August, 2016

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

Imperial Plastics 
Savillex Corp
MnTAP
Electronic Systems 
George Konik Associates
Olsen Tool & Plastics
Consolidated Precision Products
Minnesota Knitting Mills
Apothecary Products
Process Displays
Minnetronix Inc
Park Industries
Plymouth Industries
MacDermid Enthone America
Plasti Dip International
Hawkins
Crotega
Solution Dynamics
Nordson Micromedics 
Tru Vue
CBRE
MISCO/MPLS Speaker 
Bondhus Corporation
Faribault Foods, Inc.
Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology
SunOpta Inc
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Interplastic Corporation
Coloplast
Quanex Homeshield
Daktronics



Robotics Alley 2016

The sixth annual Robotics Alley Conference & Expo, which highlights the latest trends in robotics, sensors and advanced manufacturing, will take place Nov. 15-16 at The Depot Minneapolis. All members of Manufacturers Alliance receive a 10% registration discount by using code: MARA16. Go to roboticsalley.org to learn more and to register.



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Upcoming Gears and Gadgets

The next Gears and Gadgets event is October 12th from 3:30-6:30pm at the Marriott NW Brooklyn Park. Contact Marni Hockenberg at 952-500-9542 or marni@hockenbergsearch.com to register.



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
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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

HR Insights-Kelly Hansen, Park Industries
Article by: Kelly Hansen

Kelly Hansen is Director, Human Resources at Park Industries in St. Cloud. She has been with the company for 1 1/2 years.


Creating a Sustainable Continuous Improvement Culture
Article by: Tim Keran

I worked at Western Graphics for twenty nine years and owned it for the last fifteen years.


EOS IDS: 4 Ways Leadership Teams Can Improve Effectiveness
Article by: Mark Capaldini

EOS®, also known as the “Entrepreneurial Operating System” or “Traction” is an effective management operating system for businesses.


The Key Partnering Attribute Sought of Manufacturers by their Channel Partners
Article by: Jim Thomas

In July's MA Insider, I covered what a manufacturer should look for in a distributor. This month, I look at this topic from the other side.


Ask The IP Attorney
Article by: Patterson Thuente IP

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


MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

The July Minnesota Business Conditions Index declined slightly to 51.2 from 51.6 in June.


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HR Insights-Kelly Hansen, Park Industries

Kelly Hansen is Director, Human Resources at Park Industries in St. Cloud. She has been with the company for 1 1/2 years.

Park Industries blends the stability and culture of a family-owned company with the vitality and innovation of a modern, progressive growth company. As North America’s largest manufacturer of stoneworking equipment, they are focused on delivering world-class products and services to their customers and maintaining their reputation of being an employer of choice within Central Minnesota.

Since 1953, Park Industries has installed over 13,000 machines throughout North America and currently employs nearly 300 associates at their headquarters in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Where did you receive your HR training/experience?
I received a Bachelor’s of Science degree with a concentration in Human Resources from St. Cloud State University and my Master of Arts in Business Management from The College of St. Scholastica. I started in HR as an intern and was promoted to a full-time HR Representative while still pursuing my undergrad at SCSU. I have also received my PHR/SHRM-CP, Achieve Global Certification, A Carrot of Day Certification, and am Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt Certified. I was fortunate to work for a global organization for the majority of my career and was given the opportunity to experience so many facets of business as well as grow as a true partner in the business, which included being involved in global HR initiatives and due diligence reviews for potential acquisitions.

How and when were you introduced to HR and what fuels your passion for the profession?
While attending SCSU, I was originally pursuing an Accounting degree and was introduced to a consultant who introduced me to the value that HR could bring to the business. I was immediately intrigued by the opportunity to make a difference for others as well as for the business. My passion is to help businesses and people achieve their dreams/ goals by helping them strategize how to get there and aligning the resources to do so. There is nothing more fulfilling than watching someone receive the promotion they have been after or a company meeting/exceeding its goals and knowing you played a part in making it happen.

What are your company’s current HR-oriented activities?
I was recruited to Park to elevate the HR function and to create a talent strategy that would enable future business growth. As we have built up our foundation, we are focusing 2016-2017 on talent development strategies, including developing a talent pipeline, employment branding, employee and leadership training and development, career pathways, succession planning and more! I am also the community leader to bring back the Tour of Manufacturing to the Greater St. Cloud community. We need to raise awareness of careers in manufacturing in our schools, with students, their parents, teachers, and the general community and this is a great event to do that with.

