In the early 1990’s, Al Diggins developed the foundation for what would eventually become EMC. Beginning as a project through Georgian College, Al chose to focus specifically on identifying and developing the skills that manufacturers required of their new hires, with the idea to culminate the resources and skills necessary to support manufacturers in the Owen Sound area.
Along with founding member and EMC Chair Jim McCoubrey, the Owen Sound cluster was formalized in 1997 and aptly named the Owen Sound Area Manufacturing Sectoral Group, which became the first official consortium of EMC.
Initially, with a small cluster of 18 manufacturers in the Owen Sound area, Al began facilitating discussions amongst manufacturers to help them connect and share ideas, best practices and resources to tackle their greatest challenges. These interactions were more than meetings, and quickly became known as Strategic Interest Group’s or SIGs for short. In addition to the SIGs, member manufacturers began visiting each other’s plants, sharing ideas and practices assisting them in overcoming their challenges.
As nearby communities became aware of the value manufacturers were experiencing through participation in the Owen Sound Area Manufacturing Sectoral Group, manufacturers began inquiring about bringing the model to their area. In 1998 Brantford was the first community outside of Owen Sound to launch a consortium. During the launch of the Brantford consortium Al learned that the collaboration amongst members and the willingness to share and steal with pride, was not a normal behaviour, but rather a learned behaviour that was, at the time, foreign to most manufacturers.
Responsiveness to member needs was always a top priority for EMC. As activity in both the Owen Sound and Brantford consortiums increased, for example, Al found that Sunday evenings were always the busiest time of the week. With over two dozen manufacturers now part of EMC, numerous requests for information and support would arrive and be responded to by Al on Sunday as senior managers prepared for their week.
Facilitating sharing of best practices between members was not the only method by which Al supported EMC members. In the early days, in order to ensure sharing of information was constant, Al spent considerable time on Sunday’s developing a newsletter that became known as the EMC Update and faxing copies of same out to all members on a weekly basis. In addition, as cell phones became more common, Al became an early adopter of a mobile phone with one of the first car phones in the Owen Sound area.
As the Millennium approached and EMC membership continued to grow, the first team members joined EMC. Scott McNeil-Smith joined in 1999 as Marketing and Communications. With Scott’s help EMC hosted its first event for members across all consortiums; an event that became known as the Woodland Classic Golf Tournament.
In the year 2000 EMC membership continued to grow, as did activities and resources in support of members sharing ideas and best practices. EMC’s first website (www.excellence-in-manufacturing.org) was launched, and additional team members joined EMC in support of helping members. Amanda Doman began in the role of Finance and Administration, and Todd Oliver joined EMC to support the Learning Center. It was also during this year that Al, faced with a question from a member, made the decision to send an email to all EMC members with the title “Member Needs Help.” Following an enormous response from 47 members within only a few hours, the Member Needs Help service was born.
The new century brought about continued growth and changes in support of members. In 2001 the Chatham Consortium was formed, followed by Midland, Collingwood, Orangeville, Brockville, Guelph, and Huntsville/Muskoka. Supporting this continued growth Cori Hanna joined the team, and Stephanie Yakimishyn, a former colleague of Al’s from Georgian College, became the first Field Service Advisor. Steph as she prefers to be called, helped to formalize the FSA role by developing a framework upon which an FSA could support their consortium and community, a foundation that is still the backbone for Field Service Advisors today.
In 2002, government agencies began to take notice of how EMC was helping its members, and FedNor partnered with EMC in order to support further growth in support of members in Northern Ontario. Similarly, EMC was approached by the WSIB to become one of the original sponsors of the Safety Group program, a manufacturers only safety group that is still in operation today. To support the launch of the Safety Group Alicia DeVries joined the team. Bren De Leeuw joined EMC as the second Field Service Advisor. Todd Oliver, helped to develop and introduce the A to Z Lean Certification program and began helping members adopt this revolutionary practice.
