May, 2016

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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!

Faribault Woolen Mill Co
Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt
Ostbye & Anderson
Tioga Air Heaters
Arctic Cat Inc.
Cannon Equipment
Teleflex Medical
Metro Mold & Design
Veracity Technologies
Sunrise Fiberglass
Twin City Die Castings 
STAC Inc.
Precision Punch & Plastics
TEK Products
PouchTec Industries 
Len Busch Roses
Stone Arch Capital
Qumu Corp/ Rimage
Alerus Financial
Action Plastics Inc.
Lind Electronics, Inc.
Decimet Sales Inc.
Engineered Products 
Horton Inc.
Midwest Group One 
Boyum & Barenscheer
Johnstech Inc.
Morrissey Inc.
Lake Air Metal Products
Chart Industries Inc
Brunswick/ Life Fitness



Introducing the Manufacturers Alliance Blog

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Upcoming Seminar

Integration of cultures is critical to minimizing conflict in any merger or acquisition, but change doesn't come easily or quickly. Join us at the Lessons Learned from Merging Cultures seminar, June 9, Dunwoody Technical College. Member companies may send up to 5 people at no charge.



Purchase the 2016 Wage Survey

Stay current in the changing labor market with this survey specifically designed for manufacturers. Includes The 2016 Manufacturing Trends Report. Click here to purchase.



The Legacy of Knowledge

Manufacturers are pairing up Boomers and Millennials as mentors and protégés. Read the article - which includes comments by Kirby Sneen, Vice President, Manufacturers Alliance.



New Expansion At Uponor

Uponor North America celebrated the inauguration of its new PEX pipe production in Apple Valley, Minnesota. More than 135 state and local political community leaders and Uponor partners attended the celebration. This was Uponor's 9th expansion, adding more than 8,000m² in manufacturing capacity and offices.



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Article Index

Understanding Hacking And Social Engineering
Article by: Sean Smith

With instant access to news and information, people are aware of increasing incidents of identity theft and major data breaches in the headlines.


An Export Channel For New Exporters
Article by: Jim Thomas

During a recent Introduction to Exporting seminar, I explained the existence of multiple channels of distribution to export markets.


How Visible Are You?
Article by: Shirley Schaff

Is there anything more attractive than a happy and engaged employee or leader? We know who they are. They are infectious. 


Ask The IP Attorney
Article by: Patterson Thuente IP

If you have a burning intellectual property questions, you can ask it by visiting the Q&A web page or emailing Tye Biasco at biasco@ptslaw.com.


Companies Built On Purpose: Unify Everyone
Article by: Diane Nettifee

Companies Built on Purpose: Companies whose purpose is broadly experienced and owned by all. Companies formed intentionally.


MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

The April Minnesota Business Conditions Index declined to 49.8 from 50.7 in March.


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Understanding Hacking And Social Engineering

With instant access to news and information, people are aware of increasing incidents of identity theft and major data breaches in the headlines.

While companies are more aware of the exposures and liabilities they face, and individuals are learning to manage their own risks, there is still some confusion with the terminology used to describe these threats. Having a grasp on the meaning of some commonly misunderstood terms can empower employers and individuals to take the necessary actions when faced with these situations. This article will shed some light on two of these commonly misunderstood terms: hacking and social engineering.

Let’s start with the term hacking. According to FireEye, a global cybersecurity firm, one definition of hacking includes an event where at least one intruder introduces malicious code or gains unauthorized access to data. Using this definition, FireEye estimates that 100% of the Fortune 500 companies have been hacked at some point. This definition of hacking is quite broad and encompasses a host of other cyber-related terms, including social engineering.

Symantec defines social engineering as a non-technical method that attackers use to get people to divulge sensitive information or install malware onto their computers. Social engineering relies on human interaction and can include activities such as:

  • Researching social networking profiles
  • Offering free promotional items
  • Basic spam offers

The main purpose of social engineering is to induce the victim to disclose personal information that enables the attacker to carry out their scheme, whether that’s a network intrusion or targeting the individual’s assets and profile. Ultimately, social engineering is a tactic or method (cause) used to hack (effect) a company or individual.

Your employees are your best line of defense.
The proliferation of social networking and the availability of publicly-available information creates an ideal environment for social engineering to be effective. Companies are spending billions of dollars on cybersecurity measures in order to prevent and mitigate these risks, but unfortunately human error remains the hardest exposures to overcome and the most effective for attackers to use.

