WMCO Secures $2.85 Million from FedDev Ontario to Help SMEs to Implement Digital Technologies

Kitchener, Oct 4th– In a monumental move, the Wood Manufacturing Cluster of Ontario has acquired $2.85 million through FedDev Ontario to help SMEs in Southern Ontario’s wood industry adopt new technologies. Through this project WMCO will be able to provide funding for as many as 50 eligible SMEs to undergo the adoption and implementation of digital technologies, creating 50 new jobs, and commercializing 50 new products, services, and processes.

Regular readers of Wood Industry may recall our coverage of the Canadian Digital Adoption Program and the Digital Modernization and Adoption Plan. This funding acquired by WMCO is similar in nature to these programs but will be facilitated by WMCO with their industrial expertise, experience, and connections. While previous federal and provincial programs have been plagued by administrative headaches and a lack of familiarity with any given industry, WMCO’s program promises to provide funding more efficiently while ensuring that SME’s develop industrially relevant and effective digital adoption plans. This is particularly important for those businesses that know they need to upgrade but don’t really know where to start. With WMCO’s guidance and ability to do industry-specific value stream analysis, you can be assured that the time being spent on the implementation of new technologies will have maximum value and fit your business plan.

This program is the culmination of over 5 years of work on the part of WMCO establishing government relations, conducting industry experiments, and making their research publishable and actionable in order to demonstrate to the government that they are uniquely and appropriately positioned for this responsibility. From August 2021 to March 31th, 2023, WMCO performed a study with 10 member companies from a sample of various wood industry sectors (such as cabinetry, millwork, and furniture) to close the gaps in their processes with digital solutions, focusing on communicative bottlenecks such as excessive paper trails or data entry. Through that study WMCO has been able to identify common data points, possible solutions, and how those solutions can be effectively implemented.

The table below demonstrates the effectiveness of their project:

MetricImprovement over the project
$ Gross Sales Increase$114M to $191M (78.3%)
Export Sales Increase$48M to $88M (68.9%)
$ Sales per employee Improvement68.9%
No. of Jobs Sustained855
No. of Jobs Created286
No. of Unfilled Jobs40
Funding amount per Job Sustained and Created ($1M/(885+286))$876


“The advanced wood manufacturing sector in Ontario is a significant contributor to Ontario’s economy. Ontario is home to the largest concentration of advanced wood manufacturing in Canada, and the Wood Manufacturing Cluster of Ontario plays an important role supporting more than 140 SME companies across the province. As one of Canada’s advanced wood manufacturing collectives, [WMCO] is providing valuable tools to small and medium-sized businesses so that they can succeed. Many of these manufactures and businesses are working to future-proof their businesses and move to a digital, smart future for their factories and processes. As we move to a greener, cleaner future, these practices are becoming increasingly more important. This is not because the federal government thought it was a brilliant idea, but because your sector and your brain power are leading this charge […] you are the innovators that we can just support.” -MP Bardish Chagger


What is an Industry cluster anyways?

Industry clusters represent a robust interlinkage of companies, suppliers, and associated institutions concentrated in a specific region, fostering a unique synergy between government and industry. Governments work with industry leaders to strategically steer economic development by fostering these clusters, enhancing innovation, entrepreneurship, and job creation. The establishment of supportive policies, coupled with investments in physical and intellectual infrastructure, underpins cluster development and, by extension, bolsters the capabilities of industries within. Concurrently, the industry becomes a pivotal collaborator, leveraging shared knowledge and resources to fuel productivity and innovation. Governments liaise closely with industries to formulate policies and regulations that nurture business operations while ensuring that they dovetail with broader economic objectives. An imperative symbiosis exists in the realm of skill development as well, with governments aligning educational institutions with the skill requisites of industries, who, in turn, influence and benefit from specialized workforce training.

In the domain of innovation and R&D, governments incentivize research initiatives, forging vital connections between academic and commercial entities. The industries, through collaborative R&D endeavors, reciprocally spur technological and innovative advances. This synergy extends to international competitiveness, with governments facilitating pathways for clusters to explore global markets while industries harness collective strength and insights to carve out an international presence. Moreover, the interplay manifests in the adherence to and formulation of environmental and social impact policies, where governments ensure the clusters adopt sustainable practices, thereby safeguarding their long-term viability and ensuring they contribute positively to social development. Thus, the symbiotic relationship engendered within industry clusters potentiates regional and national economic fortification, catalyzing a competitive edge globally.

WMCO represents a unique opportunity for the Canadian Wood Industry to scale up and skill up in a massive way, acting as a major resource hub for SME’s and an effective intermediary that could dictate and execute on government policy in the a practical (and industrially knowledgeable) fashion.

“We’re a self-help group for SMEs, a place where we can collectively learn from one another and share experiences, both successes and failures. […] Small organizations want to be competitive, but limited resources are a challenge. It’s not possible to have subject matter experts in all fields in our small businesses: marketing, finance, process engineering, software integration, simply the ability to adopt best practices in all facets of our business. It’s a challenge when we’re a sole proprietor of a small business. We just don’t have those resources necessarily. WMCO gives us access to this and enables us to be competitive […] With this funding announcement today, we now have an even stronger partnership with our government stakeholder, and we’re very grateful to the federal government for believing in our vision. I truly believe this funding will fuel innovation and growth and permit us to be competitive at home and abroad.” – Chris Martin, WMCO Executive Chair.

Visit WMCO.ca for more information.

Tyler Holt is the Editor of Wood Industry / Le monde du bois magazine. He has a master’s degree in literature and publication, and years of experience in the publishing and digital media industry. His main area of study is the effect of digital technologies on industrial and networked production.

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