CPIA takes the high road
Although the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) organized last year's Plast-Ex show, the association also had its own innovation to showcase: the Plastics Technology Road Map, a strongly wo...
Although the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) organized last year’s Plast-Ex show, the association also had its own innovation to showcase: the Plastics Technology Road Map, a strongly worded 29-page report identifying the key global pressures facing Canadian manufacturers, and presenting a new vision for the next decade of plastics industry growth.
Now, nearly a year after its release, the document’s directives are even more relevant. The report offered solutions to the industry’s biggest hurdles — namely, the erosion of low-cost exports and the displacement of traditional markets — even before the Canadian dollar delivered its latest blow to manufacturers.
“We needed to map out where the industry had to go in order to maintain its prevalence in the world plastics industry, in order to hold on to some kind of Canadian advantage,” noted CPIA president and CEO Serge Lavoie.
That advantage can be accomplished, according to the report, through a four-pronged approach: a shift towards mass customization, with the use of design and engineering to deliver individually customized products; the use of hybrid polymer materials, such as bio-and supercomposites; the evaluation of a product’s sustainable properties through life cycle analysis; and a greater emphasis on value-added products.
The move towards a more engineering- focused mass customization model may be the report’s most dramatic shift. Before Canadian manufacturers can offer design-and engineering-laden products, the industry as a whole will have to rebuild its research capacity and bring more innovations to market.
“We have to look at a wide range of technologies that are on the drawing boards, but by and large are not being commercialized in this country,” said Lavoie.
By his own admission, Lavoie wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel with the road map. Instead, the aim of the report was to steer the industry towards a more sustainable business model.
The CPIA, for its part, has put its money where its mouth is by adopting the report as its strategic direction. The association has signaled a move away from the de-centralized region-based model, and everything the CPIA does over the next three years will be key to one of the four road map elements.
“It’s been a godsend for us in a way because it’s given us a better focus,” explained Lavoie. “We are trying to focus down to what appears to show the most potential.”