March, 2017

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Thank you to the following members who have recently joined or renewed your membership!

American Converters 
APG Cash Drawer
Atrix Intl
Best Source Electronics
Bethany Press Intl
Boyer Trucks
Carley Foundry 
Chandler Industries
Custom Mold and Design
Danfoss Power Solutions
Dayton Rogers Mfg 
Division Stampings
Drov Technologies
Engage Technologies
Force America
Hearing Components
Hockenberg Search
Hutchinson Technology
Instigate, Inc.
Integrated Power Services
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Northern Brewer
Orange Tree Employment 
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Quality Tech, Inc.
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Surgical Technologies 
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United States Distilled Products
USP Structural Connectors
Wanner Engineering 
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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
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February 14th 2023 09:00 am
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February 15th 2023 09:00 am
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Article Index

Lean Leader - Dave Westphal, MGK
Article by: Dave Westphal

Dave Westphal is an Engineering Manager with MGK Company in Chaska, MN. He has been with the company over 20 years.

The End vs the Means
Article by: Brett Saburn

Pick up a book on Lean and there is a good chance you will read about time in the first few chapters.

Meet Tammi Dorion
Article by: Tammi Dorion

Tammi Dorion recently joined the Manufacturers Alliance in the newly created role of Peer Group Director. 

Book Review - "The Big Burn"
Article by: David Haynes

I found a web site that was ticking off the number of books published this year heading towards 350,000 based on statistics published by UNESCO.

MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

The February Business Conditions Index for Minnesota dipped to 54.3 from 54.7 in January.

Lean Leader - Dave Westphal, MGK

Dave Westphal is an Engineering Manager with MGK Company in Chaska, MN. He has been with the company over 20 years.

MGK is a product development company that manufactures a wide variety of insect control solutions for professional and consumer markets. The company was initially established in 1902 as a spice manufacturer, and transitioned into a botanical refiner and formulator of both organic and synthetic products. MGK has two facilities in Minnesota with multiple international manufacturing sites and sales offices. Longtime partner Sumitomo Chemical became the parent company to MGK in late 2012.

Where did you receive your Lean training/experience?
Most of my formal and transferrable skills for Lean have come within the last 6-7 years. Training for me has been a bit of a journey in itself ranging through various college extension options, experienced MGK colleagues, and a myriad of Manufacturers Alliance offerings. I also credit some informal training tools such as Gemba Academy, webinar topics and a handful of publications.

MGK is now embedded with proper Lean practices to support the business. The daily tools include regular Gembas, Kaizen driven efforts, area-specific metrics with Com boards, and ongoing work of the Value Stream Map opportunities. Evolving these tools over the years to fit MGK needs has provided tremendous experience. I was also fortunate to earn my Lean Leader Certification through the Manufacturers Alliance last year lending great prospects to train on Lean tools further and build real-time experiences.

How, when, and why did you get introduced to Lean and what fuels the passion for Continuous Improvement?
Although dating myself, my initial exposure to Lean concepts date back to the eighties where accredited institutions offered variations and concepts to the philosophy but no formal curriculum or career path existed. We would stumble through a few Deming books and some renowned business examples, but as an engineering student you are prewired to drive for the next best solution – so continuous improvement seemed redundant. So much for college naivety. Fast forward to the start of my MGK tenure, working as a Plant Engineer in manufacturing at a small but growing company that recognized this importance and graciously offered both formal and OJT variations of Lean. (i.e. Operational Excellence, Customer Focused Manufacturing) These were good learning experiences, but we regularly struggled with the most critical element of Lean – Sustainability. As a company of 40 people, you’re already in a community of doing the most with few resources, wearing endless hats yet challenging each other to do better and stay nimble. This intrinsically forces one to improve and maximize resource output. The company was making good decisions proved out by steady growth and profitability, even venturing into their own branded business. At the time, processes were simple, reliable and quite repeatable. Sounds good right? Fast forward again to the late 2000’s – the business continues to grow, but we’re finding scalability a formidable threat. MGK now has a new majority owner, growth accelerates at an even healthier pace and new markets are being explored. All very positive directions for the company, but now revealing weaknesses that are taxing aged processes confronted to meet even higher customer expectations, fend off aggressive competition and support new businesses.

What fuels my passion for Continuous Improvement is leading the perpetual challenge to train and sustain a culture embracing proven Lean practices that get imbedded into every valued process. This subconscious discipline will inherently support the long term growth strategies to be profitable, gain market share and fuel innovation.

What are your current Lean oriented activities?
The company has been successful over 100 years and the temperament was "nothing is truly broken to fix." The first chapter has been training then executing the waste removal process by stripping away the low hanging fruit. As tempting as it is to chase the slow yet large elephant, we needed to first garner valuable experience and momentum for the tougher challenges to come.

