October, 2011

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The inaugural winners for the Fall 2011 Scholarship Program are Bonnie Mueller of The Dynamic Group and Laurie Osmondson of National Flooring Equipment. Each winner will receive up to $2400 redeemable in a variety of leadership and improvement training or certifications from the Manufacturers Alliance.
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Aetrium Inc.
ATS Medical Inc
Beckman Coulter Inc
Bermo Inc
Colder Products Company
Curtis 1000
Decimet Sales Inc
Diversified Plastics Inc
Fishbowl Solutions Inc
FMS Corporation
Froehling Anderson
Global Finishing Solutions
Gopher Resource Corp
Granger Machine
Gyrus ACMI
Independent Packing Services
Juno Inc
La Machine Shop Inc
Lexington Brainerd
Malco Products Inc
Medrad Interventional/Possis
MGS Machine Corporation
Milestone AV Technologies
Miller Manufacturing Co
MISCO/MPLS Speaker Co
Navy Island Plywood
OMG Electronic Chemicals
Pentair Technical Products
Platinum Group
Quali Tech, Inc.
Quality Career Services
Robinson Rubber Products Company
Skyline Displays Inc
SPX Corporation
Starkey Laboratories Inc
Technical Serv for Elect
Thomas Engineering Co
UMC Inc
Western Graphics
Whirltronics Inc


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February 8th 2023 08:00 am
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February 14th 2023 09:00 am
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Article Index

MN Manufacturing Economic Update
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

Minnesota’s leading economic indicator from the monthly survey of supply managers was above growth neutral for the 26th straight month at 55.3, down from 56.3.


Book Review: The Innovator's DNA
Article by: John Hehre

How innovative are you? Perhaps more importantly, how innovative is your company? Can you or your company become more innovative? The Innovator’s DNA covers several key points around how you and your company can become more innovative.


DOL and IRS Announce Crack Down
Article by: Gregory Peters

The United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) just announced a joint effort to subject employers in seven states, including Minnesota, to heightened scrutiny regarding their classification of workers as independent contractors. 


Lean Leader of the Month
Article by: Robert A. Dewane

Robert A. Dewane has been the Lean Six-Sigma Manager for Menasha Packaging at Lakeville, MN for the last 5 years.  Menasha Packaging specializes in creating high-end graphic packaging and merchandising products for retail, food, and pharmaceutical applications.


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MN Manufacturing Economic Update

Minnesota’s leading economic indicator from the monthly survey of supply managers was above growth neutral for the 26th straight month at 55.3, down from 56.3.

Components of the index for September were new orders at 57.4, production or sales at 61.2, delivery lead time at 56.0, inventories at 54.1, and employment at 47.6. “Over the past year, Minnesota’s manufacturing sector has added more than 5,000 jobs.  Even food processors in the state, after months of job losses, have begun to experience positive job growth.  I expect manufacturing job growth to be positive, but weak, in the months ahead,” said Goss.

Dr. Ernest Goss of Creighton University, used the same methodology as The National Association of Purchasing Management to compile this information. An index number greater than 50 percent indicates an expansionary economy, and an index under 50 percent forecast a sluggish economy, for the next three to six months.

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Book Review: The Innovator's DNA

How innovative are you? Perhaps more importantly, how innovative is your company? Can you or your company become more innovative? The Innovator’s DNA covers several key points around how you and your company can become more innovative.

Innovative companies are founded and led by highly innovative people. There are five common denominators, or skills, that innovative people share far more frequently than other less creative people. 

The first skill is “associating” or as Steve Jobs put it, “Creativity is connecting things.” Innovative people have very broad and deep interests. Because they are actively scanning the world for interesting things and ideas, it becomes easy to see solutions in seemingly unconnected areas. The second skill is “questioning” or as Ratan Tata put it, “Question the unquestionable.” Just about everyone has heard of Steve Jobs. Raymond Tata, founder of Tata Group, developed the Nano, billed as the world’s cheapest car. The third skill is “observing.” Truly innovative people and companies spend a considerable amount of time studying the subject as they develop their ideas. Fourth is “networking.” Most of the truly disruptive innovations may have been conceived by one person, but are almost all are brought to fruition by teams of people directly or indirectly involved in the process. Finally, the last skill is “experimenting.” Broadly speaking, this implies the ability to not only try and fail, but embrace failure as a learning tool. Emphasized throughout the book is the idea that innovation is more about being thorough and working hard, than it is about some innate creative talents.

These common denominators form the structure of the ideas presented in this book. The authors spent eight years researching this book and many more researching the topic in general. Christensen in particular has written extensively on the topic of innovation. As a result of the research, the authors are able to mix in many stories of innovative people, ideas, products and companies throughout the book to illustrate their points. The primary intent of the book is to help people and organizations become more innovative. There are many suggestions throughout the book for improving your own creative abilities as well as ideas for organizations. The authors have developed an assessment tool that is available so you can test your own innovative capabilities along these dimensions (although not free, a discount is available if you’ve bought and read the book). 

The stories about and descriptions of innovative people and companies make this book easy and enjoyable to read. If you have any interest in developing the next breakthrough product or simply improving your ability to generate new ideas and solutions to problems, then this book is worth reading.

John Hehre is a senior operations executive and provides interim management and project based consulting to mid-sized private companies in need of transformative change. He can be reached at jhehre@cprocess.com.

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DOL and IRS Announce Crack Down

The United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) just announced a joint effort to subject employers in seven states, including Minnesota, to heightened scrutiny regarding their classification of workers as independent contractors. 

