August, 2012

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Air Automation Engineering
Amesbury Group Inc.
Anderson Automatics Inc
ATK-Federal Cartridge
Banner Engineering Corp
Blow Molded Specialties
Bondhus Corporation
CSM Bakery Products NA
Delkor Systems
Donaldson Company Inc
DRI-STEEM Corporation
E & O Tool & Plastics
Engineered Products Co
FMS Corporation
FSI International Inc
Gemstar Manufacturing
George Konik Associates,
Gopher Resource Corp
Graco Inc
Gyrus ACMI/Olympus
Hawkins
HID Global
ICS Healy- Ruff
INCERTEC
Interplastic Corporation
Ironwood Electronics
Johnson Screens Inc
La Machine Shop Inc
Landscape Structures Inc
Lifetouch Inc.
Loram Maintenance of Way
Mammoth-CES Group
Mate Precision Tooling
Matthew Strebe
Merrick, Inc
Midwest Rubber Service
Minnesota Rubber & Plastics
NewHR LLC
Nortech Systems
Olsen Tool & Plastics
Orange Communications
Priority Envelope Inc
Quality Tech Services
RJF Agencies Inc
Shippers Supply
Starkey Laboratories
SurModics Inc.
UMC Inc
Uponor
Uroplasty Inc
Williams Sound Corporation


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Other Announcements


Career Innovation 2012
Discover. Develop. Launch. In partnership with CareerBuilder, University of Phoenix brings Career Innovation 2012, a 13-city career event series, to the Minneapolis Hilton on October 9th. Employers have the opportunity to meet face to face with candidates. The event is open to University of Phoenix Students and Alumni, CareerBuilder constituencies and the community and typically has over 1000 registered attendees. This Career Fair is complimentary for all employers participating. To register or to learn more contact Sean Snow at Sean.Snow@phoenix.edu

CPIM Classes
Exlar Corporation of Chanhassen, MN is looking into offer the series of five CPIM classes in-house. They would start with Basics of Supply Chain Management in September 2012. The classes will be taught in 3-hour sessions one day per week for 10 week. They are looking to partner with other businesses in the local area to achieve the required class size. If you are interested in learning more details about this opportunity please call Lisa Ryan at 952-500-6331 or Email at lryan@exlar.com.

Article Index

Featured Company: Quality Ingredients Corporation
Article by: Justin Dorsey

QIC manufactures powdered ingredients, used in everything from beverages to snacks to side dishes, from consumer goods bought in grocery stores to finished meals served in food establishments.  To illustrate, the company began life making dry creamers and shortening, almost twenty-five (25) years ago. 


Book Review: Interactive Project Management Pixels, People, & Process*
Article by: John Hehre

“Interactive” is fast becoming the newest buzzword at the crossroads of corporate and technology. While this book is primarily about managing projects in the Interactive Industry, project management is almost always, by definition, interactive.. So what sets this book apart?


Patent law changes can affect your business’ freedom to operate, even if you have no patents
Article by: Michael Lasky

Your company’s freedom to operate may depend on whether a patent that is granted to another party blocks your current operations or your future expansion.   It may seem incredible, that a business you have operated for years could be covered by a newly issued patent, but it does happen frequently. 


Lean Champion of the Month: Kerry Barnard
Article by: Kerry Barnard

UMC is a precision machining company providing working solutions for the medical, aviation and commercial industries.  Of thier manufactured product, 80% is medical and 20% is Commercial and aviation related.  Thier full service offering includes the ability to work with materials including stainless steel, titanium, inconel, hastelloy, waspoloy, satellite and other high temperature alloys. UMC delivers the close tolerances required.


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Featured Company: Quality Ingredients Corporation

QIC manufactures powdered ingredients, used in everything from beverages to snacks to side dishes, from consumer goods bought in grocery stores to finished meals served in food establishments.  To illustrate, the company began life making dry creamers and shortening, almost twenty-five (25) years ago. 

