As I inch closer to almost a decade of travelling, visiting manufacturers across the Provinces to share information on EMC Canada and our initiatives, I cannot help but look back and ponder the thousands of kms behind me or to imagine the adventure yet ahead! Without a doubt, it’s still an absolute thrill for me when one of my vehicles has an odometer about to make a milestone turning!
That milestone isn't so much that it looks "cool" turning over on our panel as that it represents the places we have visited, the people we have met along the way, the lessons learned with those willing to share, and the hope we all harbour that the next 10 - 50,000 or even 100,000 kms will be every bit equally filled with interesting and exciting moments, learning opportunities and rewarding adventures!
I drive a Golf VW - in fact - this is the third VW since I began with EMC Canada. I had been keeping a somewhat vigilant eye on my odometer of late… it was in the 290,000 km range and I knew that my trusty VW steed would be turning 300,000 kms somewhere in Ontario in the not-too-distant future and I was going to make sure that I didn't miss out on that momentous occasion!
A moment like this - not dissimilar to turning 21, 50 or 100 or celebrating special anniversaries and years in business, affords us the opportunity to review and appreciate where we have been and where hope yet to go.
I began participating in EMC Canada activities as a Member many years ago clearly recognizing the value it brought the medium-sized organization I worked for and to me as a team member in that facility. Having peers available to benchmark with not only allowed us to grow and develop in a more lineal manner, it provided us with the opportunity to recognize that we were not alone in our endeavours to become more competitive, organized, efficient, safety-oriented and lean in our day to day practices. Now, I look back recognizing that a decade will be passing soon enough since I began working for EMC Canada in earnest - first as a Field Service Advisor, then Senior Field Service Advisor and now as the Senior Community Development Manager heading up our first sector specific oriented project with Food and Beverage Manufacturers throughout Ontario and beyond in conjunction with OMAFRA and our Community Economic Development Partners. Through all the changes in my journey, EMC Canada's focus on networking and sharing best practices remains as important as ever and it has been a pleasure to be involved in an organization dedicated to helping Manufacturers remain competitive in Canada by providing a plethora of opportunities for companies to tap into.
The kilometres between then and now number in the hundreds of thousands and I could not fathom to guess exactly what that number might actually be - but I can assure you, it has been a most amazing and marvellous adventure that has stretched my mind and caused me to explore so many things I had not imagined before. My journey has also set me before some incredible leaders, talented people and exposed me to so many innovative thoughts and inspirational ideas - certainly bridging the mindset that just about absolutely anything is possible! I have sat in on thousands of presentations over the years gleaning the messages delivered and recognizing the work our speakers put into them - but more so appreciating the insights and best practices they so willingly shared with others so that they too may grow and learn. This was certainly apparent at our first National Conference as an example and at every succeeding Conference thereafter from Owen Sound to Hamilton! It comes as no surprise to some I'm sure, that no matter where I travel in life, my EMC Canada experiences have shown me that I cannot but help share the relevance and importance of networking and how essential that tool is or could be for our individual facilities as Canadian manufacturers and retailers, and as suppliers and customers, community partners and government support services, educational systems and ultimately for each of us when it comes to increasing our own potential abilities and experiences.
As for Trusty Steed #3, a stalwart, reliable, stealth silver 2002 Volkswagon Golf with a rust spot here and there and some window lining issues - it still manoeuvres with the best of them in and out of the 400 highways and trekking up old dirt country roads. We have been lost - or rather visited places not otherwise planned - but she always gets us back on the right track! We've been in the ditch together more than a few times - a regular hazard of rural Bruce County driving - and once were rescued by four dashing young OPP officers who too were in the midst of a blinding snowstorm and almost joined us in our ditch predicament… We have become astute at knowing where every Tim Horton's is in the Provinces and am on first name basis with what sometimes feels like every hotel chain going across Canada! We have learned where to stop for diesel and who has the best service - and have become totally adapt at navigating with maps, online with Mapquest, and that yes indeed, that my Garmin truly can be wrong sometimes!
When you travel considerably, your car assimilates a make-shift office and as such I rarely listen to the radio - it gives me the opportunity to think while driving - to plan and strategize for the day or week ahead. So technically, my car could be my mobile think-tank of sorts - my own innovative centre! (Of course, when the radio is on, a need to sing is definitely stimulated - my Trusty Steed never criticizes - it allows me to explore my capabilities in that area and if it is too much, subtly, yet coincidentally, the radio jumps on with a news break or weather bulletin… certainly giving new meaning to the "smart car"!)
Needless to say, we have visited the most intriguing facilities, in some of the most unlikely places and witnessed some pretty unique processes and products. Without a doubt, every day our journey has been filled with interesting people, innovative ideas, thoughtful acts and exposure to those truly demonstrating a willingness to learn new ways - to get along, to arrive at a place, to solve a problem, to connect with others… The key premise though is that it isn't so much turning 300,000 kms that seems as relevant as the events that took place to get us to that point - the people, their stories, the appreciation that we have all "grown" to get to the place that we are today. There are definitely too many events and visits to capture in one simple Blog, but perhaps a brief - very brief - snapshot of some of the Food and Beverage Events over the year can be highlighted below:
Labour Relations; Sustainability; CI Cultural Foundations; Leveraging Customer Relations; Sustainability Practices; Lean Implementation; GFSI
and Growing Fast Forward Programs
Rich Products, Fort Erie
Karma Candy, Hamilton
Nestle Waters Canada, Guelph
Bio-Gas Initiatives; Sustainability; H1N1; Food Banks; Food Trends
Working with Community Partners:
OMAFRA, GFTC, WFIM, Economic Development, Chambers of Commerce, Sector Organizations
Conferences and Tradeshows:
EMC National Advantage through Excellence Conference, Hamilton - Food and Beverage Stream
EDCO - Economic Developers - working with Community Partners
Best of All:
Connecting Manufacturers to other Manufacturers
Aiding with needs in SR&ED, BHH, Training, Best Practice Sharing
Benchmarking beyond sectors
Given the opportunity to travel throughout Ontario and beyond together with the responsibilities for our Food Sector initiative, it seems only fitting that my Trusty Steed #3 should finally turn 300,000 kms on my way back from visiting with one of our newest Members - Maidstone Coffee in Hamilton - who supplies Tim Horton's their product… and what makes it so truly fitting - and certainly ironic - is that the odometer would click over to 300,000 kms EXACTLY at the Tim Horton's in Elora about an hour from home… this somehow seemed so very, very appropriate!
We are now almost 10,000 kms beyond that momentous day and my adventures continue as they should! Just last Tuesday as an example, together with my OMAFRA colleagues, Kevin Montgomery and Helga MacDonald, we visited the largest Canadian pumpkin producer and a brand new carrot processor - we met the son of the inventor of carrot snacks who was visiting from the US - reviewed the damage on area Greenhouses in Leamington from a recent tornado - and rescued a stubborn snapping turtle who was determined to bask in the sun on Highway #3 (it's amazing what you can do with an old shoe, some reed grass, a cast away French Fry box - oh, and a kind Harley-Davidson driver who - unlike us - was not donned in business apparel - recognizing our plight!)… Ah yes, the adventures continue!
May all of your journeys - whatever they may be - whether in travels, continuous improvement initiatives and certifications, in marketing and branding, in supplier development and so forth - be safe and interesting and keep you excited as your "odometers" turn or your "projects at hand" roll to a milestone that brings you both memories and appreciation for the past, and enthusiasm and energy for all that is yet to be!
Best wishes as always!