CEO Dialogue, Heather Chalmers – November 2021

The world’s foremost Digital Industrial company, GE Canada has produced industrial solutions for over 128 years and employs thousands of Canadians across multiple sectors. Heather Chalmers, President & CEO of GE Canada and President of GE Healthcare Canada recently joined OG100 members for an intimate CEO Dialogue to discuss the company’s focus on the basics of good business. Heather spoke about the company’s global strategy and the Canadian perspective on the energy transition, effects from supply chain disruptions, and driving digital transformation.

The impending global energy transition will require a portfolio of solutions. These solutions will require numerous technologies that will ultimately depend on geography, decarbonizing old assets, and effective, reliable new technology. Canada has an unprecedented leadership opportunity, not just in terms of reaching our own net zero, but to develop new green sectors for export. For example, small modular reactors are one of many technologies that will be built in Canada that could add billions to Canada’s GDP through exports. For these opportunities to succeed, we need to develop a local supply chain built on our natural advantages and create centres of excellence for the long term. To ensure long-term success, we need to develop smart policies and incentives that will ensure competitive advantage and leverage older assets. The government is quick and capable of supporting Canadian manufacturing when we need it (e.g. PPE during the pandemic), and the energy transition will require similar response but with a long-term manufacturing and export strategy supported and accelerated by intelligent policies and mechanics.

Persistent supply chain disruptions have increased product costs substantially, and we’ll see a material impact until at least mid-2022. While some costs can be absorbed, increased prices are inevitable, and companies will have to find further ways to drive productivity. By building in redundancy for critical components, distributing supply chains, and finding areas where we have a natural advantage, we can solve some of the issues that the current supply chain has exposed. Until those solutions are fully developed, companies may be forced to increase prices, and business leaders should be preparing and educating their teams on how talk to customers about prices, focusing on maintaining long-term relationships. And while Canada is currently not top of mind as a supplier for many US-based companies, that is changing, especially in digital and AI, and critical minerals.

Digital transformation requires consistent, on-the-job training and education across the whole company. Companies need to focus on what’s going to be their competitive advantage and work from there. It’s not about what you’re digitizing today; it’s about where and how you will provide tangible, true value that doesn’t exist today. And where does that intersect with your natural capabilities – AI, HR, resources, infrastructure? Pick the areas where you can make a big bet and drive your digital efforts there. While some of your customers might not be ready to receive digital solutions yet, you’ll need to be ready when they are.