CME urges Canadian firms to be more competitive

A report issued June 4 by the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) organization has called for a national innovation strategy to enable Canadian manufacturers to keep pace with technological advances around the globe.

The study, entitled Striving for Excellence, analyzed productivity challenges facing Canada’s manufacturing space and concluded that businesses should take action in three areas to ensure long-term business success – customization of solutions being foremost.

According to the CME, manufacturers must focus marketing and customer relationships by offering tailored built-to-suit solutions, rather than traditional one-size-fits-all methods. Secondly, manufacturing corporations should think “lean” – producing the most value to customers – to lower costs and improve efficiency. Lastly, industry collaboration is key for developing innovative ideas, while helping to lower training and implementation costs through pooled resources.

“Canada is competing with a number of low-cost knowledge centres around the world,” said Jayson Meyers, senior vice-president and chief economist with CME. He was speaking at the Canada and CME Manufacturing Forum held at Microsoft Canada Corp.’s Mississauga, Ont. office. “The Canadian production and innovation problem is an investment problem. We are not getting the best efficiency out of technology and are not keeping pace with the competition and customers.”

He noted that while Canada is not yet last in the G7 block of innovative nations – France being first – being middle of the pack “doesn’t cut it anymore.”

“The name of the game today is customization and service,” Meyers said.

Microsoft Canada President Frank Clegg addressed these issues presented by the CME, noting that while there is a strong debate concerning the volatility of the IT market, Microsoft sees strong opportunity and plans to invest US$8 billion this year in R&D.

Microsoft demonstrated that it is acting on the innovation challenge with its Microsoft Business Solutions for Manufacturing, which provide integrated manufacturing applications and enable businesses to conduct forecasting, quality assurance, resource planning management and production management.

For Summo Steel Corp., a Burlington, Ont.-based steel manufacturer, Microsoft Business Solutions have enabled it to increase productivity while lowering cost.

“When it used to take us six months to track product performance, it was way too late to use that data,” said Mike Rowbottom, general manager of Summo. “We realized it is not just about what you are spending today, but what you save in the future.”

Rowbottom said the company was already familiar with Microsoft, having deployed several applications over the years. The move to implement Microsoft Business Solutions came based on the customization of the offerings – the point that the CME said is key.

“Most of the canned systems had functions we would never use,” he explained. “Microsoft has been very responsive to our needs.”

For more information on the CME study, visit