On May 1, 2013, our team had the opportunity to attend the Manufacturing Innovation Network (MIN) Summit in Kitchener, Ontario. The keynote speaker, Ray Tanguay, (Chairman, Toyota Canada Inc.) discussed the importance of investing in innovation, steps Canadian businesses should be taking to compete in the market, and how to sustain a successful business by applying Toyota Motor Manufacturing principles (to be more efficient, respect one another, and focus on continued improvement).
The main points from Mr. Tanguay’s speech include:
1) Competition in the market It is cheaper to build factories, manufacture products, and pay employees in countries such as the United States or Mexico. However, Canada is “a good place to live”, with an educated workforce, good healthcare, and great “advanced manufacturing” abilities. Mr. Tanguay explained how important it is to promote trade with the USA; he views the construction of the second bridge in Windsor is an important trade investment.
2) Importance of innovation “Innovation is using what you have to make things better and produce products the most efficiently.” (Ray Tanguay) Investing in innovation is vital, although you may not see the benefits of innovation immediately. Innovation can mean investing billions of dollars per year into research and testing programs. However, it can also mean involving and empowering the workforce. Mr. Tanguay explained that at the Toyota plants in Kitchener and Woodstock, team members are encouraged to come up with and implement solutions themselves when confronted with a problem.
3) Work Values “Never be satisfied with yesterday’s victories.” (Ray Tanguay) When Toyota is awarded an achievement, they celebrate, and then he steers his workforce to the next step to improvement.
Tanguay’s speech is relevant to all Canadian industries. With competition rising, it is more important than ever to invest in innovation to stay ahead of the game. Mr. Tanguay said he often has to explain why doing business in Canada is so much more expensive than setting up a factory in the USA or Mexico. Canada has higher labour and manufacturing costs. However, Canadian companies deliver quality products. Mr. Tanguay uses Toyota as an example of why to continue business in Canada – they have earned international and national awards, and have set systems in place to promote innovation and excellence, while producing quality vehicles in Canada at an increasing rate. He feels that his skilled workforce makes all the difference; he pointed out that the people doing the job know the job best.
Many of Mr. Tanguay’s points really hit home for us, at Taylor’d Ergonomics. We understand that the knowledge of workers is invaluable. We interview workers throughout our assessment process, asking about any issues that may not be apparent. Before implementing a solution, we mock up solutions and involve workers in the process. Innovation is key for us as well; we are always looking for ways to improve the quality of our work through research, client feedback, and by working as a team through new challenges. Business concepts that are developed by and commonly applied to large corporations can have applications for a consulting business as well!