October, 2015

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New and Renewing Companies

Thank you to the following members who joined or renewed your membership in the past 30 days!

Activar Inc
AJ Gallagher Benefit Svcs
All Flex Flexible Circuits
Amesbury Truth
Frana Companies
Independent Packing Svcs
Innovative Food Processors
Malco Products Inc
Mayo Clinic
Measurement Specialties
Metro Machine & Eng
NRI Electronics
Packnet Ltd
Tradesmen Intl
Unity Tool Inc
Ursa Major
Vision-Ease Lens

Completed Certifications

Congratulations to the following individuals who have completed their certification in the 3rd quarter. Job well done!

Chris Moen-Polaris Osceola     
Jim Boden-Nystrom    
Sam Wagner-WASP, Inc    
Kendra Prum-Baxter    
Kevin Vonderharr-DSI    
Maggie Boeckermann-Baxter   
Lisa Riebe-Starkey      
Peter Phandanouvong-Starkey
Tommy Vang-Starkey    
Adam Ramczyk-Starkey      
Lisa Riebe-Starkey      
Cole Weber-Buhler Group    
Roxanne Dropps-Starkey   
Ngar Thouk-Starkey   
Julie Schuette-Starkey      
Mao Her-Starkey  
Wai Yang-Starkey       
Khoua Xiong-Starkey    
Pahoua Vang-Baxter   
Yue Xiong-Baxter    
Tammie Hogan Cole-Thermo King    
Michael Martin-Graco    
Jessi Ufkes-Starkey   
Kelli Monahan-Starkey        
Lance Wacholz-Hawkins    
Eamonn Thorpe-Medtronic   
Jeff Jubert-Starkey  

Job Transition Training & Education Now Available

Certifications offered by the Manufacturers Alliance may be paid for by a third-party such as a MN Workforce Center. Learn more.


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New State Law Mandates Business Recycling

Effective Jan. 1, businesses in the 7-County Metro must recycle at least 3 materials. For more information, assistance, and grants, click here or contact Bjorn Olson (612) 334-3388 x108.

New Sales Tax Refund Program

Minnesota recently implemented the Greater MN Job Expansion Program. Qualified businesses could capture sales tax refunds for 7 years. Visit DEED's website.

Network Makeover Event

Mytech is giving away over $75,000 worth of supplies and equipment for a year. Details here.

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

Lean Leader: Greg Pribyl, Tennant Company
Article by: Greg Pribyl

Greg Pribyl is Lean Manager with Tennant Company in Golden Valley, MN. He has been with the company for 18 months.

Travel Tags: Taking Mass Customization to an Extreme
Article by: John Hehre

Imagine if your production department was tasked with producing three quarters of a billion products each year.

Set Your Vision And Strengthen Your Resolve
Article by: Diane Nettifee

In the August issue of MA Insider I wrote an article on a process for “Building a Company on Purpose.”

Ask The IP Attorney
Article by: Patterson Thuente IP

This is the first monthly installment of “Ask the IP Attorney,” provided by the attorneys at Patterson Thuente IP.

MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

The September Minnesota Business Conditions Index climbed to a regional high of 53.0 from 51.9 in August.

Lean Leader: Greg Pribyl, Tennant Company

Greg Pribyl is Lean Manager with Tennant Company in Golden Valley, MN. He has been with the company for 18 months.

Tennant Company is a world-leading manufacturer of indoor and outdoor environmental cleaning solutions and specialty floor coatings. Tennant’s industrial and commercial sweepers, scrubbers, coatings, detergents, carpet-cleaning equipment, vacuums, burnishers and more deliver award-winning cleaning solutions.

Where did you receive your Lean training/experience?
I was first exposed to continuous improvement at Landscape Structures Inc. (LSI), a commercial playground manufacturer, and really honed my skill set in Lean during my time at Honeywell with formal training and hands-on experiences. I helped implement and lead the Honeywell Operating System as a HOS Site Leader. Furthermore, I am Six Sigma Green Belt and Lean Expert Certified.