Current Lean activities are focused on creating and improving processes to successfully navigate the projected effects from order process through delivery. There is now cross department involvement plus department management support for this part of the journey. A critical element to this success resides in recognizing and leveraging the vast expertise we have at all levels with additional training on and exploiting the foundational Lean tools modified to fit MGK. There is better problem definition, deeper data gathering and analysis, but most importantly empowering folks to get actively involved to create and implement iterative solutions. It builds ownership and pride.

We continue to evolve our improvement efforts thru internal training, Lean tool evolution and retrospective learnings yet not be resistant to look outside our four walls to gain knowledge thru peer to peer offerings, formal class work, and taking advantage of external business relationships to better understand customer needs.

What were the lessons learned in leading or training your team on a Lean project?
One key lesson learned through this process is to focus challenge and reward to the early adapters. Recognize the positive doers who can gain traction, test the norm and execute new possibilities. Understand and accept the first attempt does not need to be perfect and in most cases we can go back to original state if we need. Implement to 80% and go rule. Data point earned.

The experienced company environment can be a challenging endeavor at times to gain acceptance, fully understand the needs and reap the long term value. It is truly a cultural shift and it can have its unbridled moments – but you can endure and succeed.

Another key point is self- awareness of your odometer and tachometer on the Lean pathway. It can indeed swing to a point of diminishing returns or bring unintended consequences. Manage the gray zone between lessons learned and calamity. As always, expectations need to be realistic, consistent and agreed to - both machinery and people have breaking points.

What are the next steps in the Lean journey for your company? 
MGK has been on the Lean journey long enough to have harvested significant benefit. The timing demands us to open up a new level as we are challenged with the next tier of solving problems that are more systemic yet critical for successful business growth. We are actively identifying and prioritizing new challenges with MGK 2.0 Lean tools to help collect the right data, listen to experienced personnel and support a team environment willing to implement ideas early. Some challenges we will be solving include restructuring our Standard Work Processes (Spec-Paks, Procedural Revision Process) updating to better business practices for interdepartmental processes (Inventory and Order Process Systems) plus conducting a facility warehouse audit to improve inventory supply and flow with the goal of opening up needed space. We are growing at a pace requiring even more standardized processes that are easily trained and cross functional helping support the business and casting a bigger net of inter-department personnel. We have brought on many new people that we are banking will bring new ideas and experiences. The objective is to build more scalable, robust and wide cast systems that can evolve to changing business needs.

How would you describe peer-to-peer education and training to your colleagues?
Working face to face with others in manufacturing to listen and help solve similar problems in a proven, structured yet casual environment. There are so many common challenges every company faces regardless of industry. It is a great format to open up one’s humble side to share challenges to not only solicit new ideas and tools, but even more satisfying when you can share solutions with another colleague struggling with an issue you’ve already created a working solution. The folks willing to work this process are regularly rewarded with sound experience, transferable concepts and a lasting network of generous people willing to help. The peer-to-peer offerings have been a great benefit to me personally and I would encourage others to utilize this give and take method of learning.

Editor’s Note: MGK is the proud recipient of the 2017 Manufacturers Alliance Manufacturer of the Year Award. (medium-sized company)

Dave Westphal is an Engineering Manager with MGK Company in Chaska, MN. He can be reached at

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The End vs the Means

Pick up a book on Lean and there is a good chance you will read about time in the first few chapters.

Time is about money and money available is much more valuable than money tied up. Reducing lead time by eliminating waste from your process allows you to both obtain a quicker return on your investment and drive out unnecessary costs.

Taiichi Ohno, founder of the Toyota Production System (TPS), stated it well when he said “All we are doing is looking at the time line from the moment the customer gives us an order to the point when we collect the cash. And we are reducing that time line by removing the non-value-added wastes.”

The problem is that by the time we finish the book, our heads are filled with techniques and methods to eliminate waste. We identify tools that benefit our organization and begin aggressively pursuing the implementation of those tools. Lead time reduction may get forgotten about as we get caught up in the implementation.

I have seen many very successful, well ran organizations measure the success of their Lean efforts in a fashion similar to the simplified version below. This strategy is natural and well intentioned but it may drive poor choice.

This excerpt is from the Manufacturers Alliance's educational blog. This 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. Read more of Brett's insights Here.

Brett is a Quality Engineer at Bermo Incorporated, a contract manufacturer in the sheet metal industry. He can be reached at

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Meet Tammi Dorion

Tammi Dorion recently joined the Manufacturers Alliance in the newly created role of Peer Group Director. 

This Director level role was designed to help shape the strategic direction and support the growth of the 20+ peer groups the Manufacturers Alliance offers. This includes acting as a facilitator as needed, sharing facilitator best practices, launching new groups, and implementing improvements to processes. With over 65 new peer group members in 2016 this role will help ensure the membership experience continues to be highly valued by all.

