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Waterloo Region – What’s inside the box?

Manufacturing in Action – May 1, 2012

Rob Evans, Business Development Officer, Canada's Technology Triangle

Rob Evans is a Business Development Officer at Canada’s Technology Triangle

Waterloo Region – What’s in the box? Innovation. Unexpectedly. And its born right here in my backyard. The Region was well represented at the recent Manufacturing Innovation Network Summit by today’s government, business and education leaders carrying on the legacy of some 150 years of modern innovation. From buttons and tires to the world’s first non-Japanese made Lexus, satellites and cameras used on the Mars rover, Waterloo Region has continually reinvented itself. The MIN Summit offered an ideal format in which to explore what’s happening from a local / global perspective, connect with leaders in the field and learn about critical business support services together at Bingemans Conference Centre  all in about half a day.

So…it got me thinking. What is innovation? Really. What does it look like? An innovative and successful marketer (who I once had the pleasure of working with) once told me, “Everybody wants to innovate, as long as it’s been done before.” It’s true, often people aren’t prepared or lack the support to be able to innovate. I’m privileged to have seen hundreds of some of the top precision manufacturers across North America and I can say the same holds true. Heck, innovation is not for everyone – there are certainly different ways to drive profits through manufacturing.

 

The Honorable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance delivered a keynote address highlighting Canada’s economic success on the global scene and the need for responsible fiscal management. He talked about the importance of Canada’s manufacturing sector and it’s relevance in the world. There are competitive trends showing we still have work to do, and there was the call for continually improving our productivity and striving to be innovative. Canada’s Technology Triangle – the Region of Waterloo was highlighted for its world-class manufacturing innovations in automotive, aerospace and wireless.

When looking for innovative ways to create opportunities in business, the MIN Summit proved able to showcase this area in seemingly countless examples. One key trend that clearly transcends the 22% of people in our area employed in the manufacturing sector is our ability to capitalize on ‘innovation’ through collaboration.

While I enjoyed hearing about all the companies making amazing products, unique design principles, new funding options, better ways to approach SRED audits and managing tax credits, my favourite topic was competition collaboration.

One of the best examples I heard was in a session describing the all-too-common need for higher margins with the local competitive situation and pressure facing local markets – typical of mature industry with nearer-sighted competition. In this case, the person met with some competitors to discuss broader horizons and their respective strengths. After this exploration, a product for export was conceived to leverage the strengths of each company (conceding making the entire product, but happy be involved in the assembly) and derived a higher combined margin. They weren’t also always chasing the same domestic business, ensuring more growth than otherwise possible. Through collaboration, innovation is driving new, never-before-seen profits.

Waterloo Region – What’s inside our box? It’s shiny, well-made and whatever you can conceive.

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