SHOP: What are CAMM members expecting for 2023 in terms of business conditions?
THIARA: There is a great deal of uncertainty that is looming over us with all this rhetoric of economic doom and gloom but when we are out in the field there is a lot of activity. I personally visit a lot of moulding facilities and they’re all busy and some are even working seven days a week. There are some OEMs who have put orders on hold but only because there is such a backlog of orders at mould shops that can’t be completed due to unavailable parts or raw materials and logistics issues. So rather than adding more orders to the pipeline they want to give the mould shops a chance to get caught up before they release any more orders to them. Specifically in the Windsor area, the electric vehicle plant that is going in there has created a lot of positive energy in the region that is going to create a lot of opportunities to that area and beyond.
SHOP: What’s the single biggest issue facing moldmaking industry?
THIARA: Workforce is going to be the biggest hindrance in 2023. The electric vehicle plant in Windsor is one example. They’re going to be employing upwards of 2,500 people and of that about 500 are engineers. They will effectively be pulling engineers from across the country while everyone is struggling for talent. So, it’s going to further heighten the demand for skilled trades people that we have. This has been an ongoing issue for many years and there needs to be a real strategy in addressing it. It’s not something you can turn around in a year or two. It can’t be addressed by the industry alone. It needs to be a collective approach by industry, government and the educators and it needs to happen. There has been a lot of talk about doing this or that but no real solid plan addressing it. We have to take advantage of our skilled workforce still working right now so they can transfer some of their skills to the newcomers. Time is of the essence because we have folks who are set to retire. We have a very limited window for them to transfer that knowledge, which is invaluable. There is only so much that we can learn from books. The “tricks of the trade”, so to speak, that these talented folks have built up over the years need to be transferred to the younger generation.
SHOP: Can automation play a role in the talent shortage?
THIARA: The generation of today doesn’t want to be in dark, dirty, and dangerous environments. Automation allows manufacturing to change that perception completely. You are into programming and being able to do the jobs that back in the day you had to get dirty to do. The young generation they’re all about technology and automation will really work towards changing the perception of manufacturing and make it more appealing to the next generation. Parents don’t really tell their kids to go into manufacturing, yet manufacturing is such a broad field and so much of it has changed and come a long way.
SHOP: What’s your advice for executives planning for next year?
THARA: Be open to new initiatives and new opportunities that may arise out of the conditions of the marketplace, especially the EV plant going into Windsor. I think that’s going to present a whole new set of strategies for companies in terms of products they can work with and services they and offer. You need to be in a situation where you can pivot and explore new opportunities because that’s going to be key. Canadian manufacturers did that during Covid so they proved that it can be done. There were so many companies which pivoted and completely changed what they were producing as a product. We had automotive suppliers all of a sudden producing face shields. Companies really need to explore new avenues. The market is changing and you have to think of new ways that your company can add value. We are in a transitional stage, and we need to be open to exploring opportunities and expanding capabilities.