Post-Pandemic Opportunities for Manufacturers

While the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced many challenges to the Canadian manufacturing industry, it has also created significant opportunity for innovation.

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The following article serves to complement the Southwestern Ontario Manufacturing Matters Virtual Event held on October 7th, 2021. All factual claims presented in this article have been sourced from the Business Development Bank of Canada and Oxford Economics.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted Canadian manufacturers across all industries. Shipping delays, labour shortages, and supply chain issues are just a few of the obstacles brought about by emergency restrictions implemented on a worldwide scale. As we continue to move forward in a post-pandemic environment, though, it is important for the manufacturing industry at large to recognize that not every change brought about by this crisis was a loss. Economic recovery has been reported since the latter half of 2020 and, as the average Canadian’s wealth increases, capitalization methods superior to those used before the pandemic become visible. Leaders in the manufacturing industry should be taking this time to adapt and strengthen their businesses to the modern economic landscape, and to determine strategic methods of remaining competitive far into the future.

Labour shortages were a significant issue in Canada’s manufacturing sphere long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but their impact has become especially prominent over the past eighteen months. The difficulties in finding and retaining skilled employees have only expounded due to the pandemic, and measures to address this collective problem must be taken if manufacturers expect to maintain profitability. While appealing to the desires and expectations of a youthful workforce is important, the role that technology plays in manufacturing will take centre stage as automation becomes more prominent. Evaluate your own business’s understanding of technology. Are you properly budgeting for advanced machinery? Can you identify any positions that could be automated for greater productivity? Have you weighed the cost of technology against that of a human employee? It’s true that not every task can be automated, but a significant part of the production process can be strengthened through the use of powerful machines. When integrating advanced technology into your business, though, be sure to also account for digital security measures — electronic data theft is a growing problem, and companies that employ high rates of technology are particularly vulnerable.

Canadian manufacturers should also recognize opportunities that exist in the American market. Just as the wealth of Canadian citizens is increasing, so too is that of consumers in the U.S., and international trade boundaries implemented due to the pandemic provide the capacity to achieve market dominance. In addition to the reduced shipping costs and fewer supply chain issues characteristic of intra-continental trade, Canadian goods maintain a very strong reputation in the United States, and the demand for our country’s products remains extremely high. The American economy has rebounded quickly from the lows of 2020, and the country’s consumption of goods has seen a marked increase, making the United States an ideal source of revenue for Canadian manufacturers. Those in the fields of food production, wood and lumber, and transportation should take particular note, as these areas have seen the greatest surges in both demand and profitability throughout the pandemic.

Adapting to the challenges introduced by COVID-19 has certainly been a struggle for every business, but there are a wide variety of solutions to these problems available for Canadian manufacturers if they are willing to realize them. Though fears of economic uncertainty may continue further throughout the decade, correct utilization of the many opportunities Canada’s manufacturing industry has access to will create security and prepare employers for adversity yet to come. 
 For more on post-pandemic manufacturing opportunities, contact Jason Bates, EMC’s Manufacturing Consortium Manager for Southwestern Ontario. Attend EMC events frequently for knowledge and expertise crucial to leaders in the Canadian manufacturing industry.

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