The DOL and IRS have made clear that this crack down will result in a significant increase in the number of investigations of employers and significant penalties to employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors.

Faced with this increased investigative scrutiny, employers should make certain that they will be able to substantiate the characterization of independent contractors within their workforce.  Unfortunately, there is no completely objective equation to use to determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Further complicating the situation for employers is the fact that the various state and federal agencies use different tests to determine whether a worker is properly characterized as an employee or an independent contractor.  Generally, these tests all focus on the degree of control and independence of the worker.  The greater the level of control and independence the more likely the worker can be properly classified as an independent contractor.

The IRS uses the following three factor test to determine whether an independent contractor is properly classified:

(1) Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?  The more control the worker has, the more likely the worker will be considered an independent contractor.

(2) Financial: Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? (i.e., how worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.).  The more the worker controls his/her job and the more tools the worker provides, the more likely the worker will be considered an independent contractor.

(3) Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business? The shorter the period of the relationship and the less it resembles a traditional employment relationship in terms of leave and benefits, the more likely the worker will be considered an independent contractor.

The DOL Field Operations Handbook used by the DOL investigators, sets out a more detailed test to determine whether a worker is properly classified as an independent contractor.  The following is just a sample of a few of the relevant areas of inquiry for the DOL:

(1) Whether there are restrictive provisions in the contract between the possible employer and possible employee which require that the work must be satisfactory to the possible employer and detailing, or giving the possible employer the right to detail, how the work is to be performed;

(2) Whether the possible employer has control over the business of the person performing work for them, even though the possible employer does not control the particular circumstances of the work;

(3) Whether the contract is for an indefinite period or for a relatively long period;

(4) Whether the possible employer may discharge employees of the alleged independent contractor.

In addition to the DOL and IRS tests, various Minnesota state laws, such as unemployment and workers’ compensation, and the agencies tasked with enforcing those laws have their own tests which focus on factors similar to those above.

If an individual is improperly classified as an independent contractor rather than an employee, employers face the possibility of penalties, fines and an increased tax burden as a result of that misclassification.  Additionally, the improper classification can lead to misclassification claims for purposes of workers compensation, unemployment and many employee benefit plans (i.e. 401(k) plans, health plans, etc.).  Employers can avoid these unexpected costs by conducting an audit into their use of independent contractors and taking various steps to ensure these individuals are properly classified. 

Gregory L. Peters, is an attorney with Seaton, Peters & Revnew, P.A. whose practice is limited to representing employers in labor and employment matters. Mr. Peters has worked with companies in all areas of employment counseling, employment litigation, labor arbitration, union organizing and labor negotiations. Mr. Peters can be reached at (952) 921-4607.

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Lean Leader of the Month

Robert A. Dewane has been the Lean Six-Sigma Manager for Menasha Packaging at Lakeville, MN for the last 5 years.  Menasha Packaging specializes in creating high-end graphic packaging and merchandising products for retail, food, and pharmaceutical applications.

Where did you receive your Lean training and experience?

United Technologies Company - Pratt&Whitney Dallas, TX

How and when did you get introduced to lean and what fuels your passion?

My first position was right out of school as a thermal process operator for Pratt & Whitney in Dallas, TX in the refurbishment of turbine parts for aviation. I started working for the company at the same time it was purchased by Pratt & Whitney. Pratt immediately rolled out their Lean program and asked for volunteers for their “Copilot Program”. The program was formed to create Lean specialists at all levels of the company. The training provided included  Shingijutsu Sensei’s from Japan in conjunction with Pratt’s “ACE” (Achieving Competitive Excellence) training program. In three short years we experienced 42-day lead times reduced to seven days. Complicated production processes became visual and easier to manage. Overworked employees' jobs became “easier” and safer. The company became much more profitable as a result.

There is a tremendous amount of pride in being a part of something so powerful. Everyone wants to be part of the “winning team”. The lean tools empower everyone to do that. It is motivating to go home each day knowing you were an active part of the solution.

What are your current Lean oriented activities?

My activities are broad. My job is to support our company’s strategic goals for on-time delivery, EBIT, throughput, inventory turns and safety. Whether it is a setup reduction event, value streaming a process with a customer or vendor, holding an office event or rolling a layout change in a warehouse for picking efficiency, it should impact a key company goal.

What were the lessons learned from leading your team on a Lean project?

My greatest personal lesson: You must make every moment a coaching moment. The real job of a true lean leader is to work themselves out of a job. You want to coach people every day so they depend on you less and less and still achieve great results. Whether it is during a Kaizen event or a simple production meeting, always teach people to think lean for themselves!

What are the next steps in the Lean journey for your company?

Extending Lean principles to our Vendors and a stronger focus on the sales-to-order entry process.

How would you describe peer-to-peer education & training to your colleague?

We have very strong internal lean training (Lean Wave), but the true education happens hands-on during improvement events. The best lean education and training will always occur when we involve our peers in actual events.

Menasha Corporation will be hosting a kickoff meeting for the Twin Cities Continuous Improvement Consortium (CIC), facilitated by Optima Associates and co-sponsored by Manufacturers Alliance. The goal is to bring together members to help each other teach, coach, learn and assess, in a safe facilitated environment, on the Continuous Improvement Journey. Robert Dewane from Menasha Corporation, will talk about their Lean and Continuous Improvement journey, Optima Associates will provide information and answer questions about the Twin Cities CIC, and then there will be a tour of Menasha Packaging’s Lakeville facility. Learn More

Robert is a Lean Six-Sigma Manager for Menasha Packaging in Lakeville MN. He may be reached at robert.dewane@menasha.com.

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