Canadian Manufacturing

Shortcutting the labour shortage with automation, customization, and centralization

by David Fauser, Director of Sales, CIMCO Refrigeration   

Manufacturing Operations Research & Development Sales & Marketing Technology / IIoT Electronics In Focus Industry 4.0 Manufacturing marketing Research Technology

By leveraging the power of automation, centralization, and customization within new software solutions, CIMCO was able to reimagine a number of processes and build a happier team.

Shortcutting the labour shortage with automation, customization, and centralization (Credit: jesterpop on Shutterstock)

Across Canada, the labour shortage has caused serious logistical issues for manufacturers as production capacity and short-staffed sales and field service teams struggle to keep up.

Recent research found 64% of businesses have been limited by labour shortages, and a new study found 83% of Canadian manufacturers are facing labour shortages and 75% finding hiring more difficult than the previous year.

At CIMCO Refrigeration, a 109-year-old Toronto-based division of Toromont focused on estimating, designing, manufacturing, building, selling, and supporting industrial refrigeration systems, 2 years ago we saw an opportunity to take a hard look at how we had traditionally operated and make serious changes to modernize our organization; all of which has allowed us to lessen the impact of the labour shortage so many are facing today.

Modernizing our organization with the right software


This story starts in 2018, when we started working with software solutions provider Zoho to integrate a variety of their tools into our business, most notably Zoho CRM and their low-code app development platform, Zoho Creator.

For years we were reliant on a system that was heavily influenced by team member’s individual preferences; ranging from them simply writing things down on paper to them inputting data into an app of their preference.

All of this added up to us not being able to gain the visibility and control over our operations we needed to find any inefficiencies and customize our workflows to account for them.

By leveraging the power of automation, centralization, and customization within our new software solutions, we were able to reimagine our many processes and gain visibility into the data that is most important for driving decisions; all of which lent themselves greatly to improving production capacity and employee retention.

Improving production through automation and customization

Many businesses have focused on growing their team to grow their capacity; a viable strategy under normal circumstances, but not when facing a labour shortage.

At CIMCO, we instead focused on automating the more menial tasks among our workforce – including our sales and field teams – and creating custom apps tailored to suit our exact needs rather than relying on pre-built solutions.

Through all of this we found ourselves with a team that was happier in their roles, which is a key focal point for long-term retention.

Improving employee coaching through centralization

Another major factor in employee retention is the quality and consistency of your training and coaching programs; and a lot can be achieved in this regard by centralizing your various processes and data feeds.

Through that centralization, we gained a new level of insight into our data, and we leveraged that data to pinpoint any shortcomings within our current employees skillsets or workflows and provide support for those employees by coaching them and nurturing their skills.

Our advice to other manufacturers

A digital transformation is a major undertaking and it is never perfect!

The key for us was to find a software partner that could help us understand what we did not know, and by obtaining input from all levels, allowing a safe space for failure and feedback, and by focusing on making the lives of our workers easier, we gave ourselves the best chance for success.

If you find yourself facing many of the issues we tackled in our digital transformation, you should be researching software solutions that can empower you to improve capacity by automating menial tasks, streamline your workflows through custom apps, and gain visibility into the processes and data needed to pinpoint shortcomings and nurture the skills of your team.

This will only help improve levels of capacity and improve employee retention, and at a time where so many are struggling to achieve this, few things could be so important.


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