September, 2017

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New and Renewing Members

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

Caribou Coffee
Caltronics Design & Assembly
Electronic Systems 
Uroplasty Inc/Congentix Med
Bob Mfg
Questar Assessment
Plasti Dip Intl
Apothecary Products
MacDermid Enthone America
Williams Sound Corporation
Arrowhead Electrical Products
Gamma Vacuum
Rapid Packaging
Cherne Industries 
Cass Screw Machine Products
Pelican BioThermal
Bondhus Corp
Unity Tool 
Priority Envelope 
Quadion/Minnesota Rubber & Plastics
Smiths Medical ASD 
Wurth Industry North America
Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology 
Olympus Surgical Technologies America
Laser Peripherals 
Lincoln Industries
H & B Elevators
Product Development Solutions
Industrial Louvers
Water Gremlin 
Hartfiel Automation
St Paul Brass & Aluminum Foundry
Aspen Research 
Legendary Baking
Anchor Bank
Granger Machine
Case Staffing Solutions
Ursa Major
Park Manufacturing
Data Panel
Functional Industries
Russell Tobin
The Outdoor GreatRoom
Parker Quick Coupling
Kapstone Container 
Minnesota Knitting Mills
Brunswick/Life Fitness
Cottingham & Butler
Pentair Technical Products
Unison Comfort Tech

Completed Certifications

Congratulations to the following individuals who have completed their certification during July-September. Job well done!

Michelle Howland-Aqseptence Group
Scott Caroon-Aqseptence Group
Peter Clark-Toro
Bill Crowley-Toro
Jerry Frank-Aqseptence Group
Travis Rogers-Aqseptence Group
Blake Govro-Aqseptence Group
Glen Swanson-Aqseptence Group
Michael Moryn-Aqseptence Group
Stacey Anderson-Carl Zeiss
Emerald Nelson-Hawkins
Geoff Swisher-Hawkins
Michael Falkner-Global Finishing Solutions
Joel Carlsen-Global Finishing Solutions
Benn Hulbert-RMS

Scholarship Available

We are awarding a scholarship redeemable for leadership and continuous improvement training or certification through the Manufacturers Alliance. Apply by October 6. Click here to learn more


Connect with over 2000 peers online through the Manufacturers Alliance LinkedIn group. Learn More.

MPIF Elects New Officers

John F. Sweet, PMT, President & CEO, FMS Corporation in Minneapolis has been elected as the 29th president of the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF). Read the announcement here

Free Presentation Offered

Christy Mennen, shareholder with Nilan Johnson Lewis PA, is giving a free presentation to manufacturers and suppliers next month which will cover the new guidelines for recalls and internal safety protocols from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. She will address the recent fines and a checklist of strategies that can be used to avoid recalls and CPSC investigations. Email for details

Boyer Trucks Reaches Milestone

Boyer Ford Trucks has reached its 90-year milestone and each location will host an open house during September. Learn more 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

HR Insights-Andrea Leet, GN ReSound
Article by: Andrea Leet

Andrea Leet is HR and Benefits Manager at GN ReSound in Bloomington. She has been with the company for 1.5 years.

Building a Team-Based Kaizen Culture
Article by: Michael Muilenburg

There is an old saying, “Dust accumulates to form a mountain."

Technical Managers: The 5 Key Interview Questions You Should Ask to Identify Top Performers
Article by: Tom Goettl

As a Minnesota technical hiring manager, choosing the best candidates for your department is one of the most important decisions a you’ll make.

Improving Your Healthcare Plan
Article by: Bob Hanlan

There’s a lot of talk about how expensive healthcare is and what a big burden it is for employers.

MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

The August Business Conditions Index for Minnesota declined to a still healthy 61.8 from July’s 63.2.

HR Insights-Andrea Leet, GN ReSound

Andrea Leet is HR and Benefits Manager at GN ReSound in Bloomington. She has been with the company for 1.5 years.

GN ReSound is an international hearing aid manufacturer. Innovative hearing solutions with regards to both technology and design are manufactured in our Bloomington location. There are distributors in more than 80 countries, drawing on resources from all around the globe. In our location, we have nearly 350 employees in the operations workforce, with thousands of hearing aids being built and shipped from our facility monthly.

Where did you receive your HR training/experience?
Since I graduated with a degree in education, I do feel that some of my earliest exposure was in college, learning about communication, personality types and learning styles. From there, roles I have been offered and stepped into include, but are not limited to, benefits specialist, leave specialist, payroll specialist, HR generalist, and benefits manager. They have all challenged me to gain a better understanding of specific areas of human resources. Along the way I have been encouraged and supported to take advantage of opportunities with organizations such as SHRM, TCHRA, a non-profit HR Network and now, Manufacturer’s Alliance.

