August, 2013

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New and Renewing Companies

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Quality Ingredients Corporation
Cat Pumps
Twin City Die Castings Co
La Machine Shop Inc
Insight Insurance Services
PRA Global
NewHR LLC
Le Sueur Incorporated
Data Sciences International
Starkey Laboratories Inc
Nystrom Inc
Quali Tech, Inc.
Banner Engineering Corp
Millerbernd Manufacturing Co.
Hawkins
Plasti Dip International
Quality Career Services
H & B Elevators
SurModics Inc.
Gemstar Manufacturing
Uroplasty Inc
Williams Sound Corp
Rebuild Resources
Cherne Industries Inc
Ceramic Industrial Coatings
Bondhus Corporation
7-Sigma Inc
Design Ready Controls
OMG Electronic Chemicals
Phillips & Temro
Orange Tree Employment
Miller Manufacturing Co
Metro Mold & Design
UMC Inc
Lexington Brainerd
Japs-Olson Company
HID Global
RMS Co
FMS Corporation
DRI-STEEM Corporation
Bose Corporation ESG
Talon Innovations
SPX Corporation
Gyrus ACMI/Olympus
Interplastic Corporation
Ironwood Electronics
E & O Tool & Plastics
Quality Tech Services- QTS
Tjernlund Products Inc
Bilfinger Water Technologies
Midwest Rubber Service
Precision Associates Inc
Remmele Engineering Inc
Upsher-Smith Labs Inc
FSI International Inc
Lifetouch, Inc.
Mate Precision
Uponor



TSI Expands HQ-

Plans to add 200 Jobs!

TSI, designer and producer of
precision measurement instruments,
plans to add jobs in Shoreview over
four to five years to occupy it's
two story addition.



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Article Index

Getting a Grip on Change
Article by: Mike Kenfield

The story is unfortunately all too familiar. After investing in solving a problem or improving a process, the change does not stick. The problem still occurs, the improved process is not followed.  What can you do?


Product Planning: The Little Guy’s Secret Advantage
Article by: Scott Propp

I believe that innovation is key to ending our current economic malaise in this country. Yet in looking for areas to innovate, many business leaders steer clear of markets adjacent to large companies, worried that big guys will crowd them out.


Book Review -Shop Class as Soulcraft – An Inquiry into the Value of Work
Article by: David Haynes

"The truth does not reveal itself to idle spectators." –Matthew Crawford. My first thought, as I ponder how to begin this review, is to remind myself that it's not the goal here to get you to read this review instead of the book. Thus I can, without too much guilt, admit to you that I have no idea how to do justice to this reflective little book.


MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

For an eighth straight month, Minnesota’s Business Conditions Index remained above growth neutral. The index from a monthly survey of supply managers in the state fell to 54.0 from June’s 56.2.


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Getting a Grip on Change

The story is unfortunately all too familiar. After investing in solving a problem or improving a process, the change does not stick. The problem still occurs, the improved process is not followed.  What can you do?

 Five questions, like the five fingers of a strong grip, will guide you through the planning and managing of your change, greatly increasing the likelihood that your change will stick, that everyone makes the trip to the new way of working.

 The first question, the “pointer finger” that guides all the others, is this: What is the change? Spell it out. What will the new way of doing things look like? What will be different from the past? And why are we making this change? Often the details of the change are assumed and not specifically described. A clear and compelling description of the change points everyone to the same destination, helping ensure that everyone makes the same trip.

 The second question, the “middle finger” that is the center of the change management focus, is this: Who will be affected by the change, and how? Complete an inventory of all the ways people’s work will be different. What will they need to know? What will they need to do? How will their interactions with others be different? Look at both those who are directly and indirectly affected by the change. Include those who are directly affected by the change and those who are only partially indirectly involved. You don’t want to be surprised to discover after you’ve made the change that you’ve left someone or something needed behind.

 The third question, the “ring finger” that captures the attention of the others, is this: How will we organize to manage this change? Identify who will be responsible for making the change happen. Left to themselves, things go from order to disorder. (Those who doubt this only need to look at their summer garden!) So too with change. All organizations face competing demands for limited resources, and therefore change efforts need sponsors and leaders to give direction, provide resources, demonstrate visible support, and ensures that the change doesn’t get lost among other company priorities.

