, ,

BWA Proud Partner with Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster!

After six months of working with various industry sector leaders, academia, and other partners, the Bluewater Wood Alliance is representing the value-added wood products sector in the biggest manufacturing supercluster in Canada!

Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced Thursday that the Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster was one of the successful bids.

What this means for our wood products manufacturing industry, is that we are at the table with other big industries in Canada like automotive, aerospace, IT, robotics, and other major sectors. Our profile is now raised higher, along with the importance of our wood products manufacturing industry to the economy! The BWA is very excited to be appointed to their board of Directors!

There are three pillars to the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster strategy:

  • co-invest in collaborative, industry-led projects in things like vision systems, AI, IoT, data security, robotics, advanced materials, and additive manufacturing
  • support the creation of new tools, testbeds, and infrastructure to help create the next generation of manufacturing firms
  • build out a robust ecosystem of supports and services that accelerate technology adoption in manufacturing i.e. technology readiness assessments, training and skills development, and go-to-market support

As the first and only Porterian cluster in North America for the wood industry, the already established BWA cluster was an important element of the Supercluster bid. BWA member wood companies can participate in, and benefit from, projects and initiatives created from the collective momentum that the BWA cluster delivers. Governments like to work with clusters because they can help multiple companies all at once. The BWA project within the Supercluster is going to bring funding for investment in game-changing technologies to BWA members. The details are currently being worked out while a contribution agreement with the federal government is negotiated. More concrete details will be confirmed when this is completed.

Joining an industry cluster like the BWA brings you to the table for many opportunities, such as the Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster project, that single small and medium-sized companies would not have access to on their own.

See these links for more details on the Next Generation Manufacturing Canada Supercluster:



Stay tuned for more details as the project unfolds!


Members Get a Shot of Sales Expertise: Tip of the Iceberg

Most of us in the wood industry who run our own businesses also perform a sales role for the company. Most of us have to deal with the distractions of multi-tasking other aspects of the business, whether it be in production, procurement, managing people, and other tasks.

The minute you sit back to actually look at what is involved in the sales and relationship development and management function, and how we as human beings are so diverse, it is no wonder that increased sales remains an ongoing challenge and need for our businesses.

Thirty BWA member companies participated in the BWA/Sandler sales training event Jan 30 in Milton in an effort to break the paradigm of not fully engaging the opportunity and potential of making the most of your time devoted to the sales function.
As human beings we all have our personal styles for communicating and relating to others. The same goes for learning new information when you consider the potential customer that you are speaking to. Understanding where we fall under the DISC communication and decision-making model (Compliant/Dominant, Steady Relator/Influencer) dictates our comfort zones when we engage others, and manage the sales function. There are also shortcomings of each and we need to understand how to “Adjust and Adapt” to the diverse people we meet. This also impacts the modes of communication we choose to use to engage potential customers.

In face-to-face communication, for example, we as humans first perceive body language and tone before actually deciphering the works being spoken. With telephone contact, we first perceive tone before the words spoken. And email and texting is unfortunately the worst option as it commoditizes you, poses with the highest risk, and is unfortunately used most often.

The learning styles of both yourself and the potential customer also come into play: Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic. Which one are you? What are your pitfalls and how to you adjust and adapt on the fly?

This is the “tip of the iceberg” for BWA members as we begin our journey to dig deeper into understanding ourselves and others better, and using this information to manage sales prospects. The BWA/Sandler sales training program is a DISCIPLINE that when applied actually gets results.

BWA members also have the opportunity to engage in more intense and focused BWA/Sandler program to help engrain the discipline with your company. Funding is available through the Canada/Ontario Jobs Grant.

Due to the overwhelming feedback of this event, we have scheduled another session Friday, April 6th.

If you would like more information about this event and the BWA, please contact:

, ,

BWA Plant Tour Focus Group Attracts 40 Companies for Learning!

