Garry Warren joined the Construction & Equipment Division at J.D. Irving Limited a year ago and since then he has been instrumental in “leveraging the Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) program into developing other opportunities for Atlantic Canadian institutions and industries.” He has also spent a portion of that time championing the recently launched Marine Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence (MAMCE).

Here is the full interview with Garry Warren.

What is your role in your organization today?

The short answer is that I am to build relationships with those companies having obligations through the ITB program or wishing to build a stronger Value Proposition in their bids and introduce them to the outstanding companies that we have in JDI and Atlantic Canada. But it is more than that.

Sustainably increasing the competitiveness of local industry cannot be accomplished just by dropping technology into a business, there has to be a long term plan to increase the skills of our workforce, to expand markets outside of our region, and to build a local base comprised of multiple industries that challenge each other.

The Marine Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence (MAMCE) which is a partnership between university, college, and industry provides the best method of combining the natural expertise of each to this goal. The challenge for Canada’s manufacturing industry is to stay current with ever changing fabrication equipment and methods. The ability of Additive Manufacturing (AM) to simplify the supply chain, provide parts on demand and enable the fabrication of new components cannot be ignored.  The strength of MAMCE is in its combination of research and innovation, application and commercialization and building a skilled workforce. So for the past year, I have spent a portion of my time championing, some might say evangelizing, this endeavour.

What was your worst moment?

Funding is always a challenge for new and innovative endeavours. After working on the Centre for six months we had a plan that was ready to go to market. Our partners were on board, we knew the roles of each and how we would work together to maximize our chance of commercial success, or so we thought.  All we needed was funding.  Road testing our concept took additional time but has proven successful in drawing the necessary funding partners for this non-profit centre of excellence.

What was your aha moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us that story?

We were at our pump testing facility at Custom Fabricators and Machinists (CFM) with our 3D printing expert Prof. Mohammadi and an engineering technology instructor from the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC). In the corner was a box of damaged impellers destined for recycling and on the shop floor were several pumps waiting for new parts to arrive, some with lead times of many weeks. I realized that there is nothing stopping this technology from being used now except for introducing those with the need to those with the ability.

NBCC has printed a plastic 3D mock-up of one of the impellors to test the programming and the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) will be printing the metal part shortly.

Step back and analyze your journey, what is the take away you want to give to our audience?

Engage all stakeholders, including those not directly involved in the setup of whatever project you are working on. Talk to potential users, suppliers, funders or anyone else that can impact the success of the endeavour.

What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

To get the printer installed and starting the whole process of research, training and commercialization. Momentum!

What is the best advice you received?

“A person does not buy a ¾” drill bit, they buy a ¾” hole.” Know what your customer, stakeholder or client needs.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

I always want to know what motivates the person I’m sitting across from. Building that connection and understanding of the customer’s needs are important to any successful enterprise.

What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?

GE, who have reinvented themselves numerous times and continues to do so. To be able to maintain that innovation mindset, focus on continuous improvement and sustain long term success is something to be admired and emulated.

How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?

Custom Fabricators and Machinists (CFM) has embraced advanced manufacturing and has embarked on a massive modernization program, of which participation in the Centre is one part. By improving our manufacturing capabilities we will enable our customers to experiment with new materials, part consolidation and equipment design. Not only will they become more successful in their business but they will demand the same from all their suppliers.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organization or industry sector?

The market in Atlantic Canada is not large enough to justify the level of investment required to maintain an organization’s competitiveness with outside rivals. We must prove ourselves and advance into the global market to be able to compete from home. While there are some notable successes in our area, we need to work hard to enable more firms to be successful.

What are the biggest impediments to innovation in today’s enterprise?

Change is hard but can deliver significant rewards.  Our job is to lead change – the understanding, proven capability and adoption of innovative new advanced manufacturing technology.

How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?

We are always looking at improving our process and people.  We have active continuous improvement champions, qualified in Lean Sigma and Leading Change.  It is a continuous investment in people, best practices and the technology to optimize competitiveness.  We have numerous and self-reinforcing programs throughout our organization. As an example, JDI was the first in Canada to develop an Executive MBA program with the Richard Ivey School of Business.  Our current group of MBA employee students have taken on the commercialization of our 3D printing initiative as their executive client field project. In order to do so, we had to pitch the Centre in an open competition with other initiatives at JDI.

What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

The ITB Program through the National Shipbuilding Strategy will drive innovation in this region. The ability of local companies to attract funding, technology and foreign markets afforded by this program has the potential to advance our industry into the global marketplace.  The key to this success is a parallel investment in skill building of our people.  We believe MAMCE is a win-win-win model for our local university, CFM and our community colleges.  The best innovative minds at our local university see the practical application of new ideas and technology with a commercialization partner like CFM and students benefit from the training and new careers that Advanced Manufacturing delivers.

What is your parting piece of advice?

Let your people do their job. Nothing succeeds like giving the team the opportunity to collaborate and bring their abilities, ideas and passion to finding solutions.