July, 2015

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Article Index

Leaders Alliance-Ron Windingstad, Mate Precision Tooling
Article by: Ron Windingstad

Ron Windingstad is the Product Engineering Manager with Mate Precision Tooling in Anoka, Minnesota. He has been with the company for eight years.

Giving Effective Feedback in Challenging Situations
Article by: Tom Esch

So there I was, in front of 35 construction workers who didn’t really want to be in the room–thirty-four men and one woman.

HR Insights-Erica Amévo, Uponor North America
Article by: Erica Amévo

Erica Amévo is HR Manager, Operations at Uponor North America in Apple Valley, Minnesota, and has been with the company for three years.

Finding the VALUE of "Value Add" Technology: How Much is 'Cool' Worth?
Article by: Ryan Kleinjan

We are NOT the low-price option, but our value-adding features will save you money on labor.

MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

The Minnesota Business Conditions Index rose to 54.3 from 51.1 in May.

Leaders Alliance-Ron Windingstad, Mate Precision Tooling

Ron Windingstad is the Product Engineering Manager with Mate Precision Tooling in Anoka, Minnesota. He has been with the company for eight years.

Mate manufactures punch press and press brake tooling for sheet metal fabricators, offering different tooling styles to fit all major OEM machine brands. Our products are sold worldwide. Unlike the popular sales model of using skilled sales people and training them on products, Mate generally relies on highly skilled technical personnel and provides training on sales. This approach allows us to provide solutions to meet very demanding customer applications. Mate is also unique in that we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee policy: the customer can return their product for any reason, even if it is a custom product. Mate assumes the risk.   

How long have you been a member of the Leaders Alliance? Of which group(s) are you currently a member?
I have been a member for over seven years. I joined shortly after being hired at Mate. I attended a couple meetings of the Product Development group when Art Sneen asked if I would like to be the facilitator for the group. I have held that honor ever since. 

How, when, and why did you get introduced to the Leaders Alliance? What was your main reason for joining?
I was encouraged by my boss, Joe Schneider who was a member at that time to take his place as his role within the company had recently changed. After discussing the unique qualities the group provided, I happily agreed. 

When you last hosted a Leaders Alliance meeting, what value did you (and your co-workers) receive from hosting a peer group? Do you have a topic in mind for the next time you host a peer group?
The last meeting at Mate was titled “Implementing Intellectual Property Administration: Identify. Systemize. Monetize.” Vickie Parks arranged a presenter from Patterson Thuente. Mate is very concerned about our IP and this session provided new insights on how to create a process of managing IP as well as ideas on how to capitalize on it. The next time I host is scheduled for August 12, 2015. The topic relates to ensuring product design and project success via metrics such as NPS (Net Promotor Score) and VOC (Voice of the Customer). This presentation will be provided via an expert in the field.

Can you tell us about a meeting that exceeded your expectations of the benchmarking tour, or a time when you were able to apply what you learned from a host company or guest speaker?
There are too many excellent meetings to choose from. The group I am in is very diverse and provides exceptional insights into many tough challenges each of us face in our daily line of work. However, a recent meeting comes to mind. Keith Clasen from Uponor presented on a topic called 4DX. It is the four disciplines of execution. They are doing a great job using this approach at Uponor. The main tenet is to focus on wildly important goals (WIG) and to create leading metrics towards achieving that goal. I am now applying this process to a new initiative at Mate to create a cross-functional resource deployment prioritization and planning process to improve our change management systems. So far, we are seeing good success.

Have you used the members of your group to help to help solve an issue?
Many times. As mentioned before, the members of my group are highly skilled professionals with vast amounts of experience. Sometimes I may need a referral for a product or service or advice on a process. They are always willing to help. I also seek guidance on managing difficult team or personnel issues. At some point, someone in the group was faced with a similar issue. They may not always have the answers, but hearing how they managed the similar situation provides insights on how I should proceed. 

How would you describe peer-to-peer sharing best practices to your colleague?
A modest and humble group of people willing to share their experiences good or bad to the group while at the same time accepting difficult constructive criticism with the goal of growing personally. A member should accept that fact that the group is much stronger than the individual. No single person or member should feel the need to be the expert. Said another way, attend meetings to learn, sharing what you know will come naturally. By going into a meeting with the intent to learn, members are more inquisitive and ask more questions. As a host, be open and honest. Tell what works and what does not work. Be ready to share where you can use the groups help in advance of the presentation or discussion. Most members get satisfaction by sharing ideas that can help the host company. Actively seek input from the group. Show up prepared for the meeting. Review the agenda before arriving. Collect information from your own company that may be relevant to the topic. Prepare some questions ahead of time. 

