February, 2012

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Acist Medical Systems
American Converters Inc
Amesbury Group Inc.
Bellcomb Technologies Inc
Daktronics Inc
E & O Tool & Plastics Inc
E J Ajax & Sons
Eaton Corporation
FMS Corporation
Force America
GN ReSound
Hearing Components
HID Global
Ironwood Electronics
Japs-Olson Company
Johnson Screens Inc
La Machine Shop Inc
Lifetouch Inc.
Mate Precision Tooling
Menasha Packaging
Midwest Rubber
Miller Manufacturing Co
Minntech Corporation
Nortech Systems
Pentair Technical Products
Quality Ingredients Corporation
Rimage Corporation
Ritchie Engineering Co
RMS Co
Robinson Rubber Products
Ron Finelli
Secoa Inc
Skyline Displays Inc
SMC Ltd
Starkey Laboratories Inc
Synovis Surgical Innovations
Technical Serv for Elect
Tennant Company
Thermo Fisher Scientific
Tolomatic Inc
Unitron Hearing
Uponor
Vision-Ease Lens Inc
Visions Inc
V-TEK INC
Windings Inc


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Article Index

Featured Company: Fiserv
Article by: Justin Dorsey

In general terms, Fiserv (http://www.fiserv.com/) provides account and transaction processing support services to the financial industry.  While Fiserv itself has many divisions, one of them manufactures credit, debit and gift cards (with the ubiquitous magnetic reading stripe on the back of each). 


Book Review: Mavericks at Work
Article by: John Hehre

A maverick is an animal that doesn’t run with the herd. Mavericks at Work offers ideas and examples of ways companies and people can succeed by taking a different approach to their business. There are several persistent themes throughout the book.


HR Insights Interview: Ryan Rohwer with Eaton
Article by: Ryan Rohwer

Eaton Corporation is a diversified power management company with 2010 sales of $13.7 billion. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2011.


MN Economic Report
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

The January Minnesota Business Conditions Index was above growth neutral for the 30th straight month at 57.5, up from December’s 56.9. 


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Featured Company: Fiserv

In general terms, Fiserv (http://www.fiserv.com/) provides account and transaction processing support services to the financial industry.  While Fiserv itself has many divisions, one of them manufactures credit, debit and gift cards (with the ubiquitous magnetic reading stripe on the back of each). 

Those cards are created by its Output Solutions division – a subsidiary of which is located in Shoreview, MN.  

Blank cards – the front embossed with the client’s logo - are received and inventoried at the Shoreview facility.  The Shoreview office then encodes the specific magnetic stripe and where necessary, embosses the participant data.   For a lay person to walk through this facility, what she or he slowly begins to realize is that the facility is like Fort Knox – in Shoreview. 

That visualization is actually not that far-fetched.  Take the gift cards for example.  Because they don’t require customized (e.g. personal data) embossing, they can be run through a high speed processor.  (So high-speed in fact that the processors are run in a humidity controlled environment to ensure that cards don’t stick together).  Once their magnetic stripes are embossed, those gift cards are like – cash!  Likewise, once the individual credit/debit cards have been embossed with personalized information they are like cash. 

If these cards are so valuable – are they safeguarded?  The obvious answer is of course. In fact, meticulously.  (So meticulously, in fact, that not a single card has ever been misplaced).  How?  The simple answer is strict redundancy.  To illustrate, no single person may be in a processing room alone at any given time.  Then there are the redundant cameras, redundant guarded entrances and exits and redundant surprise audits.  At first blush that might sound oppressive, but it’s not.  It’s just a high security work environment where once inside, employees go about their business in very ordinary and normal ways.  Still, it is interesting.

What does a credit card processor have to do with the Manufacturers Alliance?  Like all other industries Fiserv is under pricing pressure from an array of sources – starting with their own clients.  A number of its clients are big enough to process their own cards.  Unless Fiserv can do it faster and cheaper – they won’t keep the business.  That translates directly into an interest in and desire for LEAN. 