Raising awareness and educating employees who are the most vulnerable to social engineering attacks is a critical first step in protecting your organization. Hackers target specific roles in an organization with access to the information they want. The most commonly targeted positions include:

  • Help desk personnel
  • Information technology employees
  • Senior managers and executives
  • Executive assistants
  • Human resources personnel
  • Contractors

New hires can also be subject to social engineering scams. They are likely to provide information or install software when asked because they are unaware of who should be asking these questions or directing them to do such things.

Educating your employees
Fraudsters are very good at what they do. Identifying fraud at its root will help prevent an attacker from stealing company or individual digital assets. Make sure you’re taking the following steps to ensure your employees understand their responsibilities in helping protect the organization against a breach.

  • Re-visit your employment policies such as those covering email, internet or social networking use to ensure those policies adequately address education around social engineering risks.
  • Conduct a data classification assessment, identifying which employees have access to what types and levels of sensitive company information.
  • Proactively combat information security complacency in the workplace by implementing internal awareness and training programs that are reviewed with employees on an ongoing basis.
  • Reduce the reliance on email for all financial transactions. If email must be used, establish call-back procedures to clients and vendors.
  • Monitor use of social media outlets to prevent sensitive information from being posted on the Internet.
Sean Smith is a Business Consultant with Associated Financial Group/Ahmann-Martin. He can be reached at 952-947-9700.

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An Export Channel For New Exporters

During a recent Introduction to Exporting seminar, I explained the existence of multiple channels of distribution to export markets.

I was surprised that several of the participants had not heard of an Export Management Company (EMC). 

In its simplest form an export management company is an outsourced international sales department. The goods produced locally by the manufacturer are sold to the EMC who then either exports to a third party dealer/distributor or end user. It is a low cost introductory export sales service. Most times SME’s don’t have the time, bandwidth or financial structure to start exporting when they have not reached critical mass and prefer to outsource the export sales function.

The functions of the EMC are widespread and negotiable, they are typically responsible for:

  1. Completing export documentation
  2. Organizing shipment logistics-freight, EIN designation and customs clearance
  3. Collecting all funds from the exporter
  4. Recruiting and managing overseas distributors
  5. Overseeing product returns

Why would an SME hire an EMC?

  1. They have no desire to assume the credit risk of an international sales transaction.
  2. They have no desire to engage in international business risk -they wish to work in the local time zone, language and/or currency.
  3. They have no desire to have inventory risk or hold stock for an international customer.
  4. They don’t have the desire or skills to complete export paperwork or logistics.
  5. They have no desire to recruit, qualify, train and manage an international a global distributor/dealer network.
  6. They want to use the EMC as an initial export channel until they decide to invest more heavily in an international sales infrastructure. They use the EMC as a bridge until they build their own dealer/distributor network.
  7. They have downsized their entire company and want to outsource the international sales function as a tactic to reduce operating costs.

There are many types of products and types of transactions that are suitable for an EMC:

  1. Standard products with no/minor modifications or customization.
  2. Products that are high value add and can afford to have several steps in the distribution channel.
  3. High tech standalone goods that do not require complicated installation and/or training.

Social media has created a global network of purchasers researching over the internet for problem solving product solutions. This global network wants to understand how to buy these “products not available locally”, thus the SME needs an EMC to follow the lead and to set up a local sales distribution network to make the commercial transaction seamless and uncomplicated.

Export management companies are typically small domestically owned businesses that know US export paperwork requirements, have readymade relationships with international carriers, freight forwarders, banks and trade acceptance groups. Their scalar economies can be spread out over a wide transaction and customer base to spread their fixed administrative export costs more efficiently. EMC’s typically have foreign language expertise and export packaging materials. They also know best how to collect $ from international customers using a variety of risk mitigating payment programs. EMC’s are a good avenue to start the export journey until the SME wants to bear these costs internally.

Since I conducted the MTO seminar I have produced a short, customer confidential self- administered questionnaire to help an SME determine if the situation is right to engage an EMC. http://www.jimthomasintl.com/survey-for-export-readiness.html.

Jim is the founder of Dynamic Development LLC and has over 30 years of education and work experience in international business. He can be reached at jim@jimthomasintl.com or www.jimthomasintl.com.

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How Visible Are You?

Is there anything more attractive than a happy and engaged employee or leader? We know who they are. They are infectious. 

Our manufacturing industry gets maligned on a regular basis for our incoming skills gap. Everyone has a ‘magic pill’ blanket proposal full of ideas for you from behind a cubicle. You’re safe here because I’m hardly the one in a cubicle. It stifles my creativity. My passion is being in the action. Out there with you. Making things happen. 

When you are out in the plant or knee-deep in HR’s many responsibilities – you are keenly aware that recruiting can be a jagged little pill and one size does not fit all. No doubt you’ve opened – or closed – your last meeting on another discussion as to how your teams can attract quality talent.