How, when, and why did you get introduced to Lean and what fuels the passion for Continuous Improvement?
Back when I was growing up on the farm, I was always thinking of an easier way of doing things, and, no, it wasn't to get out of work. I just thought there had to be a better way. I remember sitting at the lunch table with my father and brothers and providing suggestions in processes. Most of my ideas were rejected but he never told us it was a bad idea. Once an idea actually received my Dad’s blessing, you knew it was something to be proud of. From my biased opinion, I believe my family farm was a more advanced farming operation. We had our own CI shop (machine shop) full of equipment to build anything and everything imaginable. These experiences prepared me for work off the farm making improvements. Looking back at the farm, it truly was ahead of its time. We did not have a fancy name to call it like Toyota (TPS). We called it farming. In college, I recall reading “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt, which introduced me to theory of constraints and ongoing improvements. At that time, it was not introduced to us as Lean. Since that moment, I have been fortunate to work for companies that have embraced Lean thinking starting with LSI and Honeywell. Both of which were doing their own version of Lean, be it Kaizen Events or an operating system. My fuel for continuous improvement still burns starting with getting others to see waste (learning to see) and do something about it. Not just, find a fix mentality but a systematic approach to eliminate reoccurrence of the waste (VSM, Strategy Deployment, Transformation Plans, and Improvement Teams). It is really a great thing when a company embraces Lean and not “fake” Lean.

What are your current Lean oriented activities?
We are currently transforming our Lean culture to a management system approach which starts with value stream mapping at the cell/department level and creating the transformation plan from the ground up with alignment to site strategy deployment.

What were the lessons learned in leading or training your team on a Lean project?
Training, training, training. Never think that everyone is at the same level of Lean learning and experiences. Train and go-see (benchmark) other sites to help the team get over hurdles of not being able to see a future state past the day-to-day struggles. It is like connecting dots, there are times the dots need to be drawn close together, and each group will be different. The next training or project is to have the participants train the next team. A great way to learn is by teaching others or leading a project. This brings more engagement from participants being they will be looked at as subject matter experts by the next team. A lesson learned is that training is needed to get a foundation everyone can start from. Only then will the site be able to truly transform.

What are the next steps in the Lean journey for your company?
Developing a formal Lean Management System (operating system) for the entire organization, which brings standards and aligns multi-site organizations to have a similar language, touch, and feel. Along with standard Lean training to develop the foundation of Lean for us.

How would you describe peer-to-peer education & training to your colleague?
Take advantage of peer-to-peer education and training as much as possible. The stronger and more competitive Minnesota, Midwest, or America will then be. It helps all of us, so if it’s learning from a peer or from benchmarking take the best practices and apply the concept to your site (not without consideration to culture and fit). It’s a matter of what you’re going to do with the knowledge when you get back to work and the daily grind starts. Are you going to be the grinder or the ground? 

Greg Pribyl is Lean Manager with Tennant Company in Golden Valley, MN. He can be reached at gregory.pribyl@tennantco.com.

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Travel Tags: Taking Mass Customization to an Extreme

Imagine if your production department was tasked with producing three quarters of a billion products each year.

Furthermore the majority of the products must be unique, adhere to strict specifications, have a multitude of available customizations, be fairly disposable and be readily available to the mass markets. You likely encounter, or even use these products, on a daily basis, but like the rest of the world take them for granted: Gift cards. Walk into your local coffee, the barber, mass merchandise stores and local mom-and-pop shops alike – they’re everywhere. You may even be presented with multiple options. But where do they come from and what’s involved in making each one? Put in perspective, these seemingly simple cards have an impressive range of complexities and applications. Between the almost infinite range of visual designs, shapes and even textures, the sheer number of industries they are of value to, and the number of different brands, companies and other organizations who use them, it certainly stands to reason that any company in the business of making this product needs to be efficient, well organized, forward thinking and fairly humble.


Travel Tags entered the printing industry in 1973, making luggage tags, phone cards, promotional products and millions of “POGS” (playing discs for the game of the same name, popular in the 1990’s). Since their founding, the company has expanded their Minnesota roots to include a second facility in Minnesota, additional facilities in Oregon and Paris, France, and a design center in southern California The company joined with the Taylor Corporation in 1993, and in 1999 entered the stored-value Gift Card market. Their reputation for innovation is the direct result of this latter strategic move, and through it has come to be regarded as a highly competitive industry leader.

Led by the Vice President of Innovation, an important member of the leadership team, Travel Tags prides itself on its ability to innovate. The company has dedicated significant resources to providing a unique and creative experience for its customers. Their offering of cards spans the gamut of storing value and modes of redemption, from scratch off areas from which users can redeem codes, to bar codes and magnetic stripes that can be scanned and swiped. The company is a leader in aesthetically innovative options as well. One of their most popular designs features images that appear to move, produced through a process known as lenticular printing. Travel Tags uses this type of printing on packaging, drink ware and other promotional materials as well.