In 2007, founder Bob Thompson retired and sold the company to the employees through a 100% employee-owned ESOP.  It is fitting that QIC is employee owned since it sees people as the bedrock of its business.  Externally, QIC seeks to establish partnerships and long-term relationships with both customers and suppliers.  Internally, it works to build a culture defined by integrity, respect, and commitment. 

QIC is a far cry from those humble beginnings. Today, it operates out of two facilities in Burnsville, MN and Marshfield, WI and employs nearly 100 employees.  Both facilities operate around the clock 24/7.  In late 2011, QIC brought in Robert St. Louis to be the Chief Operations Officer.  Robert has a B.S. in Aeronautics and an M.B.A.  Robert moved to Minnesota to work as a production manager at Pentair, then served a stint at a medical device manufacturer.

At first, aeronautics might seem to be a far cry from manufacturing powdered ingredients.  But as he explains, “Actually, my undergraduate degree has served me very well here.  Our processes are very much about thermo and fluid dynamics. My ISO medical-device manufacturing experiences are transferable within the world of FDA regulations.  Another reason I was hired was because of my Lean experiences.”

Robert brings an interesting perspective to Lean.  “In a very real sense all trouble shooting is a form of Lean manufacturing.  But the tangible manufacturing reason to implement a Lean culture is because by doing so you can hope to smooth the wild variations around individual bottlenecks.  Or to say it another way, if you simply set about to solve the problem in the paint-booth, and you succeed, one unintended consequence might be the flooding of the assembly department with newly painted parts.  But, if you mindfully practice Lean in all departments you gain understanding of the whole business, the interdependencies, and might hope to be able to avoid those wild fluctuations or excess standard deviations.”

Robert has set about to establish a comprehensive Lean culture.  Each week, he leads his team on a Gemba “where the real work is performed” tour of the plant.  While he is a devout believer in metrics, he adheres to the mantra: keep it simple!  That translates into a metric board with five straightforward but critical benchmarks: 1) Safety, 2) Quality, 3) Delivery 4) Cost and 5) Lean. Robert also believes that being an ESOP makes deploying Lean tools easier.  “It’s great.  Take cost for instance.  At most manufacturers, that’s an obscure control lever.  But here, each and every one of us understands that cost affects us personally.  And that’s great, when we eliminate waste in our processes, all of us benefit!”

QIC is excited about growth potential.  Already well established in the food chain (no pun intended), it also sees great growth potential in the nutraceutical and dietary supplement markets (Think protein powders and consumer health supplements).  In the last year, it has already added 10% to its work force and is adding to its 50,000 square foot Burnsville facility. The expansion will allow QIC to nearly double its production and create more jobs in the city of Burnsville.

While QIC has its own line of proprietary products, an important segment of the business comes from manufacturing powders to customers’ specifications, and importantly, offering to add value to those formulations.  For example, a customer might want it to run 100,000 pounds of a cheese powder, but might be very interested in QIC’s ability to control the fat content of that formula. A critical part of QIC’s success is Service Account Management, where a dedicated service account manager continuously develops the client/vendor relationship to ensure a healthy partnership. The result is a pro-active rather than reactive working relationship, and is a cornerstone to QIC’s success.

Like every successful manufacturer, QIC is neither complacent nor smug. In that, it very much looks to the Manufacturers Alliance to be a partner in its growth and evolution.  As Robert points out, “just being able to see first-hand that your peers have solved the problem that is plaguing you is inspiring.  It translates into ‘we can too.’  I’ve worked with MA since my early years at Pentair and have come to depend on them as trusted partners.  I’m excited, very excited, to be a part of QIC. And, I’m excited to bring my relationship with the Manufacturers Alliance with me.”

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: Interactive Project Management Pixels, People, & Process*

“Interactive” is fast becoming the newest buzzword at the crossroads of corporate and technology. While this book is primarily about managing projects in the Interactive Industry, project management is almost always, by definition, interactive.. So what sets this book apart?

