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Moving Towards Innovation: 5 Key Messages to Manufacturers

Josiane Guay No comment

During its stop in Sherbrooke on February 10, 2017, Investissement Québec’s tour regarding its Initiative manufacturière / Propulser nos manufacturiers innovants (Initiatives in the manufacturing sector / Driving innovation among our manufacturers) conveyed 5 messages to manufacturers already introducing (essential) innovation into their factories and to those still hesitant to do so.

Tournée Initiative manufacturière - Sherbrooke

Firstly, Initiative manufacturière consists of:

  • A tour to raise awareness among stakeholders in the manufacturing sector – you! – on the importance of innovation to become more productive, which will culminate in a provincial forum on April 7, 2017;
  • $1B made available to Québec innovative manufacturers through the Ministère de l’Économie, de la Science et de l’Innovation, Investissement Québec, and partners of the Initiative – Fonds de solidarité FTQ, STIQ, Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec, Groupement des chefs d’entreprise du Québec, and the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ – Québec Federation of Chambers of Commerce);
  • A 10-point action plan to enhance the competitiveness of manufacturing companies and increase private investments by tackling three major issues: the workforce, innovative products and processes, and exports.

Learn more »

One after another, the speakers passed on numerous key messages, in addition to stirring up motivation among the record crowd in the provincial tour, with 260 attendants – a clear signal of the region’s interest in innovation!

  1. Lack of innovative projects!

Pierre Gabriel Côté, the CEO of Investissement Québec, called out to all manufacturers, reminding them of the $1B available to Initiative manufacturière partners.

  1. Manufacturing sector growing and evolving

“The downturn is over; the manufacturing sector is resilient and going through reindustrialisation,” said Antoine Audy-Julien, from Deloitte, right at the start of his briefing on the manufacturing sector in Québec.

At the provincial level, the manufacturing GDP increased by 3% between 2012 and 2014. In the Estrie region – the 7th largest manufacturing region in Québec –, capital asset investments took a giant step forward, increasing by 42% between 2008 and 2016.

Likewise, Minister of Economy, Science and Innovation and Minister responsible for the Digital Strategy, Dominique Anglade, noted that there is no longer a question of a traditional economy versus a new economy, but rather a single economy that must evolve in all sectors.

  1. Several growth opportunities for manufacturers
  • Industry 4.0: An array of new connected technologies

The aim of these technologies is not to replace humans, but to collaborate with them, hence the new skills being introduced into factories.

Minister Anglade also stated that the objective of modernizing the sector and increasing productivity is to enhance performance on global markets and increase our market shares to thus be in a position to create new jobs and maintain existing ones.

The Minister also focused on two drivers to increase productivity: modernization and education, in addition to the underlying need to bridge the gap between skilled workers and the labour shortage.

P.S. The STIQ is developing a 4.0 factory certification. Keep an eye out for it!

  • The United States, our largest business customer

Indeed, the election of Donald Trump has established a climate of uncertainty with the reopening of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and reinstatement of an American protectionist policy, but Québec remains the most important business partner of 30 out of the 52 American states, stressed Antoine Audy-Julien by stating that it is necessary to continue tapping into this market while adapting.

The same approach was adopted by the Sherbrooke manufacturer of industrial electric vehicles, Motrec International. Its president, Blair McIntosh, pointed out that the company decided to turn threats into opportunities.

Minister Anglade expanded on this, stating that adopting a protectionist policy in reaction to American protectionism would be the worst possible approach.

  • Free-trade agreements

Of major note, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which has recently been ratified by the European Parliament and is to come into effect within a few weeks, thus eliminating more than 98% of customs duties.

However, caution must be taken as a certain number of aspects must be assessed prior to venturing into exports, such as taxation, marketing, intellectual property, rules of origin, workforce, and regulatory compliance, warns BSF legal counsel Didier Culat, who concluded by saying that the key to success is to plan ahead and obtain guidance.

  • Substituting manufacturing imports

A possible approach is to manufacture products locally instead of relying on imports. Many sectors are ripe with business opportunities, expressed Antoine Audy-Julien, including: machinery and tooling (one of the Estrie region’s top 3 flagship sectors!), drugs and medical equipment, transportation vehicles and parts, etc.

  1. Innovate or disappear

General Director Sylvain Roux, from Entreprises Dauphinais in Sherbrooke, adamantly stated that had the company not made the move towards innovation over the past few years, it would no longer exist today.

Over the past five years, the manufacturer of refrigerated display counters has reinvented itself by focusing on innovative products to radically diversify its markets. The company’s leader proudly noted that 85% of its sales are of products invented by the company, which has consequently greatly expanded the variety of its customer base.

  1. Dare to innovate with passion

The advice of Sylvain Roux is to dare to innovate, and to integrate innovation into corporate culture. It requires taking a leap of faith, but once you’ve harnessed this and turned it into a positive driving force, it yields results.

For example, Entreprises Dauphinais uses multidisciplinary work teams to multiply innovative solutions to everyday obstacles.

Innovation is also central to the practices of Conceptromec, a company based in Magog, where the ideas originate from the shop floor as well as from committees, noted President Stéphane Bégin. The company’s employees have a strong desire to upgrade their skills and to push their limits, and accordingly, they should be provided with the opportunity to do so.

The President concluded by stating that passion is the key to success!