Established more than 150 years ago, the Canadian textile industry played an important role in the emerging Canadian economy. Fast forward to today and the industry has transformed itself into a highly technical arena with the leaders selling into marketplaces all over the world. In 2009, shipments totalled $3.19 billion, with exports representing $1.85 billion.
MW Canada leads the way
The global marketplace is increasingly competitive and MW Canada has found the way to develop highly customized solutions by working closely with their clients.
Chances are you already have MW Canada products on your windows in your home or office. It is their products that fill the fabric sample books from familiar brands such as Hunter Douglas, Bali, Graber, and Levolor, to name a few. Home Depot, Blinds to Go, Sears, Lowe’s and others all carry these brands.
“When you walk into these stores in Canada and the U.S., a large percentage of what you will see are the window covering materials that we produce right here in Canada,” says Bob Berger, President of MW Canada.
All MW Canada products are certified to Oeko-Tex Standard 100—a testing and certification system that is recognized worldwide. In a time when questionable business practices have meant an increase in toxic products on the world market, this certification is a health and safety guarantee to its customers.
MW Canada started by producing conventional yarns and fabrics in the 1960’s. They soon recognized that more opportunities lay in cultivating niche markets. And they saw that they could help more clients by developing and producing custom designed textiles, such as multi-layer composites using laminated films, reflective coatings, blackout webs, sound absorbing plastics, and other specific-use high value insulating materials.
Every year, MW’s designer creates hundreds of new patterns and prints for its clients. Raw materials are processed using complex equipment, with some items going through as many as 18 different processes, including dyeing, warping, weaving, knitting, winding, coating, printing, lamination, pleating and slitting, etc.
“We supply the custom end of the business. Consumers have many choices in how to cover a particular window: inside mount, outside mount, floor-to-ceiling, etc. The one-size-fits-all manufacturing from China or India doesn’t apply to us or our custom capabilities. That’s the trade we specialize in.”
Always on the lookout for even more ways to add value for its clients, MW has developed flame retardant window coverings for commercial and public facilities such as hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes and the hotel/motel market. These products are so highly specialized that Berger calls his products “engineered materials” rather than the more prosaic “textiles.”
“We can create all kinds of products for just about any particular end use,” Berger says. “We have developed engineered materials with conductive, self-cleaning and solar receptive properties. We also produce filter media for waste water treatment, and HVAC filtering. The possibilities are endless.”
Started by his grandfather and father in Montreal in 1963, Berger graduated from Philadelphia University with an Engineering degree in 1975, and learned every nuance of the business from his late father Charles. In 1976, the family moved the company to Cambridge, Ont., where all manufacturing is concentrated, except for the filter media materials produced at its North Carolina plant.
Their quality and results precede them—they now export 85 per cent of their products to clients as far away as India, China, Korea and all of South America.
Research and development
Here at home, MW has an extensive Research and Development program. The company works closely with Canadian universities, partnering on a wide variety of research projects. Berger is philosophical, “All of these projects are longer term, more like three to 10 years. It allows us to work with some of the best and brightest researchers in fields of material science, chemistry, and nanotechnology. We want to be in on the ground floor developing new materials, finishes, and processes.”
The work coming out of its R&D program is exciting. Solar energy represents the next big frontier. “Imagine if every window shade in your house acted as a solar panel and converted the sun’s energy into free electricity to partially power your home and reduce your energy bill,” Berger says. “The technology is there, it just needs to become more efficient. With our window covering products, it’s the perfect way to reduce our dependence on more expensive and potentially unstable energy sources.”
Right now, consumers can buy solar panels and every single piece of related equipment to install on their roof, but most are not prepared to do so. “But a window blind is a consumer product. Harness the sun’s power through a window blind—and you’ll hold the future in your hand,” observes Berger.
MW Canada recognizes its employees as its most important asset. Never content to rest on its laurels, MW has established progressive in-house programs for all of its 75 employees. Offering courses ranging from basic life skills to courses from Harvard Business School, the onsite learning and training center is open 24 hours a day. “Our company’s culture has shifted—we’re now a learning organization,” notes Berger. “Machinery, technology, markets all change faster and faster. We have to be prepared.”
Whether it is technology, innovation, education, or products designed to meet customers’ needs, MW Canada is prepared. The company continues its enduring history by meeting evolving global markets head-on and continuously pursuing the technical materials that define