If Canada wants to make its mark in the manufacturing world, there are two essential ingredients to success: innovation and high value goods.
The era of manufacturing me-too and commodity type products is long gone, and the only way Canada can compete against manufacturing powerhouses like China and India is to set itself apart from the competition. The manufacturing industry in Canada can do this by focusing on creating innovative, value-added made-in-Canada products.
Sadly, the tools to achieve this goal are lacking in Canada. Just ask Bob Huybrechts, president of the Innovation Initiative, an inventor’s cooperative he formed in 2003 to help other inventors avoid the same mistakes he made in the 90s trying to bring his invention to market. A dental technologist, he invented a new plastic in 1988 in his Ontario lab, a thermo elastic acrylic that improves the design of dentures. His product, which allows users to adjust dentures to fit more comfortable simply by using warm water, is now being sold in 17 countries. But it is not made in Canada.
“I tried very hard to have my product made in Canada and held off going to the US to get it to market, but it’s almost impossible to do anything in Canada – raising capital, getting manufacturing and government support. There is little available for inventors with good ideas who want to have products made in Canada.”
Indeed, most members of the cooperative who have successfully brought products to market are manufacturing them in the US or China, and Huybrechts doesn’t think the situation in Canada is going to change any time soon. In part, it’s because of the continued lack of support for innovation, adds Huybrechts.
“To banks – and to governments – innovation means companies that already have large cash flows, but the best ideas are still produced by the regular Joe on the street who, against all odds, comes up with an idea that takes off. The government doles out billions of dollars to institutions and for corporate research but how much of that money has resulted in breakthroughs of new products?”
Some manufacturers have managed to jump the hurdles and succeed in here. Canada Goose, a company that started manufacturing cold weather apparel in 1957, bucked the trend of moving its manufacturing to China and continues to made its goose and duck down parkas in Canada. The popular brand is recognized around the world, and has put Canada on the map in the clothing manufacturing sector. Part of its success lies in the high quality of its product.
If Canada Goose can do it, can’t other manufacturers achieve the same success through innovation and high value-added products? It’s a question being asked more and more today, even from within the manufacturing industry in this country. Canada Goose, and among others, is an example of how Canadian manufacturers can succeed.
Have any comments? I’d like to hear from you! Email me Mary Scianna, editor or telephone 647 932 4477.