The forward-thinkers are changing the way they are perceived in the public. Perception is everything. Nearly all that you say and do will somehow be recorded. Why not use that to our advantage? 

Like many, I have multiple solutions. Each of them are best shared and digested in small doses. We both know change doesn’t happen overnight. So, I’ll just start with one. 

An idea we can all take in.
Who knows you? Not just your company name, but you? Is the community aware of your HR Generalist or CNC Machinist – nearly as well as your Plant Manager?

This isn’t just about branding. We’ve all sat in those classes. This is an all-hands-on-deck ongoing recruiting campaign starting with you. On a much broader scale – every person entering and leaving your plant is your best form of advertisement.Vendors, couriers, applicants, sales reps, partners, and – your employees. They all enter and leave with a feeling. Would that feeling attract others?

Let’s dig a little deeper.
How can you get yourself and co-workers more involved in the community once they clock out? We need this so our company can build their personality – and perception – outside of the front doors.

First things first. Our employees. We need to inherently care more about what they value outside of benefits and salary. Some of you may have heard the concept of “finding your why” and this applies here. FIND THEIR WHY. What are their dreams? What bothers them - and makes them want to change it? What is the one thing – outside of work – that they could do all day and not notice the time pass? These answers unlock their why and move them forward to go beyond work, revitalizes their reason for being there, and supporting their external conversations about your company for their reasons – not yours.  

Once you uncover these answers – ask what local activities they can get involved in fostering their why. Help them narrow it down. Obtain commitment from each person for just one. Like you, they have other activities and family commitments.

A small time spent on this could be blogging, social network discussion, expanding their LinkedIn network, volunteering on a board, charity, or community involvement. It doesn’t have to be an activity on their own. It could be a company or department softball team, which encourages cohesiveness, breaking down barriers, and creating a happier environment. A more personal attachment. Making the company their family when they are away from home.

Solicit ideas they might see themselves enjoying while they expand their circles with activities they enjoy. Encourage them to be visible in the community they live in. This delivers happiness and – it’s no secret – others are attracted to their happiness. They want to talk with them and find where they spend their time. I promise you this, you cannot duplicate that ROI on recruiting efforts for your future hires. 

Start small with your department.
Pick out an employee enthusiastic about thinking bigger – surely you can find one in your department. My hope is that is it you. Ask them to lead the charge. Once you see the fruits of your network and visibility growth, waste zero time. Have one-on-ones with your leaders for roll-out, obtain their buy-in and personal commitment to lead by example. 

Being proactive in the way you – and your employees – are perceived in the public reaps rewards beyond today. It’s winning all the way around simply by thinking larger and with intention. Just remember that it is all about them and their why – just as it is yours. It starts with you. 

Shirley Schaff, PHR, SHRM-CP, is a recruiting professional helping local Manufacturers achieve results with a thorough search in locating forward-thinking leaders. Contact her at s.schaff@schaffandco.com or direct line 952-322-7927.

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Ask The IP Attorney

If you have a burning intellectual property questions, you can ask it by visiting the Q&A web page or emailing Tye Biasco at biasco@ptslaw.com.

Answers to your questions will be posted here in the MA Insider each month. Here is the answer to our April IP law question:

Q:  Can we get a patent on our company’s invention but keep the important parts of the invention secret? 

A:  In almost all situations the answer is no. The U.S. patent system is a quid pro quo system sanctioned by the Constitution “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” In exchange for teaching others how to practice your invention, the government grants you a limited-time (20 years) right to exclude others from practicing your invention in the United States. If you fail to disclose the true substance of the invention, you may not be granted a patent or, if you are, the patent may be invalidated when you attempt to enforce it. 

Therefore, if you manufacture a product or use a process that would be difficult or impossible to reverse engineer, you may want to protect your method of manufacturing or special process by keeping it a trade secret, rather than obtaining a patent, because you can maintain the exclusive rights in perpetuity. A significant benefit of trade secret protection is there is no cost for obtaining the rights to the trade secret. Where patents have to be obtained for each country and require periodic fees to maintain the patents, trade secrets only require maintaining the secret to keep exclusive rights to the invention.

The disadvantage of trade secret protection is that once your trade secret is no longer a secret others can freely use your invention. You also run the risk that someone else may later get a patent on your secret process, and will file suit to stop you from practicing the method. However, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 makes it a defense against claims of patent infringement if you are using the invention more than one year before the patent application is filed. Further, patents offer stronger protection because they are enforceable regardless of whether someone else independently comes up with your invention.

