December, 2011

A publication brought to you by the Manufacturers Alliance

Subscribe | Join MA
MA Announcements

Manufacturer of the Year
Nominations are being accepted immediately for Minnesota manufacturers that you feel qualify for the sixteenth annual Manufacturer of the Year award. Learn More

Manufacturing Wage & Benefits Survey
Plan to participate in the 2012 Manufacturing Compensation & Benefits Survey sponsored by the Manufacturers Alliance and Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association (MPMA). This survey was designed with input from local manufacturing companies to provide comprehensive total cash compensation data for making important pay decisions in this ever changing economy. Learn More

LinkedIn Group
If you are currently working at or previously held a position with a member company consider joining the Manufacturers Alliance LinkedIn Group to query over 900 local manufacturing practitioners with your general questions, concerns or simply to share a great article.

Leaders Alliance Groups
Whether you have worked at the same company for 15+ years or just want to look beyond your four walls for manufacturing best practices, consider joining a peer group to tour, critique and discuss critical issues in confidence. Learn More

Member Recognition
Thank you to our new and renewing members over the last 30 days.

Baker Tilly Virchow Krause
D W Johnson Associates
Daktronics Inc
Douglas Metal Specialties
Dow Water and Process Solutions
DRI-STEEM Corporation
Eide Bailly LLP
Goodrich Corporation
Hearing Components
ICA Corporation
InPursuit Search
Intek Plastics Inc
Lundgren & Associates Inc
Mate Precision Tooling
McQuay International
MGS Machine Corporation
North Anoka Control Systems
NWN Inc/Westin-Nielsen
Olsen Thielen Company LTD
Orion Search Group
Plymouth Industries
Sharon Fleming
Sifco Minneapolis
Southwood Associates
Synovis Surgical Innovations
Thiele Technologies Inc
UMC Inc
Vatne & Associates
Water Gremlin Company
Western Graphics


Workshop Schedule
Download the latest training schedule from the Manufacturers Alliance.

Upcoming Events

February 7th 2023 09:00 am
- The Role of the Leader Online

February 8th 2023 08:00 am
- Creating Process Maps

February 9th 2023 08:00 am
- Sustaining Lean Culture Through Leadership Changes

February 14th 2023 09:00 am
- Learning to Solve Problems Supervision Fundamentals Certification

February 15th 2023 09:00 am
- The Role of the Leader

February 16th 2023 08:00 am
- Conflict, Communication and Collaboration

February 21st 2023 08:00 am
- Learning to Solve Problems 6 Sigma Green Belt Certification

February 21st 2023 09:00 am
- Leadership Style & Versatility Online

February 22nd 2023 08:00 am
- Root Cause Analysis

February 22nd 2023 09:00 am
- Learning to Solve Problems Supervision Fundamentals Certification

Article Index

More in Store for MA Members in 2012
Article by: Art Sneen

A majority of our members enjoyed a productive, profitable and busy year in 2011. From a recent straw poll of Leaders Alliance membership, signs point to continued optimism in 2012.


Featured Company: Fabcon
Article by: Justin Dorsey

Since 1970, Fabcon has been manufacturing and erecting high quality concrete products including wall panels and Spandeck, highway traffic barriers, columns, and sound and security walls.  Its markets include commercial/industrial, retail/entertainment, transportation/highway, government/municipal, military and education. 


Employers May Be Subject to Union “Quickie Elections” in 2012
Article by: Gregory Peters

On November 30, 2011, the National Labor Relations Board’s three members: Chairman Mark Pearce, Craig Becker and Bryan Hayes, held a hearing on Chairman Pearce’s suggested “alternative” to a controversial proposed rule aimed to significantly shorten current union election procedures. 


Book Review: Great by Choice*
Article by: John Hehre

Take a few simple ideas, back them up with solid research and illustrate them with lots of interesting examples. Jim Collins used this approach in his last three books, Built to Last, Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall and relies on the same approach for this book.


ADVERTISEMENT
More in Store for MA Members in 2012

A majority of our members enjoyed a productive, profitable and busy year in 2011. From a recent straw poll of Leaders Alliance membership, signs point to continued optimism in 2012.

Many companies are again forecasting double-digit growth, though at a slower pace than in 2011. As a result, the Manufacturers Alliance association has enjoyed a good year, and we will continue to expand our offerings in 2012. Consequently, we are moving our offices to a more centralized location near highways 394 & 169 in Golden Valley. The new facility will contain an adjacent meeting and training center to better meet your needs. Watch our site for details!

Our standalone public and in-house workshop pricing will not change in 2012, but general company and Leaders Alliance membership dues will increase slightly. To stay on top of trends and current wages, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to participate in the only manufacturing-specific Compensation and Benefits Survey, with the 2012 participation window opening this month.

