JFE Shoji Power Canada Inc.

Resilience Redefined

How Collaboration and a Mindset Shift is Building Our Capacity

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.”– Andy Rooney.

The equipment needed to renew and expand the North American electrical grid is transforming in unprecedented proportions. Driven by the global push for decarbonization and a significant need to replace much of it, the surge in demand is awakening a sleeping beast within electrical suppliers and forcing rapid growth in a supply chain that spent the better part of thirty years in maintenance mode.

The challenge is monumental; some have estimated the actual need and urgency for the North American grid could be equal to ten times the capacity of today’s supply chains. This dramatic increase is fueled by the need to update a decades-old infrastructure, the expansion required to power the EV market, and the burgeoning energy demands of data centers.  

The electrical steel materials and components that JFE supplies and electrical transformers made by OEM clients continue to serve as the grid’s fundamental building blocks. As the global movement toward clean energy continues to grow, the collective commitment of every link in the supply chain is necessary to support these new demands. 

At JFE, we anticipated the market’s trajectory and committed early to leading in its significant expansion. In 2022, we shared our strategic vision with our team in Japan, emphasizing our intention to meet the growing demand for electrical steel products. We enhanced internal processes and strengthened partnerships to build a resilient capacity to scale with the market. We began investing in equipment and working to overcome the hurdles presented by labour market dynamics. We collaborated with global electrical steel mills to ensure we had a stable supply of materials that are expected to go through periods of severe constraint into the future.  We are prepared to usher in the shift to sustainable and efficient electrical energy and focus on serving our clients, the market, and fulfilling our mission.

With our equipment and human resources shored up through 2023, we set high production and service targets. But we quickly learned we needed one critical component.

 Collaborating to Build Resilience

“At the moment of commitment, the universe will conspire to assist you.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The equipment and the workforce were primed and ready, but the 30-50% increase in output failed to reflect these preparations and our early work. Our investigation was swift, and a pivotal realization surfaced. We needed a significant shift in our organization’s mindset to quickly adapt to our capacity to change, evolve and improve our workflow and planning systems to fulfill the potential of the investments we had made. Our teams needed to believe we could accomplish rapid growth and heightened efficiency and develop the growth mindset required for high-performing operations.

 Our second realization: We needed a partner to make this happen. 

To confront this reality, we first had to set aside the confidence that had become an unknowing byproduct of our historical achievements.  After all, we had grown and succeeded independently – with minimal outside support – through stagnant industry growth when many suppliers and OEMs closed their doors. We had long been stewards of advanced lean manufacturing and achieved tremendous efficiency in the years before the pandemic.

What was lost through the pandemic, and what is being regained through the collaboration we ultimately embarked upon, is the capacity for our people to see a different way of doing things, the capacity to take advantage of opportunities and to solve problems – to look outside of the way we do things today and to have the confidence to make the changes needed to elevate performance and continue to deliver on our clients’ expectations.

A Mindset Shift

Carpedia Maxim #50: “Look Where You Want to Go”

In the summer of 2023, a small army of consultants from Carpedia International, a Toronto-based consultancy, descended upon JFE’s factory floors. They began working shoulder-to-shoulder with JFE managers at every level, helping to eliminate constraints, improve throughput, and develop consistency. Very quickly, we began to see not only gains in productivity, but gains in confidence.

Carpedia Director Beejan Giga led a team of organizational personal trainers (as they have affectionately been dubbed) to create the necessary skills and muscle memory for operational effectiveness.

A deep level of collaboration with our strategic suppliers and clients has always been and continues to be a critically important strategy, but before the arrival of Carpedia, we were not putting the same emphasis or need on collaboration with other partners. By breaking down silos and encouraging cross-functional teamwork, we are unlocking new efficiencies and fostering a culture where continuous improvement is the norm.

The intensity of growth in the market for electrical steel products has provided our supply chain with massive opportunities and challenges. Often, these are the same.

Together, the Carpedia and JFE teams have developed the processes and commitment for sustainability and continuous improvement. Each new output level and quality improvement becomes a baseline we build.

Someone suggested to me recently that if a company suddenly found itself in a position of increased demand, it could simply sit back and let the orders roll in at better margins. That never occurred to me. Our business focus is serving the market and serving our clients, and if our clients need thirty percent more, it’s not just an opportunity; it’s an obligation. Last year, we struggled to do that quickly, so we identified the team that would help us create the improvements we needed to deliver and build the systems and the culture to elevate our performance repeatedly.

Through the project with Carpedia, our team has developed confidence in our ability to grow and improve continuously. We work to build heightened confidence in our customers so that, as their demand increases, we will be there to meet it with them.  In our market, growth is essential, but sustainability, resilience and trust are critical.

We are fortunate to have the ownership commitment and support from the JFE Shoji Corporation to fulfill a growing market demand. We faced the challenges of trying to take a huge proactive step forward and initially stumbled. The recovery has strengthened us because our teams have learned how to support, build, and strengthen the system.  Resilience is not just important; it is mandatory.

As hockey legend Wayne Gretzky once said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been.” We are now making ourselves better prepared to quickly skate to where the puck is going, alongside our suppliers and clients – to grow, prosper, and win together.

Ron Harper,
JFE Shoji Corporation