 The fourth question, the “pinky finger” that may appear small but is nevertheless essential to a strong grip, is this: What route will we take from where we are now to where we need to be? Four “change drivers”—actions that move people from where they are to where they need to be—help people make the change trip. The first is communication. What do people need to know? Use multiple channels (personal, print, electronic, one-way, two-way) to provide people with what they need to know to make and sustain the change. The second change driver is education and training. What do people need to do? Provide in-line and off-line opportunities to learn the skills needed to succeed with the change. The third change driver is personal reinforcement. What do people need to be energized and affirmed? There are many ways to provide recognition and rewards to reinforce people’s behavior in the direction of the change. The key to success is this: Different people value different things. Therefore, don’t give what you value; give what they value. And the fourth change driver is personal support. What do people need to feel encouraged? This is not providing therapy, but acknowledging the emotional stresses that accompany all change. Cultivate confidence. Remember: “All change is personal.” Successful change requires meeting the needs of people’s heads (what they need to know), hands (what they need to do), and hearts (how they feel about the change).

 And the fifth question, the “thumb” that wraps around the other four fingers to give the grip its strength, is this: How will we navigate the journey from here to there? Managing change is a process, not an event. It is a series of successive approximations toward an important goal. (Remember the pointer finger question?) That is, set a target, try something to move toward the target, evaluate the result, learn, and repeat. In other words, apply the PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) Cycle. This dynamic is what makes the change management grip strong and ensures that the change will be achieved and sustained.

 Whatever the change, large or small, taking the time to ask and answer these five questions will help ensure that your problems stay solved and your improvements are sustained. Managing change can be (and often is) much more complicated than this, but to get a grip on change it should never be less.

Mike Kenfield is Principal of Aletheia Group LLC. Mike is a certified lean six sigma master black belt and organization development/change management consultant with over 25 years experience leading organization improvements and building organizational improvement capabilities. For more information at mike@aletheiagroup.com, phone 952-239-1159. He can also be reached via LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/mrkenfield

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Product Planning: The Little Guy’s Secret Advantage

I believe that innovation is key to ending our current economic malaise in this country. Yet in looking for areas to innovate, many business leaders steer clear of markets adjacent to large companies, worried that big guys will crowd them out.

Especially in this time of economic pressure, these markets are actually very fertile ground for new growth opportunities. This post will give you some tips on finding your own spot to set up shop.

Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better for Growth

I have spent most of the last decade successfully finding new vertical markets for fortune 100 companies to grow into. A lot of that success was a direct result of helping big companies act like they were small, nimble organizations. Today I want to flip it around and talk about the advantages of being an entrant, the new kid on the block. Because there are so many constraints a larger company has to deal with, it’s much more likely that a smaller company will actually seize a growth opportunity in an adjacent market sooner, if they know where to look.

Where the Big Guys get stuck:

• Optimizing the existing workflow instead of innovating. The product planning, marketing and manufacturing systems in a large company are often set up around a tightly bounded set of capabilities that fit a known customer need. Scores of people get paid to refine and tighten these boundaries to make the firm more efficient and leaner in delivering to the core customer requirement. These feed into rigid, long-term supply chain contracts that lock in components and assemblies. When the Big Guy comes under financial stress the pressure for optimization only gets stronger and more intense. This condenses the organization around one value proposition, making it less entrepreneurial.
• Rigid financial benchmarks. Because the organizational structure of a large company is based on providing a financial return that allows high levels of investment and overhead, any opportunity that may not contribute to these returns is distasteful to management. They just see that all the internal measurements indicate they should keep investing in what they know best — it’s the “bird in the hand” problem. Organizations grow more rigid in these models over time, and these financial benchmarks become hurdles to offering a product, system or solution.
• Experimentation is systematically eliminated. It’s very hard to develop the perfect product specification the first time around — the customer is unsure what they want and the company is unsure what to provide. Big Guy’s first foray into the emerging market is almost certainly going to fall short of its target. Not only that, but all the systems inside a large organization are set up to quickly extinguish so-called failures and move the funding to activities that demonstrate greater profitability in the short term.

Why this is good news for smaller companies.

As a small firm, the weaknesses I listed above are your opportunity. With some strategic tools, you can identify where the most promising adjacent markets are and move in quickly to develop and deliver solutions.
So how does a smaller firm take advantage of these constraints?
• Use inertia to your advantage. When you carefully review competitive product offerings you can “connect the dots” from past products to current. Rarely will the next product deviate radically from the previous, because the customer will demand some type of backward compatibility, and any retooling of supplier and production capability is very expensive. If you stay on top of key platform changes — such as the drum beat of hardware, or the next big operating system release — you can ‘time the waves’ and grab a niche while the Big Guy scrambles to keep up.
• Mind the gaps. Talk to the industry press, go to trade shows and pay attention to who presents on panels. Listen and watch, engage in discussion and develop a feel for who has real unmet needs. Look hard at the big guys’ offerings that have not been refreshed in some time and you’ll soon spot markets full of customers hungry for change.
• Team up with a customer. While the Big Guy has to do unending testing across his legacy platforms, you can actually sub your testing to your customer, if you are open and honest in your beta agreements.
• Practice the Pivot. You have light inertia to your advantage. Once you have the feedback from your first offering, it’s crucial to quickly center your offering on the core of the customer demand. Plan for this to happen, build it into your schedules. You can do two iterations for every single offering by the bigger player in your niche — and learning faster is your key advantage.
• Once you have a lead, run like hell. Stand still and the competition will quickly be upon you. Now that you’ve established your edge, forward movement is key. You’ve just intercepted the ball, hightail it to the end zone.