The Manufacturers Alliance also plans to add new features and benefits to our three main value streams: general company memberships, including monthly educational programs and new HR-focused events; practical and experiential peer-taught workshops to develop leaders, improve productivity and help you stay competitive; and our exclusive Leaders Alliance benchmarking peer groups. Watch for our “new” list of workshops as they are added throughout the year. Call on us for your manufacturing-related questions. As always, we aim to help our members exceed their goals through the sharing of best practices and our unique peer-to-peer education.

Art Sneen founded the Manufacturers Alliance in 1990 - an association of over 300 hundred manufacturers in the greater Twin City area. This 12,000-member industrial association specializes in sharing manufacturing education and resources peer-to-peer.

Back to Top

ADVERTISEMENT
Featured Company: Fabcon

Since 1970, Fabcon has been manufacturing and erecting high quality concrete products including wall panels and Spandeck, highway traffic barriers, columns, and sound and security walls.  Its markets include commercial/industrial, retail/entertainment, transportation/highway, government/municipal, military and education. 

Today, Fabcon has three highly automated manufacturing facilities located in Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  The basic manufacturing format consists of an enormously elongated metal bed form that rolls under a concrete hopper on train tracks.  How long are they?  The Minnesota facility has four side-by-side rolling beds, three of which are 680 feet x 8 feet and one stationary bed which is 300 feet x 12 feet.  The other facilities each have two rolling beds that are 800’ x 8’ and one stationary bed that is 300’ x 12’. The concrete hopper is on tracks so that it can move side-to-side from one bed form to another. The process doesn’t stop there.   First, the concrete needs steel reinforcement to give it structural strength.  Numerous lengths of pre-stressed strand and re-bar are laid out in the forms before pouring.  The re-bar must take into consideration needed openings for doors and windows and has to be blocked periodically depending upon the specified height of the wall.   How is that “spacing” accounted for?  Above each bed form is mounted a laser that illuminates the location of those spacers (and workers place them) as the bed form moves underneath the concrete hopper.  A relatively recent advancement has been the imbedding of Styrofoam billet cores – again the placement of which is dictated by the overhead laser – before a second “pour” of concrete is added on top of the first one.  Not only does this advancement increase the R-value of the panels but it also substantially reduces (18%) the weight and material cost of the panels.  Once one bed form is completely poured, its concrete must “cure” and the concrete hopper is moved over the next one, etc.  Once the cure is complete, the sections are cut to the right length and then loaded on trucks for delivery and assembly.  Because Fabcon does its own erection, it has refined the loading process in such a way that the pieces are unloaded in exactly the same order as they are erected.  While that process has taken years to perfect, the result is an almost near-perfect example of Lean.   

Joshua Flatla is Fabcon’s Manager of Manufacturing Development whose duties also encompass Lean development.  As evidenced by the preceding narrative, Fabcon is well along its Lean journey.  Since 2008, its lean processes have reduced architectural defect tolerances by 75%.  But, there is still room for improvement.  For Fabcon, the overriding bottleneck comes in the form of seasonality, as the construction industry ebbs and flows with the weather.  In a perfect world, orders would be placed a year in advance.  One solution to that bottleneck is to offer financial incentives for pre-ordering.  As Fabcon also offers a bewildering variety of products and surface finishes, batch-pouring is important too.  To engage its workforce (MN: 66 union/110 office; PA: 73 union/43 office; OH: 55 non-union plant/15 office), Fabcon has initiated its own on-site Lean Certification program.  Promoting safer processes has been a big part of that undertaking.  To create these end products, the machinery used in Fabcon’s process is huge – and unforgiving, and safety is paramount.  When asked how its employees have reacted to his Lean initiatives, Josh says, “Probably the biggest hurdle to overcome was the pre-conception that Lean was intended to eliminate jobs.  Once they saw that the goal was to make those jobs more dependable by being more efficient and more competitive in the marketplace, there was great acceptance.  In the old days, it was very much a function of working long summer hours to get the work done.  For a host of reasons – starting with safety – that was an inefficient approach.  One unintended positive consequence has been that it has allowed us to maintain our equipment on a more regular basis, which has measurably added to their useful life and product quality, and translates directly into annual savings.” 

Asked about the Manufacturers Alliance, Josh says, “The tours with my Leaders Alliance peer group have been great!  We’ve gone on them – and hosted them.  We have discovered that there really is such a thing as a ‘Lean Culture.’ And, there are fewer and fewer ‘naysayers.’  For us there is no question that the MA has been a terrific inspiration!”

Justin Dorsey, Director of Sales & Marketing, Advanced Capital Group located at 50 South Sixth Street, #975 Minneapolis, MN 55402. call (612) 230-3009, email jdorsey@acgbiz.com, or visit www.acgbiz.com.

