Canadian manufacturing has shone brightly during this pandemic demonstrating creativity, adaptability, and resilience as an industry. At the front of the pandemic was our awakening that critical manufacturing such as electronics, PPE, and vaccines, had left Canada. The pandemic further forced us to reckon with our vulnerabilities, particularly to small, microscopic air-borne virus particles and an indoor ventilation infrastructure that needed some serious upgrading, especially in our schools.

Quick pivots highlight Canadian manufacturers’ innovation and mean that Canada will now be a world leader in these industries again.

For example, a partnership between Calgary-based Roswell Downhole Technologies Inc. (oil and gas tubing) and Precision ADM (medical device company) in Winnipeg is producing Canada’s first 100% compostable personal protective equipment (PPE) from crop-based biopolymers. This means a full range of “surgical medical masks, gowns and other medical PPE, air and water filtration products and personal hygiene products” will be manufactured here in Canada with easy access to our hospitals and caregivers.1

Another example is Medicago, a Quebec biotechnology company that developed a plant-based COVID-19 vaccine that is now in phase three clinical trials around the world. Researchers hope that plant-based vaccines address large global barriers to vaccine demand and accessibility due to the infrastructure, distribution, cost, and complexity of conventional vaccine manufacturing.2

Now amid our fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, air quality and upgrading our indoor air ventilation and filtration systems appears to be our biggest challenge to keep Canadians safe. Seasonal cold temperatures force Canadians indoors for much of the day during a good part of the year. All, with a few exceptions, of our educational, retail and work environments are indoors.

With the arrival of a new school year, this has given rise to warranted concerns for our vulnerable populations in indoor spaces. On Tuesday, August 3, 2021, the Ontario Ministry of Education released a document outlining the “return to the classroom in September”3 for full-time learning. The requirements are for schools to “improve air quality using ventilation and/or filtration BEFORE the start of the school year”.3

For Ontario, that meant one month to get 3800 schools ready with “improved ventilation systems, handwashing stations, water bottle filling stations and more”.4

The expense of this mandate is prohibitive. A single 30yr old school, for example, may require a $400 000 upgrade to its heat pump and an additional $200 000 for portable ventilation systems in classrooms.5

And the bigger question is: Does this now become the gold standard for all indoor ventilation in Canada?

I think we can assume that, yes, all indoor ventilation systems will now need to be upgraded to ensure the safety and health of Canadians. Being indoors safely is essential for socialization, manufacturing, and economic viability.

Given that we are a few months away from snow flying, this seems like a massive undertaking for our office and work environments, our restaurants and social venues, our hospitals, and medical facilities, all public transportation, as well as, first, our schools.

The demand will have to be met in a large part by Canadian manufacturers as global demand will be equally as high. Our partners at Baumen have been scaling production despite supply chain challenges to meet an ever-increasing demand for in-line and portable air filtration units. Current wait times for units are making the reality of readiness of all schools and indoor spaces this fall unlikely. On the heels of manufacturing and delivery, there will be an equally unprecedented demand for trades to install, maintain, monitor, data collect, and safety inspect all these new systems.

The challenge for Canadian manufacturers to meet this demand with an optimized supply chain would be staggering.

With a pandemic-crippled supply chain – it is a creative, constantly moving target of problem-solving and resourceful decision-making that Canadian manufacturers seem to thrive under.

Opportunity or insurmountable challenge? For Canadian manufacturing, it seems like an amazing opportunity to leverage our brain resources and pivot to meet new and ever-evolving demand and to bring some critical manufacturing back home.

At the front of this is the safety and well-being of our citizens and more importantly our most vulnerable.


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