Ron Windingstad is the Product Engineering Manager at Mate Precision Tooling in Anoka, Minnesota. He can be reached at ron.windingstad@mate.com.

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Giving Effective Feedback in Challenging Situations

So there I was, in front of 35 construction workers who didn’t really want to be in the room–thirty-four men and one woman.

They didn’t seem to be in the best mood as a group. The topic was “Building a Culture of Safety Accountability.” I realized that this situation was going to require my best communication skills because a number of them were talking while I was being introduced and then also while I was presenting.


I am from Minnesota and have lifelong training in being “nice” (which can mean indirect, conflict avoidant, even passive aggressive). I am not very tolerant of people speaking while someone is speaking in front of a group. This shaped a real conflict for me, as this group had some pretty chatty fellows, mostly two groups of two. I noticed what they were doing and gave them each a moderately long stare at various points, attempting to use the laser power of the “evil eye” Miss Olmstead used to give us in 8th grade. My efforts fell far short of Miss Olmstead’s.

The slide I happened to be on read “Giving Verbal Feedback”. I thought: this is perfect timing, they need verbal feedback right now. I also noticed the knot in my stomach: I the conflict resolution expert did not want to attempt to resolve this conflict. I did not want to embarrass anyone and did not want a fight. And I did not want my intervention to be ineffective.

Failure in this moment could have had serious consequences. This was a crucial moment.

I knew I had to do something to maintain order and to make sure that everyone who wanted to learn could do so, not to mention maintaining my own dignity and confidence in my ability to resolve communication challenges.

I realized that one of the groups of two was more bold than the other and I noticed they were now talking loud enough that everyone in the room could hear them. So, I took a breath and looked right at the louder of the two groups and said “This slide is about giving verbal feedback. I am about to give some verbal feedback right now.” At that point all eyes were on me and the room fell suddenly silent. Can’t you just see them? I continued, “I hope I do this well, and with awareness of my rank.”

I said, “I am a safety professional. I am here for you, to bring you some important information that could make a huge difference for you. It could save a life. And I am noticing that some of you are talking while I’m talking.  I am concerned that others who want to learn here may not have the chance to do so because of you. Maybe you don’t want to learn this material. That is fine. So I am going to ask you who have been speaking to make a decision: either stop talking or leave the seminar.  It is a sign of disrespect to speak while another person is speaking.”

They shut up immediately and no one spoke out of turn again for the next 45 minutes. It was an energizing moment. I felt successful and powerful.

Personal Debrief:  How did I do?

  • From the standpoint of silencing the talkers I did well. Two people came up afterwards to thank me for what I did. I did notice that at least one person left the room a bit later. I also got some feedback about “scolding” the group the next day. So perhaps I could have dropped the line about “respect.”
  • I could have intervened far earlier. I was uneasy with how many of them were talking while their leader was introducing me but chose to ignore that feeling. Introductions, in my opinion, are vitally important to great presentations, and this one was a "D-." I could have addressed their behavior right at the beginning. So by the time I addressed their behavior directly I was mad at them.
  • I did not have enough curiosity about their points of view and why they were talking? I judged them as being disrespectful. Perhaps there was something else. Was I boring? Did they have important input for me or the group? I may never know.
  • All in all I believe I used my rank well in that moment. I got control of the group and they were able to hear the information I brought them. I could have gone up to some of them after the event to check in to make sure they understood why I did that and to see how they were feeling (no doubt some bruised egos).

Where in your life could you benefit from intervening where others are acting in ways that create difficult situation? How can you do it more skillfully?

Join me for  a “Beyond Nice” conversation happening this summer: Aug 13th  from 7-9 pm in Minneapolis. You can click below to register or learn more:

Click below to pre-register for Live Conversational Workshops: $30 in advance/$35 at event

Thurs Aug 13th 7-9 pm

1200 S. Washington Ave, Mpls MN (Free parking)

Tom Esch helps companies achieve better safety via interpersonal communication and social awareness. You can learn more at www.EschConsulting.com or Tom@EschConsulting.com

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HR Insights-Erica Amévo, Uponor North America

Erica Amévo is HR Manager, Operations at Uponor North America in Apple Valley, Minnesota, and has been with the company for three years.

Uponor’s core purpose is to partner closely with professionals to create better human environments. That means for more than 40 years, we have been seeking out innovative ways to ensure our PEX plumbing, radiant heating/cooling, hydronic distribution, pre-insulated pipe and fire sprinkler systems offer the most consistent, reliable and high-performing solutions available to residential and commercial structures around the globe.