What was one major lesson learned in the past year that you feel others could benefit from reading?
HR and business leaders need to think outside the box when it comes to talent acquisition. Traditional methods will not work in the current employment market and HR needs to lead the way to identify and implement talent strategies to fill the pipeline needs.

What are the next steps planned for improving your company HR processes?
We are in the final stages of implementing a leadership training curriculum that will empower our leaders to be the front line for all our employee needs/questions. It is critical for HR to enable leaders to lead their teams through training, development, and access to the tools/resources they need to be effective in their role.

How would you describe peer-to-peer education to a colleague in manufacturing?
Peer-to-peer education is critical to the adult learner whether it is in the workplace or through a partner organization like Manufacturers Alliance. When you are able to partner employees with a SME (subject matter expert) or talk to other business leaders that have already experienced/implemented what you are about to take on, you are significantly increasing the odds of success! It is so important for all of us to take a step back and learn from those that have gone before us.

Kelly Hansen is Director, Human Resources at Park Industries in St. Cloud, MN. She can be reached at khansen@parkindustries.com

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Creating a Sustainable Continuous Improvement Culture

I worked at Western Graphics for twenty nine years and owned it for the last fifteen years.

One of our most significance successes in all of that time was that we never came off our continuous improvement journey since we implemented lean in the summer of 2007.


To me, sustaining a continuous improvement or lean journey is the hardest part of this goal of becoming a leaner company. After talking with many people involved in the lean community there are a common list of what knocks companies off their quest. The most likely culprits are:

Change in lean leadership

Acquisition or divestiture

Change in senior leadership

Economic downturn

ERP implementation

But why would something so successful and valuable as lean get shown the door when a major change happens? Many would argue that lean is even more valuable when tough times appear.

I believe the reason lean isn’t sustainable during one of the changes noted above is simply that lean isn’t in the culture of the company. It is still in the company’s process toolbox and has not been interwoven into the operating fabric of how the company does business- regardless of what ups and downs it encounters.

This excerpt is from the Manufacturers Alliance's educational blog. This new member benefit follows suit with our mission by focusing on sharing the best practices and lessons learned from experienced manufacturing peers to help members continuously improve. Thus, we are featuring peer-authors sharing their first-hand experiences. To read more of Tim's insights, visit our new educational blog.

Tim is the Owner of Altus Business Advisors, a business improvement company. He can be reached at tim@altusba.com.

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EOS IDS: 4 Ways Leadership Teams Can Improve Effectiveness

EOS®, also known as the “Entrepreneurial Operating System” or “Traction” is an effective management operating system for businesses.

EOS incorporates proven processes and tools that help leadership teams achieve results.

The weekly leadership team meeting (the “Level 10” meeting in EOS terminology) is at the heart of the model. Within the L10 agenda is a segment called “IDS.” That is the acronym for the 3-step process used to resolve a business issue: 1) Identify, 2) Discuss, and 3) Solve. With a clear focus on problem solving in the weekly leadership team meetings, they can be useful and productive.

When a team can “IDS” consistently, the leadership team functions effectively and the Level 10 meeting scores improve considerably. When your leadership team addresses and solves critical business problems, the leadership team is improving the company. Such success improves the morale of the leadership and of the entire organization.

Why do some leadership teams master IDS, rooting out and resolving significant problems, while other leadership teams struggle using the same process? We have some observations and suggestions based on our experience with 45 clients over the past five years because we participate as facilitators in Level 10 meetings. Success with IDS is not as easy as it may appear on the pages of a book. IDS is a group skill and it takes practice, focus, patience, and time to develop that skill.

Typical IDS Challenges
In our roles as EOS facilitators we have uncovered the following typical challenges. We understand that many self-implementing EOS companies also encounter them regularly, too.

  • There never seems to be enough time in the L10 agenda to execute IDS well.
  • How to prioritize when every issue seems urgent.
  • Getting to root causes, not symptoms.
  • Confusion or ambiguity about EOS terms, such as “issue,” “rock,” and “action.”
  • Consistency in resolving issues: What is the key to solving multiple problems?
  • How to prepare and kick-off an issue to make IDS time most productive?
  • How can we follow up after we solve an issue – what happens next?

4 Ways Leadership Teams Can Improve Effectiveness

1. Effective IDS requires leadership team “organizational health.”
Organizational health is a concept developed by Patrick Lencioni, an author cited by Gino Wickman in Traction. It is the basis for the “open and honest” behavioral expectation underlying all of EOS and especially the leadership team. Organizational Health is the foundation for effective and efficient IDS. Lencioni’s recent book titled, “The Advantage” explains this concept and identifies the following characteristics of a leadership team that has organizational health.

