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Member spotlight: The Carlson Group

Published by CME Manitoba on March 09, 2017

On March 23, the manufacturing industry will honour Neil Carlson of The Carlson Group as the 2017 inductee into the Manitoba Manufacturing Hall of Fame.

Committed to quality, LEAN and Safety, the Carlson Group is composed of four companies – Carlson Engineered Composites, a Canadian manufacturer of FRP components for OEMs; Carlson Engineered Composites USA, whose services include molding, pattern and tooling and specialty coatings; Carlson Commercial and Industrial Services, offering commercial painting and sandblasting; and Carlson Truck Outfitters, a leading installer of spray-in box liners and accessories.

CME connected with Dieter Loewen, CEO on The Carlson Group’s success and his own history of personal and professional development:

You have both an engineering degree and an MBA – your commitment to education shows in your own professional development. Can you tell us more about your philosophy as it relates to knowledge and learning?
The philosophy relates to the concept of leading from within; “within” being a culture, process or a business. When it comes to culture (people) – understanding their history and if possible, speaking their language, helped me to connect with their roots. Understanding a process means you need technical skills (at least in manufacturing). The MBA came handy when I had to deal with admin. processes. A business usually is a combination of culture (people) and processes. I try to understand both in order to help (lead).

Learning and knowledge sharing are cornerstones of the LEAN philosophy. Can you tell us more in your own words why you think this is important? How has it helped Carlson on your journey?
LEAN is a process of continuous improvement, which you can’t do without understanding the process and without the help of the people (culture). Yes, there are tools you can use and apply, but you need to involve the people to change the process. Active observation will lead you to learn. The knowledge will come from the implementation of change (improvements). Being sensitive to the culture, has helped us at Carlson to convince people that there is a better way for them, the customer and the company.

Manitoba is a special place to do business and a big part of Dare to Compete’s success seems to be rooted in the prairie philosophy of banding together. You’re a big supporter of the Conference: are there any words of advice you could offer others who aren’t sure about taking the time away from the office, or sending their staff to the event for the day?
Dare to Compete has provided me the opportunity to understand the experience other people had by implementing change and to network with the Manitoban manufacturing community. We know that Winnipeg is a big manufacturing hub in Canada. Why not take advantage of this opportunity?!

Are there any lessons or insights you picked up at Dare to Compete or other CME events that you’ve since implemented with your staff, or at home on a personal front?
Each event provides me the opportunity to connect with new people and expand my network. I try to get three to five new ideas of an event like this and later translate it into our culture (if possible). 

With the added benefit of a career where you’ve committed to ongoing education and professional development, if you could go back in time and give a younger you one piece of advice, what would you say?
Dream big, aim high and fail fast. We learn way more from our failures than from our successes. I would probably take more calculated risks and be more aggressive with my goals. 



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