North America’s troubles – China is to blame, really? Opinion Piece

A recent article by Frank Stronach, founder of one of the most successful automotive supply manufacturers in the world, Magna International, uses Canada as an example of how countries have deteriorated their competitiveness and standards of living. He also suggests a solution if we are to stop the decline of Canada’s economy and raise the standard of living for its people.

To read the full article go to The rest of the world is leaving Canada in the dust.

Mr. Stronach asserts that the standard of living in Canada is deteriorating – with fewer jobs, higher taxes and out of control debt all contributing to it. He suggests that one of the major reasons for the economy collapsing is that we have given up on producing products and have instead focused our efforts on creating a “paper-shuffling” economy. Other countries have figured out that to survive and thrive a nation’s economy must feature a strong base of product manufacturers who are competitive globally. China has figured that out and has no problem manufacturing products that were “Made in North America,” then shipping them back to us for a profit.

Mr. Stronach further suggests that some of things that we must do immediately in order to become competitive, is put the brakes on out-of-control government spending and support businesses by cutting red tape and legislated administration that is wasting time while providing no value and driving up costs.

While these are good solutions and very necessary, implementation will take a long time (if ever). Businesses and the economy need more tactical, immediate short-term solutions to survive now, while those working in the massive (and growing) bureaucracy debate and flounder over ideas.

Having worked in the manufacturing sector for over 30 years, we have seen firsthand how companies can transform their existing operation into a competitive and successful business. There is a solution – and it isn’t difficult. First, businesses must be shown “how” and be committed to applying an effective, structured methodology. They also need to recognize that there is a huge amount of “waste” in all businesses, big and small, and the trick is to know how to effectively eliminate it – or at least dramatically reduce it. It is all a matter of adapting and applying the concepts and thinking of Lean ‘properly’ and doing it quickly. It has proven to work every time when done right.

We did not have to give up our manufacturing base in North America, and there is still time to build on what is left - and to even take back manufacturing that has moved to other countries such as China. We have no excuses. There are many reasons why we lost our manufacturing base, but don’t blame China, as we allowed much of it to happen. We can get it back. In fact, it should be our obligation to get it back.

Larry Coté is managing director and founder of Lean Advisors Inc. Lean Advisors is a Lean consulting group serving North America in manufacturing, healthcare, government, educational institutes, and service sectors. Over the past few decades, Larry has had the opportunity to adapt and apply Lean to hundreds of companies, in a variety of unique environments, ranging from international corporations to small businesses, in both public and private sectors. He is also a frequent presenter at conferences and webinars including the 2023 Woodworking Machinery & Supply Conference & Expo.

Rorry Harding, senior consultant of Lean Advisors, contributed to this article.