The Shoreview office of Fiserv began life as a subsidiary of Deluxe Corporation in 1982.  In 1998, it was spun off to Fiserv.  Steve Knapp was the General Manager at the time of the spin-off – and is the General Manager today.  To appreciate how challenging the operation is, it’s best to focus on the individual card part of the business rather than the mass produced cash cards.  A regular day consists of 5,000 orders with those orders generally consisting of lots of 1,000, 100, and 1’s.  That’s right – 1’s.  Card stocks must be withdrawn from the high-security “vault” loaded into printers and personalized.  Obviously there can be a lot of manual processing.   Nevertheless, almost 100% of Fiserv’s orders are delivered within 24 hours.

The easiest LEAN improvement was to go to a 24/7 manufacturing system.  But, that brought with it a problem in that with three shifts came three managers.  The answer was to give the day shift manager ultimate responsibility over all three shifts.  With that change came continuity. 

LEAN plays out in a myriad of other ways as well.  There are formal “idea” boxes, process improvement teams, and “breakthrough” process improvements – for which the originators/participants share in realized company savings. 

The result of this is a highly energized, stimulated and loyal workforce.  The average tenure is in excess of 15 years.  Because Fiserv is a public company (and its financials are transparent), the Shoreview facility holds regular Town Hall meetings to review those financials.

When asked what he thinks of the Manufacturers Alliance, Steve Knapp responds, “First of all the Manufacturers Alliance is invaluable.  Their LEAN education almost exactly match our needs, and we routinely send our folks through those programs.  But there’s something more.  That is, I – we – have found that you can’t participate in something as proactive as the Manufacturers Alliance and remain passive.  That might sound silly, but it’s not.   Inertia is just not part of the scene.  Company tours beget light bulbs beget reciprocal company tours, etc.  It’s just a great fraternity of peers.”         

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.

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Book Review: Mavericks at Work

A maverick is an animal that doesn’t run with the herd. Mavericks at Work offers ideas and examples of ways companies and people can succeed by taking a different approach to their business. There are several persistent themes throughout the book.

Figure out how to get a really large group of people to work on your project or issue. Open source programming is the biggest example of that approach but there are lots of other examples in completely different industries. Figure out how to really connect with your customers by dealing with the things they don’t like. Too many companies are analyzing customer facing activities and looking for the most efficient and cost effective methods – and driving their customers crazy in the process. Finally, how do you get more than your fair share of above average talent? Managing and leading people today requires a very different approach than even ten years ago.

Mavericks at Work provides examples of companies that have taken a distinctly different strategy and then expands those ideas into a framework for the reader to think about their own business. The authors have credible roots for this type of book; Taylor was cofounder and founding editor and LaBarre was a Senior Editor of Fast Company magazine. Fast Company was known for its lively and slightly irreverent view of the business world.

The book is divided into four parts. The first section, Rethinking Competition, provides examples of companies that have taken a different approach to competing in their industry. One of the examples is a bank that dramatically narrowed its product offerings and does them really well. The second section, Reinventing Innovation, presents the idea of getting lots of smart people to work with you, even if they don’t work for you. Open source programming is well established in the software world. How can you get a huge number of people that don’t work for you, to work on your issues? The third section talks about reconnecting with your customers. If we’re all so smart, why has the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) actually declined for so many industries and companies? Hint – when was the last time you tried to reach a human on the phone? What can you do differently to stand out? Finally, the last section talks about talent and poses some really good questions. Why would great people want to work for your company? What kind of people will support our culture and strategy? From the employees’ perspective, what will I work on that’s important? How will I make a difference?

The book is full of interesting examples and thought provoking questions. It does tend to focus on larger companies and well known industries. Some of the ideas can be translated for smaller companies. One more bonus – at the end of the book, there is a list of additional reading – from books to websites to papers – that further reinforce the ideas presented in the book. That list alone would keep you busy for a long time.



