With 18 plants in Europe, six in Asia and a seventh under construction in China, globally focused Linamar of Guelph, Ont., wants to see the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) become reality.
President and CEO Linda Hasenfratz sees far more opportunity than risk in what would become the world’s largest single free-trade agreement.
Recognizing that some industry interests worry about the TPP, fearing the added competition it would bring, Hasenfratz would welcome it.
“I’m a big believer in eliminating trade barriers and opening markets broadly,” she says. “The TPP offers an opportunity for purchasing equipment and materials from more countries more economically, and I think there’s opportunity on both sides of the scale.
“I know I can compete on a global stage. I look at the products we’re producing today, and they’re highly sophisticated and very challenging to manufacture, but we’ve developed processes, tooling and capabilities over many years.
“People worry about content rules under TPP compared to NAFTA, but I like to point out that Canadian content requirements under NAFTA are zero.
“We have to compete now with the U.S. and Mexico. With TPP, we’ll compete with a bigger basket of people, but we’ve been able to win enormous amounts of new business.
“We have great quality and value and that’s what wins business, not something as transient as low-cost labour.”
Hasenfratz’s biggest challenge is much closer to home: finding qualified people in a labour market short of skilled workers. More than 600 apprentices work with Linamar globally, but Hasenfratz needs more.
“We work closely with local colleges in all the regions we operate in to support and attract people into skilled trades,” she says. “That whole area of attracting people, developing them, and making sure the pipeline’s full is a big challenge and one where we spend a lot of time and energy.”
She’s also very keen on new technologies, including alternative fuels and autonomous driving. Engines and transmissions are a $500 billion market globally, she says, and even a small outsourcer
can do well.
“Vehicle volumes are flattening off in North America, but if we can continue to increase our content per vehicle, we can continue to grow,” she says.“It’s a long-term story, and we’re growing here (in Canada) and in all our global centres.”
RECORD OF GROWTH
Hasenfratz has headed Linamar, which makes powertrain and vehicle components as well as aerial work platforms, since 2002.
The company was started in Guelph by her father, Frank Hasenfratz, in 1966 with a single lathe in his basement. Today, it anticipates Cdn $6 billion in sales this year and, with several new programs ready to launch, expects to reach close to $8 billion by 2020.
Linamar produces auto parts at more than 20 locations in Southern Ontario, all but one (in Windsor) in and around Guelph, where it employs more than 12,000 people.
“We’ve been growing our sales and earnings in double digits for quite a few years,” Linda Hasenfratz says. “Our area of focus is primarily in powertrain and driveline, and while 70 per cent of the content is in-house (at the OEM), we’re seeing higher levels of output to the supply base.
“Our type of product is also highly capital-intensive, and by outsourcing, our customers can put that money into vehicle capacity. We do products for hybrid vehicles, and we’re also supplying electric vehicles.”
Linamar also operates in a strategic alliance with Swiss company Georg Fischer Automotive for high-pressure light metal die-casting in the U.S.