  • Ability to address difficult issues, not just the easy ones
  • Open and honest exchanges in all IDS phases
  • Gains true commitment from all team members to decisions
  • Establishes accountability for actions – individual by individual
  • Focuses on greater good of the company, not narrow interests

It doesn’t matter how intelligent a team is, how well versed the team is in Traction, or even how quickly the team deals with an issue. If the team does not work together as a healthy, open and honest team, the IDS will only look good on the surface. If the same issues keep re-surfacing time and again, disguised in a bunch of new wording, it is likely a sign that organizational health doesn’t yet exist.

We believe that organizational health is not achieved on a quarterly basis. It is achieved by constant attention and discipline in the weekly Level 10 meetings. It is also achieved in other interactions between leadership team members outside the group meetings.

2. Adjust your Level 10 agenda – IDS as a Priority.
Many leadership teams struggle to complete all the review segments of the Level 10 agenda in the 30 minutes. The suggested agenda assumes only 30 minutes for all the review segments and 60 minutes for IDS. In “real life” the business review segments regularly take 45-60 minutes. The remaining time in a 90-minute meeting simply isn’t adequate for effective IDS. Remember that the “I” includes not only identification of the problem, but also identification of the root causes. It may take 30 minutes to simply complete the “Identify” step before moving into “discuss” and “solve.”

As facilitators and coaches with experience in over 1,500 Level 10 meetings, we recommend a standard Level 10 agenda of two hours. This includes 60 minutes for the business review segments, during which important issues are identified for later discussion. This revised agenda then preserves 60 minutes for IDS, the core EOS recommendation. If the meeting requires less than 2 hours, it can be adjourned early. 

3. Identify 3 types of IDS.
Not all issues are created equal. To help to clarify the various issues that come up during the IDS stage, consider 3 types:

  • Regular IDS – the focus or goal is on making a decision, listing specific actions with individual names attached, and monitoring progress weekly. So many issues, after IDS, are converted into actions.
  • Info Exchange – urgent and/or critical information that a team member wants the rest of the team to hear and understand. These items are too complex to review in the “customer and employee headlines” segment of the Level 10 agenda. But this should be a briefing, not a regular IDS segment.
  • Strategic input – begin exploration of a strategic issue, without expectation of resolution at this time. This is often used to identify an “issue” that belongs on the issue list and may have multiple components. It’s also a way to alert team members to begin thinking about it.

In all 3 types of IDS, the facilitator needs to periodically poll each team member to be sure that all relevant input is presented. Sometimes, a facilitator must ask, “Should we continue, restate, take offline, or do we need to do more research?” In some cases the issue should be tabled while additional information is collected.

4. Advance preparation will make IDS time more productive.
Most leadership teams come to their Level 10 meetings without preparing anything ahead of time. Background material that is distributed and reviewed well in advance (not 30 minutes before the meeting) will save lots of time. It will also force a clear statement of the issue, its significance, related information, and identify some potential options. One of our clients uses this approach. If the material is not available in time, the IDS for that issues is rescheduled. Here are the suggested steps:

  • Create a document or spreadsheet with the following:
  1. Written statement of the issue
  2. Relevant background data
  3. Important considerations
  4. Potential root causes
  • Circulate several days before the Level 10.
  • Encourage others to add notes.
  • Use the document as a discussion guide.

Simply reading the book Traction and self-implementing the model does not mean you now have a silver bullet. It takes practice to develop an efficient and effective IDS process within your Level 10 meeting. For most leadership teams, an effective IDS session is the key driver of the overall Level 10 meeting score. It’s also a barometer of leadership team organizational health. And of a thriving versus a struggling culture. Take the time to develop those skills. 

It’s the results that count. 

Mark Capaldini is a Business Advisor and EOS Implementer with Resultants For Business, a business advisory firm serving entrepreneurs as a catalyst for breakthrough growth. Mark can be reached at mark@theresultants.com

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The Key Partnering Attribute Sought of Manufacturers by their Channel Partners

In July's MA Insider, I covered what a manufacturer should look for in a distributor. This month, I look at this topic from the other side.

What are the manufacturer best practices to entice distributors?

It’s simple-do you do what you say what are you going to do? Maintaining commitments is paramount to success. No excuses, just straight talk. Not having an answer today is OK, remember though you are now committed to regular updates until resolution. Distributors or dealers want the respect and courtesy a manufacturer would give an end user customer. They have to deliver bad news to the end user as the intermediary and any side stepping on difficult issues damages their credibility.