The BWA Plant Tour Focus Groups continue to draw members from far and wide from across southwestern Ontario. BWA members traveling from Chatham, Niagara, GTA, Owen Sound, and Barrie, and all stops in between representing cabinet shops, furniture manufacturers, commercial millworkers, CNC houses, and niche product manufacturers all showed up at this event because they share the same needs and interests: we all want to get better!

They gathered at George Guenzler & Son in Kitchener, ON for the BWA Plant Tour Focus Group Jan 23, 2018. These events focus on a challenge in the host company, and members learn from the host’s best practices and brainstorm solutions for the host. The discussion is dynamic with ideas and suggestions abound for all. This tour was special since we had the added bonus of BWA members Brad Cairns from the Centre for Lean Learning and Sepp Gmeiner of Lignum Consulting in the mix!

George Guenzler & Son is a custom manufacturer of wood components, supplying the industry for 100 years: www.guenzler.com
They have had a continuous improvement program and 5S for 10 years, and needed some help to invigorate it, and also new ideas to enhance employee engagement with their 5S program improvement suggestions.

After an introduction of all members present and an update on BWA events, Barry Freiberger and Ken Aardse of Guenzler provided an overview of their business model, some best practices, and a review of what the company has been doing with their 5S and Continuous Improvement program. This was followed by a full plant tour, then a facilitated debrief discussion with all present. You sure can’t beat a tour of someone else’s plant, and see all the action involving people, equipment, and flow of product!

Here are a few of the themes of discussion following the tour:

  • “Tour Ready” discipline: Barry did not tell his staff our tour group was coming!
  • Combining new technology with old methods
  • Strategies to solicit improvement suggestions from employees
  • 5S boards for ongoing audits in real time
  • Empowerment of work teams
  • Standardized work strategies
  • Reading material: “The Scrum”, “The Goal”
  • Use of pictures and video to capture before and after, and associating that with photos of employees responsible
  • Knowledge gained from customers and suppliers are used to make improvements
  • Collaboration with suppliers/customers to “lean out” processes
  • Improvement time: allowing 1 hr a day for improvement: members shared examples/results
  • Tracking suggestions, assigning priority, celebrating success
  • Employee communication strategies
  • Plus many more!

Many thanks to Barry, Kent, and Neil at Guenzler for hosting, and also to the visiting members engaging in the learning! Also, Brad Cairns and Sepp Gmeiner add so much value: thanks to you guys too!

This summary can’t begin to replace actually being there! If you are not a member of the BWA and would like to attend these and learn more, contact us: manager@bluewaterwoodalliance.com

Mike Baker
Executive Director


Barry Freiberger of George Guenzler & Son shares with members his Continuous Improvement program.

BWA members tour George Guenzler & Son shop floor to observe improvement opportunities.

BWA Members participating in IMM Cologne International Interiors Show

BWA is starting the year off on the right foot with a collaborative export development project: a booth at IMM Cologne International Interiors Show in Cologne, Germany! This project features Durham Furniture, Provincial Plank by Horizon Coatings and West Bros Furniture. The show begins next week and runs from January 15th to 21st.

This should be great exposure to the European market for our participating members who benefited from BWA’s partnerships with NRCan, and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. This marks the first time Bluewater Wood Alliance has had a booth at IMM and we are located in Hall 5, space A-002g-B-001.

After months of preparing, Durham Furniture, Provincial Plank by Horizon Coatings and West Bros Furniture are days away from seeing their hard work pay off. We want to wish them the best of luck and look forward to hearing about their successes!

Best wishes & Alles Gute!
From everyone at the Bluewater Wood Alliance


New Years Greetings to everyone!

2017 was a very productive year in the evolution of the Bluewater Wood Alliance! As the only managed industry-lead cluster in North America for the wood manufacturing industry, we continue to draw attention from manufacturing companies, and also from other regions and governments that want to learn about what makes the BWA “tick”! Our regular events and projects draw industry and supply chain to the table. Governments want to collaborate with clusters for program and project delivery.

