The Canadian Shield Works with Local Toyota Manufacturing Experts to Improve Canadian PPE Production

A knowledge-sharing project with industry-leading manufacturing experts from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, helped The Canadian Shield rapidly improve its medical mask production processes and automation systems.

Back in the fall of 2020, during the critical ramp up to produce medical-grade face masks, The Canadian Shield had the opportunity to learn from the world-renowned manufacturing experts at Toyota through an initiative called Standardized Work and Kaizen (SWK). Through this Toyota Production System (TPS) program, the team at The Canadian Shield gained first-hand insight from leading automotive manufacturing engineers, quality assurance managers, and operations experts, in order to to improve their own production processes.

The knowledge-sharing experience led to a number of significant production improvements at The Canadian Shield’s Waterloo-based facility. As a result of these impactful changes, The Canadian Shield has been able to further streamline their manufacturing processes, allowing them to become even more globally cost-competitive with overseas manufacturers.

Over the course of several weeks, the Cambridge-based team of Toyota manufacturing experts worked diligently with members of The Canadian Shield’s team to help streamline and strengthen each part of the production process. Through a collaboration of classroom instruction followed by sessions on the production floor, the TPS team coached two main TPS concepts of Jidoka and JIT. The concepts helped identify process efficiencies which ultimately support the goal of manufacturing without waste.

Improving manufacturing automation and production efficiencies will play a critical part in our country’s ability to continue building a domestic medical device manufacturing industry. Over the past year, we have seen first-hand the negative impacts that reliance on global supply chains for medical devices can cause. The Canadian Shield believes that building a domestic medical device industry is key to ensuring such a situation never arises again.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the medical mask manufacturing industry operated very differently. The majority of medical device production was done overseas. With cheap labour readily available, there was never a need to automate production processes or develop innovative solutions for medical device manufacturing. The lack of reliable supply due to the pandemic created the need to onshore manufacturing and highlighted the importance of creating a sustainable, profitable manufacturing industry in our country.

Fortunately for us, Canada, and especially Ontario, is home to a world-renowned ecosystem for technology, automotive manufacturing, and advanced automation. With local and global industry leaders like Toyota to learn from, The Canadian Shield believes that Canada is primed to lead the advanced manufacturing revolution when it comes to the manufacturing of medical devices.

During an extremely competitive time for the medical mask industry, creating a reliable, profitable supply chain of quality goods can be make or break for some companies. Now one of the largest producers of Class 1 medical devices in the country, The Canadian Shield credits Cambridge-based Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada with playing a crucial role in their ability to scale up medical mask manufacturing on Canadian soil.

Last month, The Canadian Shield announced the launch of their newly designed and made-in-Canada Medical Mask Automation and Vision Systems. Insights gained from the experience with Toyota helped to improve the design of these systems, helping to create a machine that surpasses the abilities of existing mask manufacturing solutions. Toyota’s influence and expertise helped an already successful manufacturing company reach new heights.

The Canadian Shield consider themselves fortunate to be located in the heart of Canada’s Innovation Corridor - with direct access to Canada’s Automotive and Technology supercluster. Access to a wealth of nearby talent, along with the experience and guidance of local companies like Toyota has helped The Canadian Shield and other local companies thrive in a complicated geopolitical landscape over the past year.

Overall, the team from The Canadian Shield left the experience feeling empowered, inspired and excited to continue implementing new solutions and improving production processes. They cite working with a major manufacturer like Toyota as having a monumental impact on their production capacity, operational efficiency and workforce.

After successfully improving their manufacturing processes and production capabilities, The Canadian Shield has now won several large contracts to supply domestically-made PPE across the country. These customers include Toyota themselves, who helped play a critical role in The Canadian Shield’s manufacturing scale-up, as well as Mohawk Medbuy, one of Canada’s largest PPE Group Purchasing Organizations.

As The Canadian Shield continues to lead the way in Canada’s brand new domestic medical device manufacturing sector, they’re relying on the world-renowned expertise of local industry leaders like Toyota. Canadian technology and IP are key growth factors which can help Canadian companies compete on a global scale in a rapidly evolving landscape. The team believes they’re the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bringing back overseas industries to Canadian soil. By working together with local experts, Canadian companies can become highly competitive, successful and profitable, and continue building a rich economy in Canada which relies on skilled labour.