Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

We're a lean, mean manufacturing machine

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Manitoba has become a hotbed of lean manufacturing disciplines and strategies with an enviable track record of success.

For close to a decade now, the provincial chapter of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) has been delivering support and training on lean productivity strategies and operates a handful of lean consortia that are self-sustaining.

In the past few years, CME has also has developed very focused programs for its members on trade and technology development.

Now the CME is looking to package that all together, emphasizing the strategic importance of innovation. As part of those efforts, it acquired the rights to deliver a field-tested program from the U.S. called Innovation Engineering developed by a former Proctor & Gamble executive.

The province's department of Jobs and the Economy announced Wednesday it is investing $1.1 million for two years to support that initiative as well as ongoing CME programs in trade and technology and another that connects high-school students to manufacturing careers.

"We really appreciate the investment," said Ron Koslowsky CME Manitoba's executive vice-president.

He said he understands some might view this kind of government funding as a handout, but Koslowsky firmly believes there is a solid return on investment for the province as well as broad commitment from industry participants.

He said, "There are more manufacturers producing more stuff and retaining jobs here because they are more competitive and more innovative and well resourced. You look at all those thing put together and it's a very successful return on investment for the government."

Jobs and the Economy Minister Theresa Oswald said the CME in Manitoba is very highly regarded across the country.

The province has invested close to $3.5 million in the CME since 2004.

"Our relationship with the CME has been really, really strong," she said. "We can look at the initiatives we have funded in the past and the concrete deliverables coming out of that and it is not a great stretch to connect the dots with strong performance in manufacturing Manitoba that held firm in a really difficult downturn."

The province has typically funded the CME in partnership with the federal government, but Ottawa is not participating this time.

The CME has already done some training of its own staff to deliver the new innovation program. It's also already run some pilot programs with a few companies Koslowsky said have produced great results and enthusiastic participation.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2014 B4

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