Besides this obvious trait, know that distributors and dealers will want a manufacturing partner that:

1. Is easy to buy from and has excellent two way communications.
They will want a totally responsive manufacturing partner. Manufacturers' customer service personnel should be accurate and timely with order placement and confirmations. They will want product returns and warranties to be infrequent, fast and hassle free. Bilingual support is appreciated

Access to top management is also appreciated. They expect to be updated on the manufacturer strategy, product development and P&E investments. Distributors like to have frequent efficient joint visits with sales reps to display the partnership. Provide an organization chart within the manufacturer so that they contact key touch points e.g. credit, customer service, marketing staff and product managers is essential.

Most “model” suppliers today will have an online Web portal that provides product selection options,a product Configurator, 3D drawings, quoting, ordering, order tracking and delivery trafficking.

2. Has unique products that solve a customer problem.
The product should be intuitive, innovative and have simple instructions for installation and operating instructions. They will want timely product development pipeline so that there is a spirit of innovation and “buzz.” Of course, product deliveries should be consistent and completed as promised. Any delay in delivery performance will detract from the overall product experience.

3. Has a global marketing strategy. 
80% of most new customer contact are digital. Leads collection and dissemination has also gone digital and customer expectations are set for a rapid customer response. Seamless lead processing from the manufacturer is critical.

There of course must be on line and hard copy marketing collaterals and logos for 3rd party usage. There should be interactive selling tools e.g. video, application stories and end user testimonials. There also should be prepackaged demo cases to support local salespersons as well as quoting tools with quantitative ROI calculators. Local trade show kits need to be in easy to assemble/disassemble trade show kits with high quality display products.

4. Has regular on site, online and remote product training seminars.
Most dealer/distributor sales reps carry multiple product lines-expect at least five major lines with a myriad of niche lines too! Product training should be visual, tactile and backed up with easily referenced product data. Application information and sales opportunities by market segment tells your partners where to look for new business-always important! Distributor salespersons live by selling something - they don’t get paid for training so make training worth their while.

Global distributor meetings can be a valuable venue for distributors to learn winning tactics from other of the supplier’s distributors. They build camaraderie with each other and an atmosphere of best practices for that particular manufacturer. In the past, I have learned more when the distributors participate and/or facilitate their own sales meeting within that meeting.

5. Has consistent pricing that rewards its partners for their investment (salespersons time).
They want a manufacturer that realizes its channel partners need to make a profit so they can retain good salespersons and support staff. Incentives for achieving sales goals should be rewarded. Surcharges and small price increases usually cannot be passed forward to end users without notification so avoid implementing such regular programs to retain harmony within the channel. 

What would your distributors say about your company? What are you offering your distributors? Good Selling!

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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Ask The IP Attorney

If you have a burning intellectual property question, 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 August IP law question:

Q: Who should be listed as an inventor on our patent application?

A:  Patent laws vary by national jurisdiction. In the United States, inventors are those individuals that conceived of the claimed invention. There may be only one inventor for a claimed invention or there may be several. Multiple individuals can be joint inventors even though they did not physically work together or at the same time, did not make the same type or amount of contribution, or did not make a contribution to the subject matter of every claim of the application. Because patent claims may be amended during prosecution, the actual inventors may change while a patent application is pending. However, individuals that merely contribute their ordinary skill to reduce an invention to practice, without actually conceiving of the invention itself, are not typically considered inventors.

Caution should be taken when naming inventors. Failure to correctly name inventors (leaving off an inventor or listing someone that is not a true inventor) can have serious implications regarding the ownership and enforceability of a patent. While honest mistakes in listing inventors can be corrected, even after a patent has issued, purposely misidentifying inventors is considered fraud on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

Provisional patent applications need to be treated differently when naming inventors. Provisional patents are not required to have claims. Therefore, provisional applications should list any individual who could reasonably be identified as contributing to any aspect of the invention. The identification of inventors may be amended later when perfecting a provisional application into a nonprovisional (utility) patent.

Inventorship is very fact-based. Failure to properly identify inventors may lead to ownership uncertainty and greatly diminish the value of a patent.Your patent attorney has experience with inventorship issues and should be consulted to correctly identify the inventors to be named in your patent application.

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 July Minnesota Business Conditions Index declined slightly to 51.2 from 51.6 in June.

Components of the index from the monthly survey of supply managers were new orders at 48.1, production or sales at 47.4, delivery lead time at 55.1, inventories at 49.9, and employment at 55.4. “Minnesota’s manufacturing sector is adding jobs with nondurable goods producers’ job gains more than offsetting job losses for heavy or durable goods producers. But within the durable goods sector, technology manufacturers, such as medical equipment producers, continue to experience positive growth,” 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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