Another year has passed for the BWA with much to reflect on and be proud of!
For all of us in what we do, this is the time of year to step back and reflect on the year’s activities; our accomplishments and challenges faced.
When you look back, the Bluewater Wood Alliance has much to be thankful for, and much to look forward to in the new year ahead!
Facilitating and sustaining a true cluster model itself is no easy feat! We have manufacturing and supplier members with divergent products, needs, and markets. What is important to one company may not be to another at any particular time. Our ongoing challenge is finding collaborative opportunities that stick and provide value for all involved. We need to be aware that while one project or activity may involve a small number of members, in one circumstance, future projects will branch out to the rest. This is certainly at the root of the evolution of the BWA, and the year’s activities surely demonstrate how we are beginning to mature as a true functioning cluster!
In January of this year members assembled for a round-table discussion to learn about government funding opportunities. In February, we had a plant tour focus group at West Bros Furniture with a focus continuous improvement, and the March networking event hosted a high-impact finishing forum. In April, Royal Oak Kitchens hosted a plant tour focus group, and in May, six BWA members participated in an export development project with product showing at the Index Design show in Dubai, UAE in partnership with our friends at NRCan and MNR, and associate member sponsors.
June’s networking event covered ergonomics and witnessed the maturation of the board of directors with our third AGM and the election of new board members, coinciding with the amendment of our by-laws to allow associate members to be elected to the board. The board now has a total of 10 members: nine manufacturers and one associate supplier member. This group of industry leaders will continue to guide the BWA in its evolution going forward.
One big accomplishment for the BWA this year is the facilitation of Rural Affairs Ontario’s RED project with objectives to create jobs, increase company sustainability, and develop new markets. BWA received funding over 2 years to administer this improvement project funding to members. Twenty-five members submitted improvement projects for which they received 50% funding up to a limited maximum. The total value of projects submitted reached 1.1 million, for which members will receive a total of $250,000 in this year alone. This is a fund, that if it were not for the BWA, they would otherwise not be eligible or have access to. This project will be running again in 2015.
In August, members convened for a round table on Lean strategies for administration, and September hosted our networking event with a forum on ergonomics and hardware technologies. In October, Homestead Woodworks hosted a plant tour focus group that hosted members from across the wide expanse of our greater cluster region. You know there is a value when you have this level of engagement across our membership.
Other projects in 2014 included the collaboration of research into the potential for an online product configurator in partnership with IRAP, along with ongoing perusal of export development activities that will include the U.S., Europe, and potentially Chinese markets.
Moving into 2015 the BWA has much to be thankful for! We look forward to a new year of growth and development of the cluster, while we strive to increase the competitiveness of our member companies. Many thanks to Paul Mingay and our friends at MNR’s Ontario Wood Promotions program, NRCan, IRAP, and all of our community partners for their ongoing support and encouragement!
On behalf of the BWA board of directors and our members, we wish to extend to you and your families all the best for the holiday season, and a prosperous 2015!
Manager, Bluewater Wood Alliance