Canadian Manufacturing

Hasenfratz kicks off CMTS, pinpoints the factors behind Linamar’s success

Despite seeing positive outlook for Canadian manufacturers, CEO "scared" by talk of increases to corporate tax

TORONTO—The Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show kicked off Sept. 28, with nearly 700 suppliers showcasing more 1.3 million kilograms of industrial machinery and technology under one giant roof. Thousands of professionals converged on the bustling Mississauga, Ont. venue on the first day of the show, taking in some of the most advanced technology and solutions on the market today at Canada’s largest manufacturing event of the year.

Before the show’s doors were officially thrown open, Linamar Corp.’s CEO, Linda Hasenfratz took centre stage in an opening keynote address. Hasenfratz, who’s overseen Linamar’s expansion from a $800-million company to a globalized $4.2-billion manufacturing entity, shared some of her secrets to success and her view on Canada’s manufacturing landscape.

“We’ve had great success in growing our company since the speed bump we all hit in 2009… We think Canada’s actually a fantastic place to do business, to manufacture,” she said.

Linamar’s grown to be Canada’s second-largest company in the automotive sector, securing business worldwide and operating plants in the U.S., Mexico, Europe, Asia and here at home – all in an effort to stay close to its customers.

“We’re trying to stay close to our customers logistically. We think that makes sense from a variety of perspectives,” Hasenfratz said.

Product diversification, reaching global markets and beginning to focus on green technologies are three other factors the Guelph, Ont.-based company’s chief cited as reasons for Linamar’s success.

With North America now accounting for less than 20 per cent of vehicle production, and Asia’s share rising, it’s “critical to be in those markets if we want to continue to grow our business in the global sense,” Hasenfratz said.

The CEO was also positive on Canada’s manufacturing outlook, saying productivity and efficiency make the country a particularly good place to do business. She noted Canada’s low taxes compared to other jurisdictions, and the country’s willingness to invest in innovation in the form of tax breaks, as factors that make building a business in Canada appealing.

Still, Hasenfratz showed some apprehension about the political posturing in the lead up to next month’s election.

“When I hear some of the rhetoric going around with the election right now and the talk of increasing taxes, that scares me, because taxes are a big part of what makes us competitive in Canada and if that is at risk I think that is a real concern,” Hasenfratz said.

“That is a short term approach that will hurt Canadian manufacturing,” she added.

Beyond Hasenfratz’s keynote, industry players of all stripes—from mainstays such as tooling makers and automators to relative newcomers like 3D printing outfits and next-gen software solution companies—took to the floor, drumming up interest and prospective new business.

They’ll have three more days to rein in customers; CMTS runs through Thursday Oct. 1 at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont.

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