How and when were you introduced to HR and what fuels your passion for the profession?
After graduating from Saint Mary’s University in Winona with a degree in elementary education, I realized I desired to work with my peers, educating them, versus children. I was offered and accepted a position at Target Corporation, supporting employees all throughout the country. In this role, I realized how much I found value in enlightening others about benefits and compensation. Today, in the work that I do, I still find that same value in assisting employees in understanding complex issues with regards to benefits and all topics presented in the workplace. For me, the greatest reward I have in my role is the fact that I am able to develop relationships with others within the organization.

What are your company’s current HR-oriented activities? 
Currently we are in the process of selecting a global human capital management system (HCM). This project is being led by our global HR team in Copenhagen, Denmark. We are also in the process of executing the first year of a new talent review system focusing on development plans for talent who have been identified as high performers.

What was one major lesson learned in the past year that you feel others could benefit from reading?
I have learned that listening is more important in the role of HR than always being the person to have the “answer.” Sometimes, just being the thought partner, hearing ideas and recommendations of others, is the best way to navigate through a complex employee relation issue or when supporting a new manager. I find this to also be a great way to instill confidence in others. While I will share my recommendation, I am mindful of listening, first.

What are the next steps planned for improving your company HR processes? 
The HR team at GN ReSound has made a decision to start developing a formal career path program for employees, encourage each employee to take ownership of his/her path. Through this, we are developing tools to support employees through the process.

How would you describe peer-to-peer education to a colleague in manufacturing?
To me, peer-to-peer education is networking, bonding and collaborating with those who may have some of the same challenges, successes and experiences that I do. So, being a part of a group such as the HR Management Peer Group through the Manufacturers Alliance is a great way to share these with one another in safe and confidential manner. I believe it helps to foster best practices within my organization by seeing and learning from others in manufacturers throughout the area.

Andrea Leet is HR and Benefits Manager at GN ReSound in Bloomington. She can be reached at

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Building a Team-Based Kaizen Culture

There is an old saying, “Dust accumulates to form a mountain."

While I am not sure that this has ever happened in real life, it carries a truth that all Lean practitioners will recognize. Taken positively, this is the essential spirit of Kaizen. Many small changes repeated over time result in massive improvements. That is what we have seen this past few years year in our organization.

Improvements have been made through hundreds of projects and Kaizen activities that are impacting safety, changeover, yield, quality, material flow, inventory, and many other categories. Some of these efforts have resulted in measurable savings, while other simply improve the work and drive out more subtle forms of waste. They are ALL part of continuous improvement. Adding to the improvement mindset, conversations have changed from “Who’s going to work on that problem?” or “Let’s put that idea in the hopper” to “How can my team solve this problem as quickly as possible?”

In order to sustain our continuous improvement culture, we have looked at a model from "Own the Gap" by Mike Martyn and Bryan Crowell. Simply stated, they describe a system that keeps the problem-solving engine running at maximum capacity. We may be achieving success today, but adding the Strategy, Visual Management, and Standard Follow-up pieces will ensure sustainment of our efforts.

  • Strategy – what does it mean to win (or lose)?
  • Visual Management – Are we winning or losing?
  • Kaizen (Problem Solving and Continuous Improvement) – If we are not winning, what are we doing about it?
  • Standard Follow-up – what can we do today to help you win more often?
  • Our Lean Management System and tools such as Tier Boards and Daily Accountability are part of this system, but a deeper look and further standardization will drive out even more waste from our processes

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 this excerpt Here.

For a "deeper dive" into developing and sustaining a culture of continuous improvement, we are offering an "Accelerating a Lean Culture" workshop on September 28th in our Golden Valley Training Center presented by Michael Muilenburg. Learn more Here.

Michael Muilenburg is an Operational Technology Manager and Strategic-Partner with 3M Company's Film Manufacturing and Supply Chain Operations Division. Michael can be reached at

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Technical Managers: The 5 Key Interview Questions You Should Ask to Identify Top Performers

As a Minnesota technical hiring manager, choosing the best candidates for your department is one of the most important decisions a you’ll make.

A bad hire causes early hair loss, restless nights and hurts your company’s bottom line. A great hire on the other hand, makes your job easier, makes you look great and elevates your department and company.

After combing through dozens of unqualified resumes and leads, you have settled on a few that seem to have all the qualifications and industry experience you’re seeking. At long last, you’ve identified your finalists for an important role in your group and you’re preparing for their technical interview. But how do you differentiate between top performers and problem hires? So much has been written and discussed about how to prepare as a candidate, but little information is available to help the technical manager prepare for these important meetings and decisions. Here are our top five questions every technical manager should ask their candidates to help identify top performers.

