Canadian Manufacturing

How small and mid-sized manufacturers can overcome today’s challenges

by Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief, Revolutionized   

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Small-to-mid-sized manufacturers must stay mindful of new developments and respond to them as nimbly as possible to minimize complications.

A maintenance and reliability assessment improves functions and addresses problems. PHOTO: Adobe Stock

Today’s small-to-mid-sized manufacturers face various obstacles that can negatively impact competitiveness, profits, and more. However, having a forward-thinking attitude and willingness to try new approaches can help them maintain momentum and marketplace stability despite manufacturing challenges.

Here are some specific methods to try to improve the outcomes of any adverse circumstances and emerge from them better than before.

Rebuild or restructure supply chains

Manufacturing workers worldwide have recently experienced supply chain-related challenges. These obstacles range from long-term shortages to increased lead times that make it harder to keep clients satisfied.

A March 2022 survey showed that 9 in 10 Canadian manufacturers are dealing with supply chain difficulties. Moreover, 60% of respondents reported experiencing major or severe impacts. When asked about their responses to these manufacturing challenges, 8 in 10 mentioned they raised prices and could not fulfill customer orders as quickly.


Many small-to-mid-sized manufacturers in the United States have taken matters into their own hands by creating supply chains that are less dependent on distant locations. That’s not always feasible, however – 44% of those polled in the previously mentioned survey said there were no Canadian-based suppliers of critically needed goods.

Even so, manufacturers should look for opportunities to gradually make their supply chains more localized. Then, they can become more resilient against potential shocks that get exacerbated when products travel longer distances.

Treat employees well to reduce manufacturing challenges

The manufacturing sector has had persistent trouble attracting enough workers and retaining them for the long term. That’s particularly problematic since a survey of people associated with small and medium-sized businesses indicated a desire to increase headcount by as much as 10% in the coming years. Some people participating in the study noted they’d help accommodate that need with automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

Those options are a start, but they don’t create the employee willingness needed for employers to make the most of their human resources investments. That’s why workplace leaders must start with the basics. That means paying employees fairly and listening to their suggestions for making improvements.

When employees have favorable opinions of working for small-to-mid-sized manufacturers, they’ll be more likely to stick around, even when challenges arise. Plus, they may recommend that friends and family work at the same places, boosting manufacturers’ retention efforts.

Make energy generation and consumption changes

Manufacturers may find that on-site renewable power generation provides another path for strengthening their companies. Renewable energy minimizes dependence on imports and reduces emissions.

Statistics from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) Business Barometer published in May 2022 found that fuel and energy prices represented significant cost constraints, and 76% of respondents mentioned them.

Since production facilities use so much energy, the rising costs often turn into manufacturing challenges. Fortunately, small-to-mid-sized manufacturers have some control over those ballooning expenses.

Research from the International Energy Agency about increasing the resilience of small businesses in Europe highlighted smart meters and controls as instrumental in curbing energy costs. Statistics indicated a potential 40% reduction in energy use. Even though that takeaway relates to the European market, it shows why Canadian businesses should strongly consider deploying such energy technologies too.

Small-to-mid-sized manufacturers must adapt

There are no quick and guaranteed fixes for the current raft of manufacturing challenges. However, small-to-mid-sized manufacturers must stay mindful of new developments and respond to them as nimbly as possible to minimize complications.


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