With nearly a dozen consortiums active in Ontario, EMC began expanding inter-provincially with the introduction of the New Brunswick consortium in early 2003. As new provinces joined, growth continued in Ontario with the addition of the Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge consortiums, as well as St. Catherines, Niagara Falls, London, Belleville and York. As more members joined there was a need to expand the EMC team, and Menai Collins joined to support Todd in the Learning Center.
In 2005 Amy Edwards joined EMC to work with Todd Oliver and support the Learning Center, while Menai transitioned into IT supporting EMCs growing online activities. In addition Sara Struthers joined EMC in an accounting role, and our third Field Service Advisor, Jason Bates joined as well. We added a number of new consortiums in Hamilton, Nova Scotia, Sault Ste. Marie, and Milton. We also launched the Food, Beverage, and Bio Sector Initiative, and transitioned to what was considered cutting edge technology with a new WEB2.0 website domain www.emccanada.org.
In 2007, we added more consortiums in Barrie, Sudbury, North Bay, P.E.I., and Burlington. Doug Rourke joined EMC to lead the growing Safety Group program, and Larry Vokes, a former member of EMC joined to support our new SR&ED program.
2008 brought about the hiring of Ross Cooper who worked with Larry on the newly launched SR&ED program. In addition to helping members obtain tax credits through the SR&ED program, with the costs of energy continuing to climb, we came up with the idea of developing an Energy Group program, which Scott McNeil Smith helped to further develop and launch. Following the addition of these programs in support of our members, in 2009 we partnered with OMAFRA in support of the Growing Forward 2 program. Glenn Durnford joined EMC to support the Maritimes, and the Nova Scotia Essential Skills Cluster would launch in the months that followed. Relative to consortiums, the Windsor consortium joined in 2009 and shortly after, in early 2010 we launched the EMC Direct program in support of helping members reduce the costs of their consumable products and services. The EMC team continued to grow as Kristy McKee joined to focus on overseeing the Member Needs Help service that was growing in popularity as our membership grew.
As EMC grew and our projects became larger in scale, we needed more team members. In 2011, Wendy Gray joined EMC to help with the Harvard Supervisory Program, as did Kevin Lenko as our fifth Field Service Advisor.
In the years that followed EMC’s team grew through the addition of Jean-Pierre Giroux, a former executive with the Textile Human Resource Council (THRC), who joined EMC as National Director Skills and Talent Development. Garrett Potter, also, joined during the same time to support of the growing Safety Group program.
The Manufacturing Essentials case studies were introduced in 2014, supporting the development and launch of a unique program called Manufacturing GPS, a labour market intelligence tool helping manufacturers identify critical information to support workforce development. Our needs, also, required that we bring on additional support in our Marketing department (no comma) and Wes Havens joined the team.
As membership and services continued to grow, Joan Richard returned in an FSA role to support New Brunswick and Kelly Killby came on to support the Safety Group. Shawn Casemore joined as a member of the EMC board of directors, and Jamie Couvieau joined as the FSA to support Eastern Ontario. Lisa Steudle joined as a project administrator, and Michelle Nichols joined to support Kelly and Garrett with the Safety Group, and Tonya Starr joined as the FSA for the Brampton, Mississauga and GTA.
Where are we today? EMC is a unique not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping manufacturers grow and become more competitive, at home and around the world. EMC is responsible for contributing significant knowledge, expertise and resources towards the success of over 13,000 consortium and online member manufacturers, employing hundreds of thousands of Canadians, in more than 60 consortium regions. EMC’s membership is coast-to-coast (in every province and territory), with a total audience of 40,000+ manufacturing employers.
Our members and team are the keys to our success. By continuing to practice the fundamentals that Al initially introduced to members including facilitating the learned behavior of sharing best practices, while always remaining responsive to our member needs, EMC will continue supporting the growth and prosperity of manufacturing in Canada.