1. What interested you in this particular field initially?
Here, you’ll want to understand their level of passion for their chosen filed. Did they grow up with a family business in the field, did they have an early interest or did they simply fall into this career? Understanding why they are in their career in the first place will shed light into their motivations for their work. The more detailed and authentic they can answer this question, the better. You want employees who love what they do and have a natural curiosity and passion for their field.

2. What was your proudest technical accomplishment in your last role? 
With this question, you’re looking for a highlight of their technical ability and an understanding of what really drives your candidate. This will give you insight into the limits of their technical capabilities and what types of projects they’d prefer to work on in the future. Did they write a patent for a new product, win a design award, or obtain a certification?  Understanding their individual versus team involvement in this accomplishment will help you learn about their teamwork abilities as well.

3. What technical part of your last role did you enjoy the most? 
This question will give you insight into what really motivates them. Did they enjoy hands-on assembly and fixing equipment? If your position doesn’t involve this, they may not be a great long-term match. Do they enjoy inventing or designing new concepts, or do they enjoy leading a team of technical employees? If they enjoyed collaborating with other bright engineers, this is an indication of strong leadership potential. If they really enjoyed developing a new software program or designing a new product, they may be better suited in individual contributor roles.

4. What type of role do you see yourself in 3-5 years from now? 
This question will give you a glimpse of their career-focus and path they’d like to pursue. Do they prefer a hands-on role, or would they like more leadership opportunities in the future. Either answer is fine, but it will help you understand what’s motivating their career progression. Most organizations need both individual contributors and leaders, so this will help you plan for growth in both areas.

5. Who could I contact to confirm your technical abilities? 
Few questions put candidates on the spot than asking for professional references. The candidate should be quick to provide former supervisors and co-workers who can vouch for their technical abilities. Should the candidate hesitate to volunteer a former supervisor as a reference, you should question why that is the case. If they quickly and confidently provide this information, this  is a strong indicator that they’re eager for you to contact them and verify their abilities and experiences.

Tom Goettl is vice president and principal technical recruiter at George Konik Associates, a technical recruiting company in Minneapolis. Visit their website at

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Improving Your Healthcare Plan

There’s a lot of talk about how expensive healthcare is and what a big burden it is for employers.

Most often, people consider their options to be about zero when it comes to answering the question “what can we do to bring the costs down for next year?”

The old standby move is to look to your broker to try to work some insurance magic. While this is an important step, there actually are a few things you can do. And this does not include making your employees get on a treadmill or getting rid of your annual holiday cookie exchange.

The reality is that most employers really do care about their employees, and about the quality of the healthcare that they are receiving. However, plans are too expensive. Simply put.

Fortunately, I’ve done your homework for you and have what I consider to be the most important steps in improving your healthcare plan:

Make it easy - Healthcare and insurance is complex. This isn’t going to change. What you can do, however, is make your plan easy to understand. When one of your plan members goes to read their plan documents, chances are that they retain very little. That is, if they even read it at all. This becomes a major problem when it comes time to dip into the company plan and get care. By providing documentation that makes sense, people on the plan will not only understand what they are responsible for, they will also take a more active role in doing things like getting bills paid on time, or looking around for a cheaper price.

Make it memorable - Out of sight, out of mind. This principle applies in spades. By keeping plan information in front of people, they will know where to turn when they need to visit the doctor. If you send your plan members information on different places they can go to get care under their plan, or easy to understand summaries of their insurance, they will remember how to access their information. Keep it in front of people and it retains its relevance.

Make it count - Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems that we see is that people don’t know where to turn when something out of the ordinary happens. Taking your kid to the doctor for something other than a checkup? Maybe you should be getting a second opinion. Maybe you should just be calling the doctor on the phone. There are a lot of options available, but we simply aren’t comfortable with them. By giving people new resources and products, and actually ENGAGING them with it, you can be really effective. Most importantly, help plan members learn what to question in their healthcare and how to question their care. There is a documented process that will help make a difference.
By educating your employees and their families on the process of obtaining healthcare, you can see some really great results. You’ll save money, you’ll save a lot of time, and people will have a better experience. This is really important when you’re dealing with millions of dollars’ worth of benefits. Shouldn’t people be getting something out of all that money that you’re spending?

Bob Hanlan is the founder at Trig Life Services in Minneapolis. He can be contacted at

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MN Economic Outlook

The August Business Conditions Index for Minnesota declined to a still healthy 61.8 from July’s 63.2.

Components of the overall August index from the monthly survey of supply managers were new orders at 57.5, production or sales at 66.2, delivery lead time at 61.0, inventories at 60.7, and employment at 63.8. “The state is adding manufacturing jobs at an annual pace of approximately 1 percent, and growing nonmanufacturing employment at a rate exceeding 2 percent. Our surveys over the past several months indicate this positive trend will continue for the remainder of 2017,” 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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