
- Lack of exposure to diversify into other markets more stable than traditional automotive
- Local & Global competition
The approach on this event was unique. The format was a little different than the traditional meetings of the past year. The roundtable discussion focused on challenges that manufacturing is facing for the future including:
- An aging workforce and lack of qualified and skilled labour to supplement the loss
- Municipal, Provincial and Federal policies that seem to lag behind the needs of manufacturers and potentially cause more confusion and cost than aid.
- Continued expectations from OEM's that erode timelines and profitability
Manufacturers face severe competitive pressures and financial strain. At the same time, soaring costs for energy and materials have eroded profit margins and cash flow. Clearly it cannot be business as usual for anyone in manufacturing today The business environment that exists today is far different than even 10 years ago and manufacturers have to be innovative, because they're at the forefront of global competition. Welcome to the reality of manufacturing in the 21st century. If companies are doing the same thing today that they were doing five years ago, quite possibly they will be, if not already are, in trouble.
This new reality is requiring manufacturers to change their business strategies, their products, processes, and market priorities. Our members did a great job sharing some of their strategies for success and shared the key concerns they have for moving forward. Some of the key strategies included:
- Diversifying where possible concentrating on their core competency
- Expanding into other economic centers
- Using strategic partners in everything from equipment to labour
- Utilizing unconventional resources for information and expertise where possible
- Collaborating with competitors where it makes sense.
These strategies are not without their own challenges but overall, the participants are engaged in being successful.
The key concerns for most in the room, in spite of the meeting the challenges that lie ahead were summarized into a few key points.
- Most are concerned with the task of replacing aging skilled workers without interruption in workflow, quality and productivity. There are very few resources left to aid in this task and the colleges and universities have low enrolment in key programs and it seems little is being done to encourage enrolment in time to meet with the demands of the very near future.
- Our governments seem to be out of touch and can work to improve the business climate that will help manufacturers succeed. Our governments need first of all to recognize the critical role that manufacturing plays in economic growth - simply put they have to place more of a priority on creating profit and healthy wealth. Our governments need to work together to create the winning conditions for the advanced, flexible, innovative, and integrated business of manufacturing that will continue to shape prospects for Chatham-Kent's economic future. Business, governments, labour, and communities must work together. The Chatham Kent Manufacturing Association can play a key roll in facilitating some discussion with respect to local issues and bring to light the challenges that our local manufacturers are facing. In addition, through SIG Events and Focus Groups, we can continue to invite our municipal and provincial community partners to listen and engage them in finding opportunities and solutions for manufacturers on a more focused level.
- Collaborating and sharing with each other will make our entire region stronger and more competitive and should be embraced instead of feared.
- Overall, the participants in the room are concerned for the future viability of the employees of their respective companies and how all of these factors will continue to erode the possibility for a sustainable and comfortable quality of life.
Special "Thanks" goes out again to our hosts NH Global Design Inc. for their hospitality and generosity. There will be future meetings designed to address for the needs of our member companies in bridging the gap where possible, using available experts and resources. Thanks too, to the members who participated in this roundtable discussion. Their unique perspectives and drive to continue to be successful, demonstrates the fortitude and "take action" mentality that will continue to serve this region well.