To summarize, here are a few 2017 highlights:

– 4 plant tour focus group events
– 4 quarterly networking events
–3 Finishing Training events in collaboration with Conestoga College

Export Projects:
– High Point Market, High Point, NC.
– IMM Cologne, Germany
– Global Buyers Mission, Whistler, BC
– Applications to NRCan for 3 export market studies and IMM Cologne, 2019

6 Speaking events BWA invited to speak on clustering:
– Economic Development Council of Ontario Conference, Toronto
– Forestry and Energy Expo, Thunder Bay
– International Economic Development Council Conference,
EDC, Little Rock, AR U.S.A.
– Forestry Expo, Renfrew, ON
– International Economic Development Council Conference, Toronto, ON
– Industry Mixer, Grey County, ON

Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster Development:
– BWA key stakeholder on board of Directors

Other industry events for BWA cluster outreach included the WMS show, Toronto, and and the Richelieau trends event. I am sure I may have forgotten some things.

Growing membership across all southwestern Ontario, and a present need to hire a program manager, point to 2018 as a big year for the BWA and its members!

We look forward to working with you to help move the wood product manufacturing industry forward in Ontario!

Mike Baker
Executive Director


BWA Quarterly Networking Event in Burlington Extends Reach!

As the BWA continues to attract new members from across southwestern Ontario, it is important to extend the reach of our events. When the BWA first started in 2010 with 7 companies at the table in Grey/Bruce, in 2011 they incorporated as a not-for profit and officially launched as a cluster organization based on the cluster model in Upper Austria.  At that time, the quarterly events were held in Walkerton, Ontario.

As time progressed and the BWA began to boost their activity to include plant tours and training, manufacturers began to flock to the BWA as a resource for the wood industry. Soon companies from Kitchener, the GTA, Niagara,  and Chatham-Kent, and many points in between, were reaching out to the BWA to join the ranks of manufacturers in the cluster. The same is said for associate members in the supply chain that also add expertise and support the manufacturers. It became necessary to rotate our networking events to locations reflecting the greater cluster region of SWO. For this we leveraged our stakeholder relationships with post secondary institutions who support our workforce development. Now, the June quarterly event remains in Walkerton (our roots!), September is hosted by Conestoga College in Kitchener, March is hosted by Humber College in the GTA. That left our November event an opportunity to reach closer to our southern member communities toward Niagara, hence our Nov 22 event held in Burlington recently! This event was attended by approximately 50 people representing the value-added wood industry in SWO. Companies new to the BWA in the region who wanted to learn more didn’t have to travel far!

The event started with a BWA update of current projects, upcoming events and initiatives. This was followed by a presentation on Management Liability and Risk by BWA member Chris Cameron of Magnes. This included topics such as cyber risk, and wrongful dismissal. Lots of Q&A and good information for the members. This was followed by a presentation on Ownership Thinking by Marc Lacoursier of The Achievement Group. Since most members struggle with employee engagement and retention, this was a topic well received with good discussion. Incentive programs and other strategies to enhance employee engagement continue to elude most companies. The BWA will engage this topic again in the future. Finally, last but not least, SRED (Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Credit) continues to raise itself as a topic for many companies who are new to the process and opprtunity it presents. Since the BWA continues to attract new members, it makes sense that this is a topic that needs to be revisited on a regular basis. Ryan Scodeller of Xurbo provided an informative review of the opportunity and the method of capturing information to develop a claim. Xurbo is now a preferred provider of SRED for the BWA members. For those members wanting more information on SRED, please contact the BWA.

Lots going on right now with the BWA! Watch for updates soon on our plant tours and training events scheduled for January and February! If you are not a member of the BWA but would like to learn more, please contact BWA Executive Director Mike Baker: manager@bluewaterwoodalliance.com

Bluewater Wood Alliance expands reach, influence | Woodworking Canada

Bluewater Wood Alliance Featured in Woodworking Canada!
November 24, 2017

The Bluewater Wood Alliance continues to grow its membership and its reach. What started out as just a handful of like-minded wood product manufacturers and suppliers…. click here to read article.

Creative Mixer – Thornbury