September 11, 2018 Shawn CasemoreEMC Member Blogs 1115 Views

We are living in exciting times, and no sector demonstrates this better than manufacturing in Grey County. Despite the closure of a few long-standing landmarks in the local area in recent years, there are still dozens of manufacturers who are thriving in the region, growing their products and their staff at the same time. The economic benefits are realized not only by the local community, but also by the very employees that have the good fortune to work and live in such a beautiful area as Grey Country, which ensures manufacturers in Grey County are here to stay.

The growth these manufacturers are experiencing however doesn’t come easy. Whether it is the cost to compete in a global market, rising costs of transportation and energy or a shortage of skilled talent, manufacturers locally are working day in and day out to overcome what can often seem like insurmountable obstacles. Even cross-border trading and tariffs that were once stable and predictable are now uncertain in the current political climate. Despite these challenges, there is no doubt manufacturers in Grey County and Canada as a whole are a resilient bunch.

To observe this resilience in action we need look no further then to some of the most recognizable manufacturers in Grey County, a few of which we have had the good fortune of working closely with here at EMC for several years.

OWEN SOUND LEDGEROCK recently celebrated 60 years in business in Grey County. The company is a nationally recognized leader supplying decorative limestone for a wide array of commercial, residential and landscaping projects, supporting local and regional construction, with the capability of providing unique products to various music and sports superstars. Being in a small community has provided a limited amount of resources for Owen Sound Ledgerock which has pushed operations to focus on continuously improving their processes while investing in technology and supporting their people. Most recently, Owen Sound Ledgerock has invested in several new pieces of equipment, technology to support the equipment’s operation, and a material control system that will ultimately extend the life of the quarries through improved efficiencies and reduced waste. Similar to many manufacturers in our area as well as provincially and nationally, Owen Sound Ledgerock has been experiencing a shortage of qualified workers. Promoting from within, a longstanding practice to support development of their employees, has become ever more important in this tight job market.

“In the stone business there isn’t enough people coming in with a lot of stone knowledge, so we hire internal for new positions, especially higher positions, because they already have knowledge of the different types of materials as there is a lot to learn about the business. We’ve been experiencing a decline in resume’s being submitted over the past five years. Here we are in August and we still haven’t filled the shop yet. We are still looking for people. We are looking for options of what we can do to create some incentives, especially with the effect that the minimum wage hike has had,” Joe Ryckman – Plant Manager

VOKES FURNITURE has been in business in Grey Country for over 18 years, manufacturing the highest of quality 100% Canadian made solid wood furniture. As Vokes has invested in entering new markets both nationally and internationally, the strength and recognition of the Vokes Furniture brand has grown exponentially. Customers recognize that Vokes Furniture stands for quality, craftsmanship and experience, something that is hard to find in the competitive market of furniture manufacturing. This recognition has led to double digit growth during the past several years. Also similar to Owen Sound Ledgerock, Vokes Furniture is not investing in new products but rather continuously improving on the things they do best. More recently, they have undertaken a transformational LEAN journey that in turn has transformed the Vokes facility and more importantly the culture of the employees. In speaking with Mike Vokes, the owner and President of Vokes Furniture, he mentioned that a pivotal point was reached when he and his leadership team recognized that by helping employees introduce and realize their improvement ideas customers would receive higher standards in the end product. By empowering his team at Vokes, Mike was able to ensure Vokes Furniture is well positioned to support the consistent growth in demand and continue to grow their customer base and revenues in the months and years to come - nothing but good news for the team at Vokes furniture, and great news for the employees who work and live in Grey County.

“90% of the ideas that are being brought forward are not going to work, but the 10% that do make the company so much better,” Mike Vokes – President of Vokes Furniture

ECL (ELECTRICAL CONTACTS LIMITED), located in the town of Hanover, has been in business for 48 years, supporting the local community in various ways. A manufacturer devoted exclusively to the production of contact materials for circuit breakers, ECL has continued to experience growth and opportunity in recent years, enabling them to expand and grow their business, hiring more employees and talent in Grey County. Although standing outside of the unmarked ECL building might be misleading, have no doubt that innovation and creativity are constantly happening amongst their team of 125 employees. A great deal of this growth and expansion is on account of ECL’s growing market share beyond Canada, with a significant percentage of their business being sold to fortune 500 companies. Having seen upwards of 60% revenue growth during the past decade, there are very strong indications that the future of ECL will remain in an upward direction. Their competition simply can’t compete with the quality and innovation that ECL and its team can provide. By focusing on fewer products, ECL has been able to ensure customer requests are dealt with in a rapid fashion, which in turn has grown their popularity and reputation in the electrical contact market. The recent introduction of two new CNC machines and a robot integrated with a Haas Mill has allowed ECL to vertically integrate more of their manufacturing by producing their own jigs and fixtures in house. In addition, ECL has turned their attention to ensuring their long-term sustainability as a manufacturer in Grey County, with their primary focus being placed on efforts in the areas of team building, implementing LEAN practices and sending dedicated employees to leadership training. Positively influencing the culture in the workplace and applying the soft skills learned is leveraging the enhancements needed for improved processes and expansion. The future looks electrifying for ECL, its team and customers. A quick look “under the hood” at these three Grey County manufacturers makes it plain to see that beautiful scenery and quaint hospitality are not the only things that make the area a great place to live. A strong business community of local manufactures ensures that our area is also a great place to work. Their continued efforts and diligence are setting a strong foundation to ensure things continue to be made in grey for many years to come.

Just like these manufacturers, we at EMC have been proud to support our local manufacturing community for over 30 years. Our primary goal is to support and assist in the growth and development of manufacturers in Grey County and throughout Canada, which we achieve by promoting a sharing mentality within local community-based clusters of our members. If a manufacturer has a successful process that isn’t a trade secret, chances are it could be shared and applied with other manufactures too, helping to save valuable time and resources. In addition to our cluster development, we’ve been supporting our members through various training and employee development initiatives since our inception. This ensures our members’ employees can receive training that will help them excel in their careers and provide their employers with the highly skilled employees they desire.

Manufacturers are at the core of our local economy. The hard work these and other manufacturers in the area put forth on a daily basis ensures a strong economy and new economic growth for the region. We’re proud to be a part of Grey County and rest assured will continue to support manufacturers in the region for decades to come.

Read the full edition of Made in Grey -