The subtitle says it all – Pixels (read: product), People, and Process. Generically, projects tend to all have common components including schedules, due dates, dependencies, resource allocations and deliverables. But projects in the Interactive Industry have a few additional characteristics. They combine creative ideas with a need for advanced technology. There are usually two distinct tracks, one that focuses on user experience (the content and functionality visible to the end user) and one that develops the back end infrastructure that makes it all work. These two tracks, although separate, need to function cooperatively in order to achieve the desired end result. Finally, these projects are more iterative simply by nature of constantly evolving technologies in the long run and changes from clients in the short run. Are projects in that industry unique in these respects? No – which brings us to reason why this is a great book.

The first part of the book provides an excellent insight to some universally key areas of project management. Definition of skills, roles and responsibilities, the idea of emotional intelligence and how it relates to motivating people, and the importance of communication are all familiar topics to project managers across the board. These concepts are explained clearly as they relate to each section of the book and include practical suggestions and best practices for application within projects. The second half of the book describes the process used in the authors’ firm for interactive projects. Although the process described has been developed specifically for interactive projects, the concepts can be easily extrapolated across industries. There are many small but important take-aways throughout the book. For example, keeping track of initial client and team assumptions will save time later in the project when developing plans and implementing requirements. There is also an excellent discussion on how to approach cost estimates and discuss them effectively with clients. The book’s companion website offers a master process diagram and the forms or “cheat sheets” described in the book.

As technology becomes a more integral part of our everyday lives, it’s highly likely that interactive processes will affect the way we, manage projects and clients.  This is not your typical project management read; the ideas are well-presented and while non-traditional in practical application, are universally applicable conceptually. Whether you’re on the interactive bandwagon already, or are skeptical about the practice, this is a must read for anyone who manages projects or clients.



* Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker: Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People, and Process. Berkeley, CA: New Riders, 2011

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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Patent law changes can affect your business’ freedom to operate, even if you have no patents

Your company’s freedom to operate may depend on whether a patent that is granted to another party blocks your current operations or your future expansion.   It may seem incredible, that a business you have operated for years could be covered by a newly issued patent, but it does happen frequently. 

Your ability to operate and indeed the value of your company to a prospective buyer will be affected by whether the new owners have the right to operate and expand the business they are buying.   Intellectual property rights of others, of which you may be completely unaware, often spring up when a new owner with greater visibility, and perhaps deeper pockets, buys a company.

Therefore, buyers conduct due diligence before purchase to minimize their risk, but if they find something wrong, it can be too late or very expensive to fix, and furthermore, it must be disclosed to any subsequent potential purchaser.

If a patent is granted (albeit in error) on your current methodology or product, or blocks your future business expansion, you may become an infringer, and although your infringement may not be detected for years, it may destroy the salability of your business, unless you intervene to prevent the patent from being granted in the first place.

A new law that goes into effect on September 16, 2012, will help protect your business valuation from this patent threat, but it will only work for those businesses which are proactive in using this new tool.

Patents may be improperly granted because the Patent Office is unaware of prior technology, possibly your technology that you have implemented for years.

If a patent is granted which will inadvertently block your business or its expansion, you may face the expensive task of getting it invalidated.  Until it is invalidated, no buyer will touch the company due to the risk that they may be buying a lawsuit.  Patents last 20 years, so “waiting it out” is not a viable option.

The new law gives you the right to inform the Patent Office of evidence which would block issuance of patents.  The procedure is far simpler and cheaper than a lawsuit, but because the window to activate the procedure is very narrow and the only way you will discover a problematic patent application in time, is to start an ongoing Patent Competitive Intelligence program.

The Patent office program works like this: You watch for the publication of patent applications before issuance (competitive intelligence), either in the categories of your interest, or by a competitor’s name. If you have documents which would tend to prove that the patent should not be granted (or its scope should be narrowed), you can submit the documents and they will be included in the evaluation of the patent application grant.

If however, you miss the window, (which closes at the first examination of the published application), or 6 months from publication, whichever is later), the Patent Office will refuse to consider your submission. Then, you must disqualify the patent by various other and much more expensive procedures.