From a manufacturing standpoint, the daunting volume requirements – produced in batches ranging from 5,000 to over 50 million – requires a dedicated and disciplined workforce, sophisticated machinery, excellent scheduling and a high degree of organization. It is evident when you step foot in the factory that the company is mastering all these requirements. The plant is clean and well organized with little work in process, and the employees we interviewed were knowledgeable in their areas. The equipment ranges from large, sophisticated printing presses to small, flexible and straightforward production lines that are automated to handle the varied production processes. Additionally, Travel Tags is able to move from design to delivery in a matter of a few weeks if needed by their customers.

The sheer volume of throughput demands a strong quality system, and Travel Tags supports theirs with a range of programs, from product defect tracking to corrective and preventative action processes. A formal employee cross training system includes operator certification, and regular meetings cover a comprehensive set of measures around safety, quality, customer feedback, schedule performance, cost reduction and major projects and issues.

In light of all these successes, the company, like many with a developing culture of continuous improvement, is always looking for ways to improve. Presently the company is working on developing stronger alignment between employees and company goals and objectives, and has taken steps to define, track and monitor success against this important initiative. The application of Lean Tools including 6S (the 6th S is for Safety), Kaizen Events and Six Sigma projects is also growing steadily; Travel Tags, relatively new to the Manufacturers Alliance, is looking forward to learning from, and sharing successes in these applications with fellow members.

So the next time you pay with that gift card you keep reloading, for your triple soy latte or an article of clothing at your local retailer, think about where it came from and how much goes into the luxury of such convenience. Then just be thankful your productivity quota isn’t anywhere near three million of anything today!

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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Set Your Vision And Strengthen Your Resolve

In the August issue of MA Insider I wrote an article on a process for “Building a Company on Purpose.”

Companies with a compelling purpose that unites their people/culture are more likely to engage both the head AND hearts – producing real results! Research shows companies who invest in living their purpose and values outperform their competitors by 6:1 and more!  Research: http://firmsofendearment.com/

The SCUBA process is a deep dive into intentional formation of yourself and for your teams, all of which drive the culture.

  • Set your Vision and Strengthen your Resolve
  • Commit to the journey
  • Unify everyone
  • Build community
  • Align everything

In this article I will explore how to Set your Vision and Strengthen your Resolve.

I was working with a leadership team of a medical manufacturing company. They wanted to clarify their purpose and create a vision for success that inspired them.  After significant discussion and reflection they had a number of good candidates; “We create products that improve people’s lives” was at the top of the list. For some reason the team felt something was missing. Then one of the leaders went up to the board and wrote the following:

“We create a culture and products that improve people’s lives”

The room went still. Then the VP of sales said, “If we say it … it means we have to live it!” The gravity of this was palpable in the room. The next comment was, “We must.” They decided that for success to be meaningful and compelling, it must include a purpose to drives and align their performance goals.

They asked the following question: What does our company look like in 5 years when OUR purpose drives our daily work?

  • What do we look like in in our marketplace? How are we valued by our clients?
  • How do we grow and stay healthy? What are our sales? What KPI’s do we measure?
  • What does our culture look like? What evidence shows us that our purpose is aligning with how we do our day to day work?

Their resolve: “Purpose is not separate from performance - they are inextricably linked. Purpose AND Performance define our measure of success.”

This is what it means to set your vision and strengthen your resolve.

Having a purpose without a vision for performance is like a sail with only one tether – it would flap in the wind and take you nowhere! Harnessing the power of the wind requires at least two points of tension. Purpose AND Performance are both needed to create the tension necessary for movement towards a clear, compelling vision of success.

The company above created stated their vision as the following:

“To be our customers preferred manufacturer of consumable products that improve people’s lives.” They then put clear measures and goals for what this looks like in five years. Their vision included a vision for success measured by Purpose AND Performance.

Working with the AND vs. either/or requires a new way of thinking from your leadership team. In the book, Intentional Leadership, Jane Kise, writes about the power of harnessing polarities. Polarities such as Purpose AND Performance include two interdependent points that create a whole. http://www.ebooks.com/1486507/intentional-leadership/kise-jane-a-g/ 

Purpose without performance, is not sustainable because resources run out.

Performance without purpose results in burnout and a definition of success that leaves us asking, “Is this all there is?” Intentional leadership provides a framework for leaders to build skill and expertise in holding polarities in tension.

