Lessons Learned: Three Alberta Companies Take Their Productivity Lessons to the Bank

It can be easy to get lost in the jargon and nomenclature surrounding the world of productivity improvement. Gemba walks, collaborative supply chain innovation, spaghetti diagrams, product flow, what does it all mean?

What is easy to understand is real world examples involving real Alberta businesses. Below we have three easy to digest examples of Alberta based companies putting productivity lessons to use and improving their company’s bottom line as a result.

**McLevin Industries’ revamped its marketing strategy, winning new customers and bigger contracts**

When Keegan McLevin took over his family’s custom steel fabrication business in 2006, McLevin Industries was attempting to transition its main customer base from Red Deer’s shallow gas industry to northern Alberta’s oil sands.

McLevin was a trained mechanical engineer and came from a long line of ironworkers and welders, but marketing wasn’t his area of expertise.

A colleague with the Central Alberta Rural Manufacturers Association (CARMA) tipped him off about Productivity Alberta’s Local Community Procurement program and he decided to sign up.

“We learned a lot about how to market ourselves and properly sell ourselves to oil sands supply chain people,” McLevin explains. “We changed our marketing strategy, our website and our mentality when dealing with supply chain customers and vendors.”

The program covered basic marketing strategies, handling techniques for different personality types and organizing methods to make material easily accessible for potential-client purchasing personnel.

McLevin says the program offered strategies that could be implemented right away, as well as long-term strategies the company could continue working on.

“We’ve gone through so much change it’s hard to measure,” McLevin says. “With the recession it has definitely been positive as we’ve remained profitable and taken on bigger contracts.”

**Metalfab drives out inefficiencies in the supply chain**

After 59 years in business Metal Fabricators and Welding Ltd. (Metalfab) knows a thing or two about manufacturing high quality steel products. Getting those products out the door efficiently, however, used to be a different story.

The Edmonton-based company knew it could improve its supply chain. “The world is changing around us and if we don’t change, we’ll be left behind,” says Trevor Pond, vice-president of marketing and sales with Metalfab.

Two years ago, Metalfab participated in the Supply Chain Strategic Alliance program put on by Productivity Alberta and the results were immediate. The two-day program, also attended by a couple of Metalfab’s suppliers, inspired a willingness of all parties to open up about their business practices, which allowed the companies to work together and drive out inefficiencies in the supply chain.

The companies found they were able to outline their timeline and scheduling needs. “When you write things down, they’re not forgotten as easy and there’s more accountability,” Pond says.

Metalfab’s internal costs were reduced as soon as the time it took to obtain material-supply quotations dropped, therefore, allowing the company to turn projects around quicker. “The program is just the start of the process,” says Pond.

**Adams Steel Fabricators Ltd. targets large companies with strategic marketing**

Since 1982, Adams Steel Fabricators Ltd. has been a family owned and operated company based in Red Deer. It started out as a small welding service business that developed into a full service steel fabrication facility.

By 2009, the company was functioning like a small fish in a big pond of opportunity. John Strampel, senior buyer for Adams Steel, says the Local Community Procurement Program lecture series he attended that spring focused on the province’s big opportunities: Alberta’s oil sands.

The program provided him with a set of criteria he could take back to work for immediate implementation – creating a website and obtaining safety certification – in hopes of making Adams Steel an attractive supplier for large oil companies to consider.

It worked. Adams acquired work from both large construction companies and the Alberta oil sands.

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