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Making it.

Making It

Manitoba's secondary manufacturing sector is not the largest in Canada, but it is recognized as the most highly-diversified in the country. No other province comes even close to matching it. Indeed, it is a lot simpler to list the industrial product categories not found in Manitoba - tobacco and rubber - than it is to list the 20 that are represented here.

This diversity - not only in manufacturing, but in all economic sectors - has served to insulate the Manitoba economy from the boom and bust cycles prevalent elsewhere. Also on the plus side, Manitoba's manufacturing diversity proved instrumental in attracting the National Research Council's Institute of Industrial Technology to Winnipeg, in spite of loud protests from Canada's industrial heartland in Ontario.

While other western provinces are desperately seeking diversity, Manitoba's aims are focused on shoring up and building upon what we already have.

The total value of manufacturing shipments in Manitoba reached $7.294 billion in 1989, up from $6.772 billion in 1988. A total of 62,000 people are employed in the 2,003 manufacturing companies in the province, making everything from Ford New Holland bi-directional 100 h.p. four-wheel-drive tractors to work the land to Bristol Aerospace solid-fuel rocket propulsion systems to explore outer space.

Upwards of 60 per cent of manufacturing output, from the mundane to the exotic, is exported annually to more than 100 countries around the world. Everyday products, such as bolts, screws and fasteners made by Manitoba's Westland Steel Products Ltd., are shipped to markets across Canada and the United States. Gould Manufacturing's scaled down |Tin Lizzie' car - Henry Ford's 1911 Model T - is shipped to amusement parks all over the world, from Disneyland to the Persian Gulf, as well as Europe and China.

Even before the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and the worldwide movement towards a global marketplace, Manitoba manufacturers have been competing on a world scale.

Winnipeg's Manrex Limited is Canada's largest supplier of medication delivery systems for use in hospitals and nursing homes around the world. Their lightweight, mobile medication carts and their color-coded bubble card systems with pop-out pills are sold in Canada, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Fiona Webster-Mourant, operations manager for the company and daughter of Manrex founder and president John Webster, says the company has received enquiries from Iran and Bermuda.

Webster says his product is valued highly in drug dispensing.

"Our system can drastically reduce the amount of time needed to dispense medication to patients as well as cutting down on costs due to errors and pilferage. It works out to about a 50 per cent saving," he says. Since Manrex introduced its P.C.I. controlled dosage system 18 years ago, it and cloned systems have been made mandatory in Manitoba and British Columbia, with other provinces expected to follow suit.

When the competition started to copy the original Manrex cardboard card product, the company introduced a plastic reusable card. "We are constantly looking for improvements on our products just to keep one step ahead of the competition," Webster says.

World competition also affects Raber Glove Manufacturing Company Ltd., which specializes in the manufacture of leather gloves and is celebrating its 50th year of business in Manitoba. Howard Raber, vice-president of the company started by his grandfather, Abraham Raber, says Canadian competition is nowhere near the global pressures the company faces. "Ninety-nine-point-nine per cent of the gloves in North America come from outside North America," he says.

Back in the good old days, Raber's leather dress gloves enjoyed a large market share.

"Today, less than 15 per cent of our product is devoted to dress gloves and, of that, 95 per cent are men's," he adds.

While Raber's product is still exclusively leather - the plant is permeated with the scent of tanned leather - the bulk of production is in the area of work gloves and specialty gloves. "We have close to 200 different styles of gloves," says Raber. Raber gloves can be found on the hands of hydroelectrical workers and generals in the Canadian Armed Forces. Even members of the RCMP Musical Ride and the Rhode Island State Police wear Raber gloves. "Service and quality are what keep us in business," says Raber.

Kraus Industries Ltd. echoes in that philosophy. It manufactures a host of products under its own name as well as producing products under exclusive contracts for other companies, including the American giant Hughes Aircraft Co. "We have five, maybe six divisions," says Hans Kraus, president and founder of the company.

He pioneered the field of electronic self-service equipment for the gasoline market and continues to be a major player. "When we first came up with the system, there was a law on the books that made self-service of gasoline illegal," laughs Kraus. Two years later, and with the full support of the petroleum industry in Canada behind him, new legislation was passed and Kraus cornered the market. He not only holds a substantial share of the domestic market but exports his product around the world.

Inventing new products is a way of life for Kraus. Command Start, a remote control car starter, is his. The idea came from a business acquaintance who once complained to Kraus that he hated starting his car in the morning during the cold winter months. Kraus thought about it and came up with the original design for Command Start. His design engineers refined it and Kraus began producing a limited number for friends and relatives.

Today, it has been further refined to one-third its original size and with added features such as an anti-theft option. Even if the car is left running with the keys in the ignition, anyone trying to drive away will be stopped the moment they apply the brakes. It's sold on the world market. "The Saudi Arabians like it a lot," says Kraus. "Only in their case, they are starting the car to get the air conditioning going instead of the heater."

The most recent invention for Kraus Industries is a digital, automatic guitar tuner. This device takes full advantage of the latest in computer technology to measure and precisely adjust the tuning on any type of string instrument, automatically. "We took the prototype to a trade show featuring musical instruments and it was an instant hit," says Kraus. Several guitar manufacturers want exclusive rights to the tuner, but Kraus doesn't see any advantage in that and turned them all down.

Meanwhile, his plant is gearing up to begin production of a revolutionary sound retrieval system developed by Hughes. "I can't tell you too much about this, it's classified information," says Kraus. The glossy brochure, prepared by Hughes, boasts three-dimensional sound that seems to emanate from areas outside the physical limits of normal stereo loudspeakers. Says Kraus: "We will be delivering the first shipment to Hughes within a month or two and it will likely be on the market soon after that."
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Title Annotation:Manitoba-based manufacturing sector
Author:Mouflier, Sylvia
Publication:Manitoba Business
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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