If you are ready to embark on the journey with your company, take time with your team to create a shared vision that fills your sails with success defined by Purpose AND Performance, this exercise that will get you started:

Schedule an offsite with your team and use the following agenda:

To discover your company’s purpose put a long sheet of paper on the wall.

  1. Identify key moments/decisions/actions along a timeline of the company
  2. Each person sign the timeline with their name and speaks about why they came and why they stay with the organization
  3. Select 2 or 3 of the most defining stories and go deeper in the history of events, experiences and decisions
  4. Ask everyone to identify the purpose elements (deepest motivations) they hear being lived in the actions of the company
  5. Continue working with the element of purpose until there is a sense of ‘rightness’. This many come quickly or take a few weeks. Stay with it. You will know when your compelling purpose feels right.
  6. Then ask the following question: What does our company look like in 5 years when OUR purpose drives our daily work?
    • What do we look like in in our marketplace? How are we valued by our clients?
    • How do we grow and stay healthy? What are our sales? What KPI’s do we measure?
    • What does our culture look like? What evidence shows us that our purpose is aligning with how we do our day to day work?
Diane Nettifee is founder and president of Magis Ventures, a company that helps leaders align values and purpose with strategic actions to create strong, sustainable organizations. She has experience in executive leadership in manufacturing and service industries. Visit the website at www.magisventures.com or email her at dnettifee@magisventures.com.

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Ask The IP Attorney

This is the first monthly installment of “Ask the IP Attorney,” provided by the attorneys at Patterson Thuente IP.

We teed up the first question for you, but we hope you’ll join in to get the conversation going.

Ask your question by visiting the Q&A web page or emailing biasco@ptslaw.com. Answers will be posted here in the MA Insider each month.

Q: Are patent trolls still a concern, or has recent legislation slowed them down?
Non-practicing entities (NPEs) and patent assertion entities (PAEs), collectively better known as “patent trolls,” have been around since Henry Ford started his automobile company. Patent trolls typically obtain patents inexpensively from failed or bankrupt inventors or companies and don’t produce products or operate under the patents. Instead, they threaten companies to either agree to license fees or be sued. Because the license fees are a fraction of defending a patent lawsuit, many companies choose to settle even if they don’t believe they infringe.

The United States Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) is limited in steps it can take to address patent trolls because it doesn’t have legal power to interpret patent law or have courts abide by its regulations. The USPTO has taken steps to improve the quality of future patents and fix or eliminate bad issued patents, which will get rid of many of the patents that trolls are using. However, because there are so many questionable issued patents, USPTO action alone cannot address the problem.

Legislative attempts to address patent trolls are stuck in a quagmire of differences on how to best deal with them. Some legislation is directed to the demand letters sent by patent trolls - specifying the minimum content of the letters and requiring such letters be sent to a national database that can be searched by manufacturers. Others are directed at the pleading requirements for patent lawsuits. However, there are some in Congress that believe patent owners have been unfairly targeted for enforcing their intellectual property and are introducing legislation to make patents easier to enforce and protect them from post-issuance review.

The most promising bill, the Innovation Act, reintroduced in the U.S. House in February 2015, addresses every area of reform that is being considered. The Innovation Act heightens the pleading requirement for litigation, includes fee-shifting provisions, and adds protections for end-users. The Innovation Act also makes it more difficult for patent trolls to file their cases wherever they want. A similar bill has been introduced in U.S. Senate - the Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship Act (PATENT Act). There are differences between the two bills that will require a conference committee to hammer out before a bill can be forwarded to the White House.

Until Congress acts, there are few disincentives preventing patent trolls from squeezing manufacturers. In the meantime, manufacturers can best protect their interests by using competent intellectual property counsel and actively supporting legislative reform. 

Patterson Thuente IP is a full-service intellectual property law firm, with offices in Minneapolis and Brookings, SD. Contact them at 612.349.5740.

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MN Economic Outlook

The September Minnesota Business Conditions Index climbed to a regional high of 53.0 from 51.9 in August.

Components of the index from the monthly survey of supply managers were new orders at 54.8, production or sales at 49.8, delivery lead time at 59.7, inventories at 45.9, and employment at 54.9. “Durable goods producers including metal manufacturers and computer and electronic equipment producers are experiencing upturns in economic activity. Healthy growth among heavy manufacturers in the state more than offset weaker economic conditions in the state. Surveys results over the past several months point to solid, but not spectacular economic growth for the rest of 2015,” 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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