Food, Beverage, Bio & Ag Sector: Winter 2020

November 20, 2020 Bren de LeeuwFood & Beverage 321 Views

This year has undoubtedly been one that will long remain in our memories - full of challenges and also of opportunity!  The pandemic forced us to adapt and change in ways and means we never thought possible.  It tested out Emergency Preparedness Plans, our Leadership Teams, our business strategies, and customer bases - all inevitably leading to new ways and means of conducting business, producing products, managing workforces, and meeting consumer needs.  If anything, we have all become a great deal more familiar with anything related to “change” and “flexibility” than we were pre 2020!

As we head into a winter of unsureness with COVID-19 still here, and the flu and cold season upon us, we can take assurance in the fact that we are armed with many more tools, a great deal more knowledge and a plethora of readily available resources that did not exist earlier this year as we began our initial battle round with the pandemic.

Recognizing that we are better educated, better prepared and better equipped, its’ time to think about the future and “The Way Forward”! 

To plan ahead though, we need also to cast a glance behind us – reflecting and appreciating where we have been, the wins we have made, those we are still working on, and most importantly, the lessons learned along the way.  How will you apply this knowledge to your current and future operations so that you can continue to grow your business or hone your role within the organization to the best of your ability?

No matter your position – whether in Maintenance, in Health and Safety, in Human Resources, or as the President of the Company - we have all been impacted in some way, shape or form by this year’s events and most certainly by change in every aspect of our organizations.  Multiple disruptions from COVID-19 compliances, workforce management, sourcing and supply chain needs, project completions, customer demands and customer loss, employee wellness, motivation, and morale and so forth – representing just a few of any number of issues that begged attention.  Each of these also presented us with a challenge to make things better, more workable, suitable to ensuring a safer and competitive environment.  The future of Manufacturing we always spoke about was here – it is here – how can we or could we pivot to meet customer demands, reinvent ourselves, pave the way forward, employ automation, robotics, digitalization – do things better, more effectively and safely?

EMC (Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium) is a not-for-profit association of Manufacturers across Canada that has had its’ ear to the ground for the last three decades, listening to the challenges industry faces day in and day out and responding with connections, resources, services and programs as necessary. 

Through conversation with companies and community partners from coast to coast, virtual networking sessions, and ongoing Industry Pulse Surveys, we have heard from companies of all sizes and sectors about the lessons learned to date.  There is a wide array of answers ranging from the need for effective leaders who can chart the company course during stormy weather, the importance of communication, the intricacies of planning and management of onsite and offsite labour, to ensuring that risk assessments, business continuity and emergency preparedness plans are all encompassing and understood by everyone.  There are a million different lessons that can be extrapolated from this year including the importance of empathy, mental health awareness, ongoing training, and keeping people feeling involved and engaged.  If anything, COVID-19 has taught us that people are the most important aspect of our organizations and that we, as companies, are not as invincible as we may have thought.  Our ability to innovate or pivot, or bend where we need to bend to meet the demands placed upon us are all stepping stones to ensuring our companies are better prepared for the future.

Asking about lessons learned, how business is faring, where the challenges lie for companies and the opportunities they would like to explore, gather expertise in, connect with others on are all part of our EMC SIG (Strategic Interest Group) Networking Events – peer to peer connections that are focused on helping businesses grow and develop.  In over 60 Consortiums across Canada, Manufacturing Members gather together (virtually at the moment), to share best practices, to act as sounding boards, to lend support.  From Coast to Coast, EMC has diligently worked to build more competitiveness in Manufacturers through not only peer networking but a plethora of other programs and services. 

We care about our companies and the people within those organizations.  We do our best to listen to you and our programs and networking are based on your needs and interests.  We foster a culture of learning, motivation, engagement, and responsibility and create atmospheres for benchmarking and leadership skill development through training programs, ongoing peer activity and value-added program development.  A robust database of 1500 topics full of policies, procedures and connections provides Manufacturing Members with readily available answers, support materials and valuable peer insight.  Further to this we source and implement cost reduction programs and enhanced learning activities and provide alternative supply chain mediums through our B2B Opportunities and Shipping Program.  And, where we can we engage industry expertise to assist with human capital matters, energy cost reduction, funding, training, and so forth in an effort to help your business grow!

When the crisis began, our organization pivoted with ready assistance sharing COVID-19 related policies, procedures, guidelines, and protocols for any manufacturer regardless of Membership across Canada.    

We have continued that support with Legislative Events bringing the latest news and requested compliances to all of our Consortiums from Coast to Coast.  Nationally, Provincially and Regionally, invitations have been forwarded to companies inviting them to participate in networking activity that focuses on everything from raising mental awareness, to ongoing continuous improvement opportunities, to business growth and new market exploration.  We have gained such incredible insight from Manufacturers across this Country – as they navigated their organizations through COVID-19, willingly sharing details for others to learn from on the impact the pandemic had on them. 

Yes, we have learned a great deal these past few months – no doubt we are now all officially experts at Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and countless other platforms.  We are definitely adept at working from remote locations – and for some, this has become a permanent state of that role/position for a given business. 

When we look forward – with 2021 now in sight, what lies ahead for your company?  How will you navigate future opportunities?  What does your business need to be successful in the marketplace?  And how do you envision the future of manufacturing in your sector – a year from now?  Five years from now?  Ten?  These are questions that we will be asking through our ongoing networking activity, industry pulse surveys, and national sessions.

As I reflect on this year and take stock of the lessons learned personally and through all of our Manufacturing Members and Community Partners, I appreciate the fact that we are better prepared and better equipped, and it’s time for Leaders to chart “The Way Forward” to a positive 2021!

If you are interested in learning more about involvement in EMC’s Programs and Services including SIG (Strategic Interest Groups) or our Special Food and Beverage Sector Networking Sessions, please feel free to reach out and we would be happy to share information on what is coming up in your region!

Upcoming Food and Beverage Sector Events follow:

17-Nov-20 – Food Safety and Regulatory Virtual Summit

In November, from 17-19th, 2020, EMC is incredibly pleased to participate in the Strategy Institute’s Food Safety and Regulatory Virtual Summit.  This is going to be a phenomenal 3-day forum presenting a tremendous opportunity for anyone interested in participating!  As always, there will be presentations by CFIA and FDA and a robust line-up of Manufacturers’ and SME’s sharing information relating to conference themes.  This will be an immersive experience allowing participants to gain insight from best practice presentations and subject matter expertise. 

02-Dec-20 – “Environmental Monitoring Best Practices”

Casting a glance further down the schedule, we will finish our 2020 EMC Food & Beverage Sector year with an educational Best Practice Session on Environmental Monitoring hosted by 3M Canada in Milton, Ontario.  3M Canada - Food Safety, in partnership with Cornell University, recently completed an Environmental Monitoring Handbook for the food and beverage industry.  At this special event, we look forward to exploring the concepts of environmental monitoring, including controls, risk assessments, and recalls.  We are hoping that this will remain an in-person event, but COVID-19 may require us to move this virtually.

How do you get involved?  If you are interested in learning more about EMC (Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium) and the Food Sector Initiative, please feel free to touch base with Bren de Leeuw, Vice President, Community Partnerships and Stakeholder Relations ( anytime!

To see the full article in the MRO Winter 2020 publication, click here.