There is a reason that the concept of being a “fast follower” is a dominant Big Guy strategy. It is much easier to follow the trail blazer down the path with the Hummer than to find the trail and clear it in the first place. Don’t be surprised if once you have validated the adjacent market that you receive offers of funding and perhaps acquisition — that’s what made all that hard work worth it.

Scott Propp- a former Fortune 100 executive- helps mid-market executives to identify tangible opportunities for growth and coach their key executives to become growth leaders. Publishes articles twice monthly at ScottPropp.com and is offering our readers a complementary copy of the e-book, "The Growth Zone: Finding Opportunities Hidden in Plain Sight". You may reach him directly at 952-955-4551 or email him at scott@scottpropp.com

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Book Review -Shop Class as Soulcraft – An Inquiry into the Value of Work

"The truth does not reveal itself to idle spectators." –Matthew Crawford. My first thought, as I ponder how to begin this review, is to remind myself that it's not the goal here to get you to read this review instead of the book. Thus I can, without too much guilt, admit to you that I have no idea how to do justice to this reflective little book.

Crawford's writing, like Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" weaves its way in and out of many layers of philosophical abstraction - within, not perhaps coincidently, a story about restoring vintage motorcycles.

It's difficult, and unfair to Crawford, to try to distil "Shop Class as Soulcraft" into some tidy phrase that can describe what he's created here. It is certainly, as his subtitle says, an inquiry into the value of work. But his extended descriptions of "work" and "value" are at the heart of his observations and he writes at length about them because his intent requires it.

Crawford's story moves back and forth between observations of the work of the individual and observations of the larger economic context. One of his central tenets is that thinking is inherently bound up with doing, and to the extent that the modern workplace separates the two it does a disservice to our sense of agency, our sense of community, and the satisfaction we derive from, in his words, "rational activity together with others". In the end he describes a "humane economy" as one in which "the possibility of achieving such satisfaction is not foreclosed ahead of time for most people."

 Part of what Crawford celebrates is the particular sort of intelligence required in what he calls the "stochastic arts" – those endeavors that have both clear evidence of success (my motorcycle runs) and uncertain paths to that success (the problem – and the solution – are not always known ahead of time). But this insight does not come without mastery and mastery does not come without experience or without failure.

Crawford's own path to these insights is varied. He's worked as an electrician, a technical writer, the executive director of a think tank, a motorcycle repairman, and is currently a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.

 One of Crawford's observations is that the invention of the assembly line and the parsing of craftsmanship into small, standardized chunks of largely mindless behavior served the interest of capital but did damage to labor – psychic as well as economic damage. He also asserts that managers are caught impossibly between the competing interests of capital and labor. As the source of our work becomes more distant from its uses, we lose our sense of community, become less engaged, and less fulfilled by our work.

 Crawford sees an important role for the local entrepreneur in those niches that are relatively immune to the labor advantages of globalization. In his argument against the concentration of capital he says, "It is time to dispel the long-standing confusion of private property with corporate property."

 What this implies for the future remains uncertain. Crawford himself registers "a note of sobriety, as against hopes for transformation." His council is to "seek out the cracks where individual agency and the love of knowledge can be realized today, in one's own life."

 In Gallup's recent "State of the American Workplace" report, Minnesota ranked last in the percentage of "engaged workers" – 26%. This book review won't give you much insight into engaged workers, but "Shop Craft as Soulcraft" might. Don't be an idle spectator.

 "Shop Class as Soulcraft – An Inquiry into the Value of Work " – ©2009 Matthew B. Crawford, Published by the Penguin Group

David Haynes- Owner of Lean4All LLC providing consulting services in influencing change: aligning strategy, IT, process improvement, and organizational communication. David may be reached at david@lean4all.com

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MN Economic Outlook

For an eighth straight month, Minnesota’s Business Conditions Index remained above growth neutral. The index from a monthly survey of supply managers in the state fell to 54.0 from June’s 56.2.

Components of the index from the July survey were new orders at 50.9, production or sales at 54.6, delivery lead time at 55.7, inventories at 56.0, and employment at 52.8. “Food processors and other non-durable goods producers reported weaker economic conditions for the month. Expansions among durable goods firms selling domestically more than offset softer orders and sales for heavy manufacturing firms selling abroad.  As a result of the improving state economy, the Minnesota unemployment rate has declined by one-half of one percentage point over the past year even as the labor force grew by more than 20,000,” 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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