* William Taylor and Polly LaBarre: Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2006

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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HR Insights Interview: Ryan Rohwer with Eaton

Eaton Corporation is a diversified power management company with 2010 sales of $13.7 billion. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2011.

Eaton is a global technology leader in electrical components and systems for power quality, distribution and control; hydraulics components, systems and services for industrial and mobile equipment; aerospace fuel, hydraulics and pneumatic systems for commercial and military use; and truck and automotive drivetrain and powertrain systems for performance, fuel economy and safety. Eaton has approximately 73,000 employees and sells products to customers in more than 150 countries.

In Eden Prairie, MN Eaton employs more than 600 employees in their plant operations and Hydraulics Division Headquarters operations.  Eden Prairie is home for the global headquarters of the hydraulics business.  The plant, located right next door, produces hydraulic motors and hydraulic steering valves for OEM and distributor customers. 

 

Where did you receive your HR training/experience?

I joined Eaton in 2008 in the HR Leadership Development Program.  Within that program I had the opportunity to work in both our Electrical Sector and Industrial Sector.  I worked in plants and headquarters locations in Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and Minnesota.  After finishing the program I have been in Eden Prairie as the HR Manager for the plant operations.  Eaton has provided comprehensive internal training on everything including labor relations, compensation and benefits, leadership, training, and worker’s compensation.  Prior to joining Eaton I worked in operations management at Marriott Inc, so my time in HR is limited to my time at Eaton.

 

How and when were you introduced to HR and what fuels your passion for the profession?

I worked for Marriott Inc. in operations management for 5 years prior to joining Eaton.  During that time I worked at 4 hotels and resorts in Iowa and California.  While working in California, the resort I was working at was acquired by another company.  They came in and forced everyone to re-interview for a job with them.  People were literally interviewing for the job that they currently held.  The emotional toll and fear of losing their jobs was draining on the employees.  During this transition I chose to stay with Marriott and thought “this could have been handled much better”.  When I chose to go to graduate school to get my MBA in 2006, this experience at Marriott triggered me to focus on the people aspects of the business.  This experience has also helped me understand the fundamentals of relationship building and importance of a good HR organization.

 

What are your company’s current HR-oriented activities?

Eaton’s HR is wholly inclusive of all practices and processes you would expect.  We handle everything, such as: 

  • Talent Acquisition
  • Benefits
  • Compensation
  • Employment Practices
  • Talent Management & Organizational Effectiveness
  • Separations

Our 2012 focus will continue to be on talent management, diversity and inclusion, and HR analytics.

 

What was one major lesson learned in 2011 that you feel others could benefit from reading?

Relationship building is key to success, especially in a union shop.  Our location in Eden Prairie has been unionized since the day the doors opened.  In recent years, we’ve had a collaborative relationship with the union and have been able to quickly solve problems.  The union has been supportive of our continuous improvement efforts and continues to be a partner in our business’ success.  There is an understanding between all parties that “your success is our success”.

 

What are the next steps planned for improving your company HR processes?

Eaton continues to focus on standardizing best practices in the HR function globally as we continue to grow outside the US.  While we do this, we will continue to become more efficient and will be able to add more value to the business.  Focusing on the most strategic things will be important for our continued success.

 

Ryan Rohwer has been the HR Manager at Eaton Corporation in Eden Prairie, MN for 3.5 years. He may be reached at ryanrohwer@eaton.com.

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MN Economic Report

The January Minnesota Business Conditions Index was above growth neutral for the 30th straight month at 57.5, up from December’s 56.9. 

Components of the index for January were new orders at 61.0, production or sales at 60.6, delivery lead time at 58.1, inventories at 57.8, and employment at 50.0. “As a result of flooding in Thailand, computer and electronic component producers in the state experienced recent pullbacks in production.  Otherwise, durable and nondurable goods manufacturers are reporting solid improvements in business activity.  Surveys over the past several months point to positive growth for the first half of 2012 for Minnesota,” said Goss.
Jobs needed to get back to pre-recession level: A gain of 105,000, or 3.9 percent.

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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