Sometimes a Crisis Is All It Takes to Bring Manufacturing Back to Canada

As Canada and the rest of the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains for vital supplies are falling apart causing shortages of much-needed supplies as countries keep these supplies for themselves first.  It’s causing much fear, anger, hostility and driving up costs for the few that can afford to purchase.  Meanwhile, our health system is bearing the brunt of this and people are dying as a result.

Countless companies are now mobilizing to retool their manufacturing processes to be able to meet the demand for critical supplies such as test kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment.  One thing this pandemic has taught us is that we can’t always count on offshored sources for these supplies when the demand becomes greater than the supply.  Canada over the years has done what many other countries have done, slowly outsourced much of its manufacturing, jobs and unknowingly our lifeline to critical medical supplies.

After Prime Minister Trudeau and many of the provincial premiers put out a call to action for companies of all sizes to do what they can to mobilize to manufacture personal protective equipment, many companies did just that and are jumping through many hurdles to quickly retool their manufacturing to help out.

One such company, Novo Textiles in Coquitlam, BC which usually makes pillows and dog beds among other items, has retooled their operation to produce much-needed respirators.  Innovators such as this who saw their productions lines come to a stop bought the necessary equipment and had it air-freighted in quickly from China and in quick order is now making 100,000 surgical masks a week.  Very soon they will set up another line to make an additional 100,000 N95 masks per week.  They will also start producing medical-grade pillows for hospitals.  Innovators like this will bring Canada out of this pandemic.

Many other companies are stepping up to the plate.

Woodbridge in Vaughn, ON has started producing face masks with plans to ramp up to a million masks per week.

Smaller companies are jumping on board and doing what they can as well.  Penetanguishene’s Industrial Filter Manufacturing has set up production lines to produce face masks.

The government is working with Ventilators for Canadians, CAE & Thornhill Medical and a group led by StarFish Medical to produce up 30,000 ventilators – all Made in Canada.

Companies like Arc’Teryx, Canada Goose, Stanfield’s, Autoliv and Brians Custom Sports in Kingsville, ON are part of a group of 20 companies that are producing medical gowns and establishing new supply chains here in Canada.

Hockey gear maker Bauer is creating face shields and will be producing hundreds of thousands in the coming weeks.  Employees at Ford Engine plant have come on board producing and donating face shields.

Hiram Walker set up their manufacturing almost immediately to produce hand-sanitizing liquids and have been donating and delivering for free to long term care & retirement homes, hospitals, clinics, etc.

Other alcohol-producing companies are stepping up to do the same.

The Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association (APMA), Canadian Association of MoldMakers (CAMM), Automate Canada and many other associations are bringing together their members, brainstorming and having emergency planning sessions with competitive companies working together like never before.  They are all doing their part to produce face masks, moulds for plastic parts needed for higher production levels for medical supplies, working on ventilators, face shields, etc.

Even very small companies, groups and individuals are working with their 3D printers to produce headbands for face shields, dressmakers & individuals making non-medical face masks. Seems everyone is trying to do their part for the cause.

Amazon will aid in distribution within its wide network to ensure delivery of medical equipment where it is most needed.

This partial list gives you an idea of the number of companies working to bring the manufacturing back to Canada.  Many of the companies listed are tooling up for likely sustained production to keep supplies readily available in Canada for immediate use and the future.  Some companies have set up temporarily working for immediate needs, many of which are donating time and material to help beat COVID-19 in their local communities.  Canada’s manufacturers, large and small are chipping in to help out all of our frontline workers in their battle against COVID-19.

We can all help to beat this by doing what we can with social distancing and sheltering in place.

When this all becomes a bad memory, many of these companies will lead the way in bringing prosperity back to Canada and also lead the way in reshoring manufacturing of these necessary and essential products here in Canada so that we are not dependent on other countries for them.  Hopefully, it will also make many other companies also realize that it is not always cheaper or better to produce elsewhere if we can keep it MADE IN CANADA!  We can all do our part moving forward by actively seeking out where possible or asking for a Made in Canada product.

April 8, 2020


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