NGen Chief Outlines Challenges Facing Canadian Manufacturers

TORONTO — Canadian manufacturers face a series of challenges, including a looming labor shortage, the head of Next Generation Manufacturing Canada said today.

“It’s a very disruptive and very volatile business environment today,” said Jayson Myers, CEO of NGen, during the opening keynote at the FABTECH Canada SMB Show at the Toronto Convention Centre. “It’s going to be a tough few years here.”

NGen is a not-for-profit organization that funds manufacturing projects and conducts workforce development activities.

One of the biggest issues facing Canadian manufacturers is an aging workforce, Myers said.

“We have a big skills problem in Canada,” the NGen chief said. “Twenty-five percent of the workforce will be retired by 2030. We’re going to have to increase productivity by 25% by 2030. The need to increase productivity will drive automation.

Manufacturers also face economic problems.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February caused oil prices to spike. The average price of gasoline in the United States is now over $5 per gallon. Inflation is rising worldwide. In the United States, the Federal Reserve raises interest rates in an attempt to calm inflation.

Myers also said there were more tensions between Canada and its southern neighbour. “We see the United States becoming more protectionist,” he said.

Beyond that, Myers said, Canada and other countries face challenges in developing electric vehicles.

Electric vehicle batteries need to last longer, he added.

“The electric vehicle industry today is completely unsustainable,” Myers said. Electric vehicle technology is changing rapidly and “will be fundamentally different in five years.”

Manufacturers also need a new mindset, the NGen official said.

Companies need to think of themselves as providers of solutions, not just products.

“A product is not a solution,” he said. “We have to be flexible, we have to be agile.”