Tammi is uniquely qualified because she brings 17 years of leadership experience in sales, marketing, continuous improvement and manufacturing. Her titles have included Sales and Marketing Manager, Voice of Customer Manager, Director of Continuous Improvement, and Director of Manufacturing. Her formal education includes a B.S. in Organizational Administration from University of Northwestern and an MBA from Bethel University. She has trained hundreds of people in Lean manufacturing and continuous improvement.  

Tammi’s background includes practical experience in driving continuous improvement in all aspects of an organization. Her passion for problem-solving, coaching, and collaboration make her a great fit for developing peer-to-peer relationships within the Manufacturers Alliance member community. Contact her at 763-533-8239 or

Tammi Dorion is the Peer Group Director with the Manufacturers Alliance. She has trained hundreds of people in Lean manufacturing and continuous improvement. She can be reached at 763-533-8239 or

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Book Review - "The Big Burn"

I found a web site that was ticking off the number of books published this year heading towards 350,000 based on statistics published by UNESCO.

In the U.S. alone some estimates of the number of books published last year approach 1 million. If you venture into a local book store – assuming you can find one – the space given over to so-called ‘business books’ would lead one to believe that some measurable percentage of those 1 million are books someone thinks you, as a businessperson, should read – or at least buy.

Many people are eager to filter that unwieldy list for you. Business Insider, for example, will share their “Top 20 best business books of 2016”. Others have decided on a top 10 or 12 or even 100. To be honest I couldn’t even get through the reviews of the top 20. I’m looking for a “Top 3”.

But the truth is that I’m just not interested in “Business Books” any more. I’ve read enough. Many are boring and poorly written but mainly they’ve just become uninteresting to me.

On my last visit to Garrison Keillor’s wonderful bookstore in St. Paul, Common Good Books, I was reminded how much fun it is to wander among tables and shelves of books stumbling upon fascinating bits of literature. And how shallow I felt for not taking better care of my own reading habits.

So, the heck with business books, here are a few thoughts about Timothy Egan’s fascinating bit of non-fiction “The Big Burn.” There are, certainly, aspects of this story that could influence how you think about your business and your work – you can make a business parable out of most anything – but I’d suggest just enjoy the story. Maybe that is the lesson.

Egan, as is his wont, weaves together the immediate and intimate story of the town of Wallace, Idaho during the immense forest fire of 1910, within the larger context of Teddy Roosevelt’s effort to create the National Forest Service.

America, at the time, was in the midst of an unprecedented expansion of people and development of territory. From set of colonies of barely 3 million people, the United States had become an ocean to ocean country of 91 million in barely a hundred years. In the first decade of the twentieth century alone the nation added 16 million people to its 46 states and two territories. What had seemed like a huge wilderness of unlimited resources was suddenly feeling crowded and under siege.

Teddy Roosevelt and his friend Gifford Pinchot were worried that the wilderness they loved was quickly disappearing. Their notions of conservation were not universally shared. Allied against them were the most powerful business titans of their time: John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, J.J. Hill, and the particularly ruthless William A. Clark, of whom Mark Twain said “He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag.” Clark, for his part, had little use for the high-minded, “I never bought a man who was not for sale.”

On Roosevelt’s side was Pinchot’s small group of newly minted Forest Rangers, partly young, idealistic graduates of the fledgling Yale School of Forestry and, to a lesser extent, experienced woodsmen like the tough and blunt Ed Pulaski. People with a deep love of wilderness and a passion for preserving it. The two sides of the conflict were not evenly matched and it was only Roosevelt’s ability to rally the press and public opinion that eventually allowed the Forest Service to survive.

The story, of course, is complicated and the conflict ongoing. There continue to be less than virtuous characters on both sides. Still, one of the lessons of this story is that the ability of leadership to create a shared passion is crucial to surviving against strong resistance. A single-minded stubbornness mixed with a bit of cunning and glued together with a shared higher purpose seem to be the recipe for difficult challenges. I have a hope that this recipe is improved by a strong moral sense but “The Big Burn” reminds me that greed has its own agenda.

“I am a generous man, by nature, and far more trusting than I should be. Indeed. The real world is risky territory for people with generosity of spirit. Beware.”  -Hunter S. Thompson

"The Big Burn – Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America" – ©2009 Timothy Egan, Published by the Mariner Books · Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

David Haynes is the Director of Operations at BGD Compaines, Inc., in Minneapolis, MN. He can be reached at

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MN Economic Outlook

The February Business Conditions Index for Minnesota dipped to 54.3 from 54.7 in January.

Components of the overall February index from the monthly survey of supply managers were new orders at 55.4, production or sales at 67.4, delivery lead time at 50.1, inventories at 46.5, and employment at 52.0. Recent surveys point to positive but slow growth for the next six months with job additions of approximately 11,000. Leading industries: ethanol and medical equipment manufacturers. Lagging industries: vehicle parts manufacturers and agriculture equipment producers.

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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