Where did you receive your HR training/experience?
I’ve worked in Human Resources for 10 years and much of what I’ve learned has been on the job, learning from each experience as it comes. I have also been fortunate to work with some very talented HR professionals who have shared their knowledge with me. My undergraduate degree is in Communications, so to shore up my HR knowledge I’ve completed an HR Generalist Certificate through the University of MN’s College of Continuing Education as well as obtaining my PHR Certification through SHRM. I also attend ongoing seminars and training to keep up to date on the ever-changing world of HR.

How and when were you introduced to HR and what fuels your passion for the profession?
I started my career on the manufacturing floor. Over the years, that experience has helped me to always keep our employees’ perspective in mind. From there, I worked my way up and around through various departments, including: Operations Planning, Production Scheduling, Quality Assurance, Supply Chain, and Accounting before landing in HR. I’m so grateful for the broader business understanding I’ve gained from working in so many areas of business, but I always knew that the people side of things would be the best fit for my personality and strengths. Due to the size of the companies I’ve worked in (both have been manufacturing companies) I’ve been fortunate to gain experience in all aspects of Human Resources. I’m a lifelong learner so the more I get exposed to, the more I want to know! I am also energized by the thrill of helping others, whether it be helping a new employee get acquainted with our company, coaching a new manager on how to best support their employees or working with strategic business leaders on the challenges of operating in a more competitive labor market. I am energized by making a positive difference for individuals and for my organization, and trying to find that delicate balance between the two.

What are your company’s current HR-oriented activities?
Our company is currently undertaking many large-scale projects that we believe will drive our business forward, including:

  • Partnering with our global HR counterparts across Uponor to implement a new HRIS that will put more tools in the hands of our managers to effectively develop their teams
  • Rolling out a new global Employee Engagement survey model and subsequent action planning for managers
  • Growing, growing, growing! We are seeing extreme growth both in terms of square footage and employee population. No surprise- this means we are recruiting like crazy, but we’ve also launched several cross-functional projects to help us be better equipped to meet our long-term talent needs. Some of those projects include:
    • Pursuing an apprenticeship program to develop the skills we need internally
    • Sponsorship of the E3 STEM Grant awarded to Apple Valley High School, which has enabled us to reach the next generation and introduce them to STEM and other career options in manufacturing
    • Taking actions to make our jobs easier to perform (physically) which allows a broader range of individuals to pursue a career at Uponor, and allows our current workforce to continue working longer
    • Introducing new a new competency model to be used for selection and development

What was one major lesson learned that you feel others could benefit from reading?
One major lesson I’ve learned professionally, and one Uponor is also trying to live by, is to focus our resources on the most important projects and activities. In a progressive company like Uponor, there is no lack of great ideas for improvements, new initiatives, etc. We’ve had to learn to prioritize the most important goals of our business and get all of our employees to understand those goals. Then when resources are tight, the decision on what to work on becomes clear. It means being comfortable with saying “no” to some great ideas- or at least, “not right now.”

What are the next steps planned for improving your company HR processes?
Our official HR goals for 2016 are yet to be set in stone; however, I anticipate that as we are able to take full advantage of our new HRIS system (which should go live in November/December) we will work closely with our people leaders to use the tool in effectively leading their teams. We also plan to incorporate our new competency set into our individual development plans within the HRIS. With the shrinking labor market, we know that attracting talent will be an ongoing challenge and we’ll need to continuously explore new ideas and initiatives to attract and retain talent. In and among all these initiatives, however, I think it’s important not to lose sight of the employee relations aspect of HR- that we are here to help our employees and business partners with their day-to-day challenges, as well.  

How would you describe peer-to-peer education to a colleague in manufacturing?
Peer-to-peer education is so valuable! The ability to bounce ideas and questions off of peers in the manufacturing industry is something I’ve taken advantage of to help with our internal decision making. The role of HR has evolved and will continue to evolve, so there isn’t really a day that goes by where we aren’t adapting and changing to meet the needs of our business. Being able to reach out to colleagues who are facing similar challenges has been extremely helpful over the years I’ve worked with Manufacturers Alliance.

Erica Amévo is HR Manager, Operations at Uponor North America in Apple Valley, Minnesota. She can be reached at Erica.amevo@uponor.com.

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Finding the VALUE of "Value Add" Technology: How Much is 'Cool' Worth?

We are NOT the low-price option, but our value-adding features will save you money on labor.







So say AT LEAST 70% of the sales people I have negotiated with in the past ten years 

We have all heard this when evaluating proposals for purchases of our various organizational needs. Sometimes, we are simply looking for a source to acquire a 'widget' - other times, we are evaluating a potential partnership for our organization's overall success. Where you are on this scale determines how to compare and evaluate your various options.