Congress just passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA) and President Obama has indicated that he will sign the DTSA into law. This law will provide uniformity to U.S. trade secrets enforcement, which was previously based solely on state laws. The new law will also allow for civil seizure where injunctive relief is insufficient and allows for exemplary damages and attorneys’ fees. Unlike many federal laws, the DTSA does not preempt state trade secret laws. This new law will provide an additional mechanism to protect your company’s trade secrets.

The decision of whether to rely on patent or trade secret protection can be complicated and there are strategic trade-offs in making the choice. Many companies are using a hybrid approach of protecting their broader inventions via patents and using trade secrets to protect their production details. The best practice is to consult with your intellectual property counsel to determine whether patents or trade secrets will best protect your inventions.

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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Companies Built On Purpose: Unify Everyone

Companies Built on Purpose: Companies whose purpose is broadly experienced and owned by all. Companies formed intentionally.

In the article, Building Companies on Purpose from the August newsletter, I laid out a business case for companies making their Purpose clear and actionable. The process is called SCUBA: A deep dive process to discover and align your purpose and values.
•Set your Vision and Strengthen your Resolve
•Commit to the journey
•Unify everyone
•Build community
•Align everything


In this article I we will explore how to “Unify everyone.”

The root of the word Unify comes from the Latin word “unificare” which means “make one.” Think of times when you belonged to dynamic and effective groups or teams. What made them great? What made them effective? Most likely, you shared a clear purpose; a deep personal purpose that connected with a collective purpose AND you had the right team to put it into action.

When companies have a purpose that is broadly owned, people dig deeper to do the harder thing and serve the bigger purpose. To unify a group of people around a shared purpose, consider these three key elements: Personal Purpose – Shared Purpose – Meaningful Connection between the two. 

1. Personal Purpose - Beyond the paycheck
Key Question: Why did I come to work here? Why do I stay?
John Gardner wrote “True Happiness involves the true use of one’s power and one’s talents.” Companies built on purpose invest in providing time and guidance for their employees to explore their talents, strengths and purpose. People come to the workplace with a variety of reasons for working. Once the basic financial need to provide a paycheck is met, the question becomes “why do you stay in this company beyond the paycheck?”

The questions: “Why did you come?” and “Why do you stay?” are valuable questions. When you ask the question, listen to the answers! Why people stay gives you insights into what people find most compelling about working with your organization. Employees don’t often ask why they stay until they are contemplating leaving. Appreciating what is good, pondering what is valuable and naming it deepens the connection people find in their work with each other. Each also provides a compass to help navigate the future.

2. Shared Purpose
To unify everyone requires creating time to help people connect with one another around their own sense of purpose. Purpose comes alive when we share our purpose with others and find ways to build it together. When I’ve hosted sessions on “Beyond the Paycheck” they are often met with surprise that their company cares about what matters to them. Make time and create an environment for employees to share and connect on what makes work satisfying and meaningful, as well as how it creates sense of purpose in their lives.
When organizational purpose is ‘announced’ or ‘rolled out,’ the leaders often expect applause or awe. This will set you up to fail. Inviting people into the conversation on purpose means asking for their input and engagement so that it means something to everyone.

3. Connecting Personal Purpose and Company Purpose
Once people have opened up the question for themselves, shared their purpose with others and explored how they align with each other helping making the explicit connection to the company purpose will have value. I often hear people describe their purpose in relationship to being a good father/mother, husband/wife or family member. Providing the questions that help people find the thread of connection is valuable. How does your work help you grow and learn more about yourself, your strengths and talents? When you are growing in your work how does this support your growth as a father/mother, husband/wife, community member? Helping people see their purpose connected in the place of work allows them to expand and grow at work, home and in the community.

When companies invest in unifying their employees, people feel seen. They feel valued as more than their role. They feel seen as humans with cares, hopes and dreams that the company invites into the workplace. Bringing this part of ourselves requires trust that it will be valued. When companies take the time to care about what matters to their people, people can then care about what matters to the company. We all win. Performance and Purpose fill the sail in equal and dynamic measure creating a Company Built on Purpose.

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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MN Economic Outlook

The April Minnesota Business Conditions Index declined to 49.8 from 50.7 in March.

Components of the index from the monthly survey of supply managers were new orders at 50.8, production or sales at 50.2, delivery lead time at 53.3, inventories at 49.8, and employment at 45.0. “Over the past 12 months, Minnesota durable goods producers reduced employment by 1,100 while nondurable goods manufacturers added 1,200. As a result, the state gained approximately 100 manufacturing jobs, or approximately 0.03 percent, over the 12 months,” 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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