A diamond in the rough

Joe Terrett   

Business Operations Economy General Operations Production Manufacturing manufacturing plant PLANT Magazine

Welcome to 2016, and what a year it’s shaping up to be for manufacturing and PLANT, which has been serving Canadian industry for 75 years. During that time manufacturing has experienced many changes, as has this magazine.

Indeed, you’ll notice the issue size is different. We have switched to a nine by 12-inch format from the tabloid size (11 by 16 inches) that was adopted in 1988 as a way to stand out among the various industrial magazines. We are looking to stand out again with this new size, which is shorter than a tabloid but bigger than a standard magazine. We like to call it “management size” for PLANT’s busy readers and inside you’ll find the same mix of news, features and opinion that reflects what’s important to Canada’s manufacturing community.

There have been many ups and downs over the past 75 years, but it was the darkest period of the 20th century that shifted Canada’s industrial power into high gear. With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Canada was challenged to create a strong industrial base almost from scratch to produce weapons and war materials for the Allied cause. It did so and then some. Safe from German bombing, Canada became an arsenal for the war effort, with production topping $10 billion by 1945.

Britain lost 75,000 of its 80,000 military vehicles at Dunkirk, and Canada’s automotive industry more than replaced them. In fact, during the war years manufacturers rolled 800,000 transport vehicles off their lines, plus 50,000 tanks, field guns, small arms, and ammo, plus much more.


When the war began, the aerospace industry was eight small plants employing 4,000 people, producing 40 planes a year. By war’s end, it employed 116,000 people and had topped 4,000 planes a year.

Not bad for a country of 11.3 million.

When Maclean Hunter began publishing PLANT Administration in 1941, manufacturing employed close to 802,000 men and women. By the height of the war in 1943, employment topped 1 million, women accounting for 285,000, which is more than double the number employed prior to the war.

In 1941, the average manufacturing wage was $1,220 a year, or based on a 40-hour workweek, about 59 cents an hour. By 1945, the average annual wage was $1,538. Today, the average weekly wage is close to $1,100.

PLANT’s objectives in 1941 were to address the key concerns of industry, which included: finding new ways to do things faster and better; develop better relationships with labour; pay more attention to the health and morale of workers; raise effectiveness to points never thought possible; and cut operating costs to the lowest “consistent” point.

Much has changed in the intervening years, but the objectives are remarkably similar today.

The world is a safer place than it was during the war years, although experts polled by the World Economic Forum warn us of the many risks we face today, from natural disasters related to climate change to the rise of terrorists, and hacking. The global economy isn’t looking too hot either, as Canada endures a commodities downturn that’s crippling the energy industry. And the dollar is low again, making investments more expensive. You could say PLANT’s 75th anniversary year is a diamond in the rough.
On the other hand, a low loonie is good for exports, especially to the US, our biggest customer. And the conditions are in place to broaden access to markets outside North America, despite the pokey economy.

Canada’s manufacturers have demonstrated 75 years worth of creativity and resilience, and will continue to do so, with PLANT doing what it has done since 1941, delivering information that will help your companies succeed, while celebrating your successes.


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