A few things to remember about value-added services/features when evaluating suppliers and proposals:

  1. THEY ARE VALUABLE (see: point two)

For this article, we will look at the value-add that is usually the 'coolest' but may yield only minimal benefits: TECHNOLOGY

Technology offerings can give the most 'mundane' product or service a dramatic increase of 'coolness'.  

  • Web portals that let us access our billing, usage, track orders, submit claims, even model our strategy with industry data
    EXAMPLES: Shipping, Benefits Management, Office Supplies
  • Solutions that can eliminate your need for your phone lines to receive calls, faxes
    EXAMPLES: VOIP, Managed Print Services, Copiers/Printers/MFDs
  • Product dispensers that can control the amount of product utilized
    EXAMPLES: Janitorial Supplies, MRO, Packaging Supplies
  • Vendor managed services that eliminate the need for you to do anything at all
    EXAMPLES: HR Services, Dedicated Fleet, Call Centers

Many of the items listed in the examples above have been purchased by your organization for years - most of them WITHOUT the tech-driven gadgets to manage and utilize them.

So what are the technology-based value-adds really worth?

The most common 'benefit' that is presented to the buying company is savings of time/labor with the use of the new feature. Does the time savings really equal the premium you are asked to pay?  Let’s look at a simple evaluation to determine.

 graphicTime Savings
Time may just be the one resource more scarce than cash.  It is likely for this exact reason that companies invest countless dollars into features that will 'save time'.

When assessing various proposals/options, one must NOT look at time savings as a benefit itself - because it isn't. The true value of time savings is more tied to opportunity. IF you were to have an additional 30 minutes per day, what would you really do with it?  More so, what financial value would it bring to your organization?

When I was with UPS earlier in my career, we had some of the very best value-added technology in logistics. UPS was not marketed as the 'low cost provider', instead it was positioned as 'best overall value'.

Let's use their enhanced online tracking tools in customer service as an example:

  • Customer service department makes up 800 labor hours per week at an 'all-in' cost of $15.00 per hour ($12,000 per week)
  • 20% of the customer service time is dedicated to tracking packages for customers (160 hours of tracking)
  • Average time to track and resolve the request is 5 minutes.
  • The enhanced tracking tools will reduce these requests to 2 minutes per call
    (time savings of 60% for both the client AND their customer - faster resolution adds value!)
  • This reduces our 'invested' labor time in tracking to 64 hours per week, resulting in a hypothetical savings of 96 hours and $1440.00

Pretty compelling, isn't it? Let's delve deeper into this to understand its true value. 

  graphicThe time savings is VALUABLE if:
Two full time jobs are eliminated - meaning you lay them off or have an opportunity to adjust department size by soon-to-occur attrition (retirements, etc.) OR Two full time jobs are redeployed - meaning you avoid adding employees and assuming these employees have the necessary skills to be successful in the needed function.

  graphicThe time savings is NOT valuable if:
If you are not reducing staff or can NOT redeploy the employee to a place of value, you are not really saving $1440.00 per week. You may actually be encouraging less efficient work patterns with increased idle time.

We love our 'gadgets' in this world, I know I do. I have yet to meet someone who doesn't want more time to focus on growth and our core business. The thing to remember on assessing these types of 'value-adds' is their true value to YOU.  

Each sourcing event needs to be identified as one that justifies a 'total solution' or is simply a 'widget'. Only need a 'widget'? It is quite possibly safe to take the lowest quotes.  

Need more of partner?  Can you benefit from increased value-add?  Analyze further as discussed above. That 5% premium might yield an overall total savings of 10%.

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, comments, or want to get in touch - reach out at any time!

Ryan Kleinjan is the President of Catalyst Sourcing Solutions. Catalyst provides organizations with benchmark pricing data, sourcing services, and tools to help them reduce and control overhead expenses in over 50 categories. He can be reached at rkleinjan@catalystsourcing.com

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MN Economic Outlook

The Minnesota Business Conditions Index rose to 54.3 from 51.1 in May.

Components of the index from the June survey of supply managers were new orders at 55.9, production or sales at 55.7, delivery lead time at 54.0, inventories at 55.7, and employment at 51.8. “Growth was reported across a broad range of Minnesota firms for the month. Durable goods manufacturers, including electronic component producers and metal manufacturers, joined nondurable goods producers, such as food processers, in reporting solid upturns in business activity for the month. This means economic growth for Minnesota will be higher than the rest of the region and the nation into the fourth quarter of this year,” 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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