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Supply Chain Canada: Toot your own horn

Get the word out about supply chain, says John Tory


May 15, 2012
by Julia Kuzeljevich

MISSISSAUGA: Supply Chain Canada opened its 45th annual conference with keynote speaker and former MPP John Tory, who currently hosts a three-hour radio show on the afternoon drive at Toronto’s News Talk 1010.

Tory, also formerly an attorney and CEO of Rogers Media Inc and Rogers Cable, is a founding Board Member and voluntary Chair of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, an organization focused on city-building initiatives.

He said the supply chain industry is not doing enough to “toot its own horn” especially with regard to getting the word out about the number of people employed by the industry, the functions they perform, and the importance of the industry to the Canadian economy.

Tory also said that government regulation, and inconsistencies and duplications across provinces, create “a lot of cost and hassle”, which is “inexcusable in terms of freeing ourselves up to do business abroad. It’s odd to me at a time when there has never been a grater premium placed on (the concept of) ‘all hands on deck’. Canada is big the way it was made but it’s complicated because we’ve allowed it become complicated,” he said.

Stakeholders in supply chain, noted Tory, need to stand up and be counted on the matter of interprovincial free trade and harmonization.

He also said that industry needs to be better represented in Ottawa, without just leaving issues to the lobbyists.

As his second theme, Tory stressed that not one person in 2012 should be going into work without the goal of “reinventing themselves” every day.

“Barriers to entry have come down around the world. The pace of technological change is so rapid, if we don’t reinvent ourselves to better, faster, cheaper, greener, someone else will do it for us,” he said.

“We used to think it was adequate to do these five-year plans and say we’ll get to that sometime in the next three-four years-now there’s at least a 50-50 chance someone will get to it faster. Supply chain is really good at taking processes apart piece by piece, this is at the heart of what you do,” he told conference attendees.

Canada has acknowledged the need to diversify away from the US, “but the question we have to ask ourselves is, are we ready?”

“As much as governments have not moved to harmonize and diversify our trade base, some of the things they have done is to take corporate taxes down. They have made moves to make it a more business-friendly environment, but if we were being honest about this we’d say industry has not done as much as it could have done to enhance our productivity,” said Tory.

Stakeholders also cannot underestimate the impact of events in a globalized world, whether economic, political, social or natural, all of which can have a profound impact on the way we do business.

“You can see how the markets now operate, for example in the context of elections, so we must look ahead to the unexpected,” he said.

Time invested in risk management, for example, is probably “about the right place to end up”, said Tory.

Creating a greater awareness of the supply chain industry is also paramount.

“Who would think in a period of high unemployment that you’d have trouble recruiting? That represents a public policy failure-but I would argue that we’ve let this happen to ourselves. The skilled trades generally have allowed themselves to be regarded as a second-rate, stigmatized industry. We have young people in school today who are unaware of some of the jobs that exist in these industries,” said Tory.

“How much time is being spent in schools making young people aware of these opportunities? Whose job is it to adapt these jobs, as best one can, to the lifestyle considerations that young people have today? Again, it’s hard. There isn’t a job going that doesn’t involve hard work if you’re going to be good at it.”

When it comes to immigration, the challenge is that industry work with government to get the kinds of people into the country that it needs.

Referencing Ontario as a province that represents about 45 percent of Canada’s economy, but that has appalling infrastructure and transportation issues, Tory said that it’s industry’s role “to convince the government it is time to speak up and get the investments into transportation that you should have seen 25 years ago.”

There’s a need for about $50 billion in infrastructure and public transport investment in the province.

“I’m not sure which comes first, the politicians having the courage to stand up and do it, through a dedicated, audited fund, or us giving them the permission to do it,” said Tory, whose campaign work on the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance is aimed at moving these developments forward.

“I hope that we can deal with both the courage and the will to do this. There are no people whose voices should be heard louder than the supply chain industry’s, when it comes to insisting that public infrastructure be put in place,” he said.

Tory also suggested that industry work together and take the equivalent of an hour’s pay to develop some kind of initiative promoting the supply chain, and getting people to understand the industry’s role.

“It’s about reinventing, transforming, and innovating, every single day. That’s going to spell the difference ten years from now,” he said.