Even if you never have to intervene in any patent application process by this procedure,   a patent competitive intelligence program may be extremely valuable as you will get an early glimpse of your competitor’s R&D plans well before they are made public.  Either way you win, but only if you are proactive in preventing problems that may later threaten the value of your business.

Michael Lasky, Patent Attorney with Altera Law Group in Minneapolis MN may be reached at mlasky@alteralaw.com

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Lean Champion of the Month: Kerry Barnard

UMC is a precision machining company providing working solutions for the medical, aviation and commercial industries.  Of thier manufactured product, 80% is medical and 20% is Commercial and aviation related.  Thier full service offering includes the ability to work with materials including stainless steel, titanium, inconel, hastelloy, waspoloy, satellite and other high temperature alloys. UMC delivers the close tolerances required.

Where did you receive your Lean training experience?
The first formal Lean Training was from the College of St. Thomas and was Lean Mini-Masters training.  Our six person upper management team attended.  This helped to align the team.  The training that was the most significant and really allowed me to look at things differently, I received from Air Academy Associates in August, 2000.  With that training I earned my Blackbelt.

How, when and why did you get introduced to lean and what fuels the passion?
In 2004, one of our customers presented their Enterprise Excellence program to UMC’s upper management.  They were looking for suppliers that would commit to training and then apply it to a project.  We agreed because it aligned well with our objectives.  Allowing employees to work together, make improvements where they can make a significant change/impact is the most rewarding part of my job.

What are your current Lean oriented activities? 
Currently we are focused on eight key projects.

 

  •  Standard pricing for one of our customers product lines. This one began as the result of customer feedback on price fluctuation on repeat parts.
  • Reduce tooling costs as a percentage of sales. Tooling costs were rising and upper management reviews these costs monthly.
  • Simplify our Quoting process.
  • Lodged media in parts (tumbling operation). Lodged media was identified as a repeat offender on customer returns and internal rejects.
  • Setup reduction in the MT (Multi-axis) area. Setup time variation on repeat parts was creating scheduling issues.
  • Improve job completion by required by date. This is the cause of poor delivery performance that is on our KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)
  • Reduce scrap on Precision Heads. Part specific ongoing scrap issues.
  • Reduce scrap and cost on a customer’s part. Our customer offered to train us in their problem solving methodology so we selected one of their parts to focus on.

 

What were the lessons learned from leading your team on a Lean project?
There have been many, but the most recent lesson I learned happened in a four person team.  Three of us were moving in one direction and one team member had checked out and I didn’t see that.  Another member did pick up on the disconnect, and started asking questions.  We discovered why the member was disengaging and that changed the entire direction of the team for the better.  The reason the team member was disengaged was because she didn’t think that we were getting to root cause and she was out numbered.  Three of the 4 team members had already started to formulate a solution.  It was only because we stopped and listened to her  that we discovered we had overlooked important data that showed us we were wrong.   It’s easy to jump to the solution phase because we all think we have the answer, and doing this wastes time and effort when the problem isn’t fixed.

What are the next steps in the Lean journey for your company?
Over the next six months we will be working with one of our key Aerospace customers using their problem solving approach to improve quality and throughput.   Additionally, we will ensure that successes are shared so that Lean activities are viewed as a necessity and not as a luxury.

How would you describe peer-to-peer education & training to your colleague?
When working with others, I’ve always learned more from stories and personal experiences than from a step by step “how to” process.  When a peer shares with you what worked or what didn’t, you learn more about the entire issue; the background, the complications, the situation that is never as black & white as a text book would lay it out.  The perspective is from someone that is on your level.  The direction is not a dictate from the above, rather a compilation of hands on experience, with no motive other than to help with multiple perspectives that will yield better results than only one opinion.

Kerry is the Director of Continuous Improvement at UMC, Inc. in Monticello, MN. he has worked their for 35 years and may be reached at kerryB@ultramc.com

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