Back to Top

ADVERTISEMENT
Employers May Be Subject to Union “Quickie Elections” in 2012

On November 30, 2011, the National Labor Relations Board’s three members: Chairman Mark Pearce, Craig Becker and Bryan Hayes, held a hearing on Chairman Pearce’s suggested “alternative” to a controversial proposed rule aimed to significantly shorten current union election procedures. 

The November 30 hearing follows an interesting turn of events.  The Board received more than 65,000 public comments after the rule’s publication in the Federal Register in June.  On November 18, less than five months after the proposed rule’s publication, Chairman Pearce called for a vote on the rule.  Because of the rule’s significant impact on union election procedures in conjunction with the unprecedented short timetable (rules typically take years, not months, to become final), Member Hayes threatened resignation, publicly speaking out against the rule and the rushed vote.

The controversial provision of the rule revolves around so-called “quickie elections.”  Such elections drastically alter the timetable for a legally recognized union election, by holding the election in as little as 10 days (or as many as 21 days) after the union files a petition for election.  This timeline cuts the time down from 42 days, impacting the employer’s ability to inform its workforce about the affects of unionization.  The proposed rule is an apparent substitute for a portion of the failed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) which, in addition to the quickie election, sought to eliminate secret ballot elections and mandate binding arbitration after failed bargaining. 

As a result of Member Hayes’ objections, as well as public opposition, Chairman Pearce issued his “alternative” to the rule—a two page board resolution to move forward with the rule-making process on six elements of the proposed rule—while continuing to deliberate on the remainder of it.  At the November 30 hearing, the members voted on the resolution (Chairman Pearce and Member Becker in favor of it, Member Hayes against it).  Although the resolution does not set a minimum time period between the petition and election, the net effect would still shorten the time period.  Should this occur, an employer will have less time to engage in meaningful discussions with its employees about the affects of unionization on the workplace. 

The rush to a final rule is not coincidental.  Following the expiration of Member Becker’s term on December 31, 2011, only two members of the Board will remain.  The Board must have three members to make decisions.  In light of the accelerated vote and Member Hayes’ objections, if the rule becomes final before the end of the year, legal challenges are expected.       

Since employers may face quicker union election procedures after the New Year, preparation for unanticipated union organizing efforts should be made.  This includes making sure all necessary policies are in place, that your supervisors are properly trained to spot union organizing techniques, and that the company is in a position to swiftly respond to any indication of union organizing efforts.

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.

Back to Top

ADVERTISEMENT
Book Review: Great by Choice*

Take a few simple ideas, back them up with solid research and illustrate them with lots of interesting examples. Jim Collins used this approach in his last three books, Built to Last, Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall and relies on the same approach for this book.

This one sets out to answer the question “Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?” The authors chose eight companies that outperformed their industry indices by at least ten times (referred to as “10Xers”) and compared them each to another company in their industry that reflected their industry’s average performance. Stellar performers (and their “twins”) included Amgen (Genentech), Intel (AMD), Microsoft (Apple), Progressive (Safeco), Southwest Airlines (PSA) and Stryker (United States Surgical Corporation). The research period under study ended in 2002 which explains in part why Microsoft, not Apple, is included as the stellar performer; at that point in history, Microsoft was clearly successful and Apple was almost relegated to the dustbin.

Some of the ideas presented are counterintuitive. We’ve all admired the visionary and heroic risk takers that dare to be bold. The research however shows that these 10Xers take fewer risks, change relatively slowly, and are surprisingly less innovative than their less successful counterparts. Instead they embody three consistently similar characteristics. The leaders of these successful companies all display an extreme consistency or “fanatical discipline” in maintaining a focus on the direction they’ve set for the company. They employ “empirical creativity” in their approach to choose their path. Collins uses the analogy of “firing bullets then cannonballs.” Bullets represent small, low risk experiments designed to test out ideas and theories, and to calibrate the final decision. The cannonball refers to the ultimate rollout of the strategy in a large and decisive way. Finally, the leaders maintain a “productive paranoia” that keeps them in a state of hyper-vigilance, continually preparing for possible problems ahead. As a result, they are prepared for problems that cause their competitors to stumble.

As usual, Collins and Hansen include many stories throughout the book, both from the subject companies and other events that illustrate their point. One of the more interesting stories is the race to the South Pole between two competing teams of explorers, Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott. Amundsen displays all the characteristics of the 10Xers where Scott displays many of the characteristics of their more unfortunate twins. Both teams started at the same time and both faced the same conditions. Amundsen’s team reached the South Pole first and returned safely. Scott’s team was second and never made it home.

This book is clear, concise and well written. The ideas presented are effective and attainable. This book would be a good addition to the bookshelf.

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.

Back to Top


Copyright © 2011 Manufacturers Alliance. All rights reserved.
Thank you for reading the Manufacturers Alliance E-Newsletter.