Dany Gagnon, Vice President, Operations, Temiscaming Site, answers questions about the transformation, manufacturing and competitiveness.
Q: How did you build a career as a transformation specialist?
A: It started when I was a young engineer, learning about the global economy. I realized Canada sold steel at $400 a ton to Europe and this came back to us as toasters priced at $40,000 a ton. That made the importance of value-added manufacturing very clear to me.
I saw Canada lose many industrial leaders that could not keep up with globalization and heightened competition. These old-line companies did not understand the need to change, to renew themselves, and transform their ways of working to protect their competitive positions in the global marketplace.
The Temiscaming transformation is all about improving our competitiveness. Our customers are generally global leaders in their industries, and our competitors are top players around the world, so we have to measure up.
Q: How did your take on globalization change you?
A: I developed skills in key areas, starting with change management in manufacturing. The essence of this is making changes with a sense of urgency – it is mindset as much as anything else. On the technical side, it involves simplification of manufacturing processes and management techniques. And efficient teamwork is a must if you want to maximize productivity and efficiencies.
As an engineer, I like manufacturing operations – the buzz and the hum of making useful products. I am comfortable with manufacturing people because they tend to be practical and I like that. I also walk our mill floors often at Temiscaming. It is a great part of my role.
Q: How do you mobilize employees in a transformation?
A: One way is by demystifying financial language and management. It is critical for employees to understand how manufacturers make money – how we can generate tangible cash flow.
I learned over the years how to teach managers, supervisors and employees the basics of generating cash flow on a daily basis, year after year. I like the pure fun of generating cash flow that can be reinvested in better equipment, training, and other improvements. All this helps ensure long-term competitiveness.
Early in my mandate I made presentations to Temiscaming managers and supervisors to demystify the company’s financial situation, and help them learn more about the business. This information was well received, so I will do more presentations of that type. Learning makes work more interesting – it is another way to mobilize people.
Q: Do you talk about transformation with production employees from the mills?
A: Yes, I talk for an hour with groups of six employees at a time, and we do six of these sessions a week. It is pure conversation rather than a formal presentation with graphics and charts, so we call this program “Coffee with the Vice President.”
In these sessions, I explain my transformation mandate and the need for better financial results here at Temiscaming. I also answer questions about our operations and the business – and many of these questions are very thoughtful. I enjoy these conversations. The goal is to connect personally with all staff and unionized employees, so we all understand where we’re going.
Q: How can managers contribute most to the transformation?
A: Through decisiveness – making good decisions, quickly, and then living with those decisions and their consequences. That is not easy, but it is what managers need to do if we are going to transform the site. We also have to follow through on commitments, right to the end, if we want to achieve anything of lasting value. I also want our people to avoid the trap of getting bogged down for no good reason and failing to make progress.