November, 2017

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MA Announcements

New and Renewing Members

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

7-Sigma Inc.
Activar Inc.
All Flex Flexible Circuits
Anderson Automatics
AP Engineering
Arthur J Gallagher
Aspen Equipment 
BePex International
Bolger-Western Graphics
Buhler Inc.
C4 Welding Inc
Central Container Corp.
Chandler Exhibits 
Clifton LarsonAllen
Climate by Design
Clothier Design Source
Custom Products
Dane Technologies
Dynotec Industries
Eaton Corporation
FAST Global Solutions 
Frana  Companies
Fullerton Building Systems
GAF Materials Corp.
Hamer LLC
Hill-Rom Co Inc
Independent Packing Services
Interplastic Corp.
Lind Electronics
Mayo Clinic
Measurement Specialties 
Metal Craft Machine
MGS Machine Corp.
Milestone AV Tech.
Modern Molding
NEXEN Group Inc.
Northern Contours
NRI Electronics
OECS Workplace Safety Experts
Olsen Thielen Company 
P&F Machining
Packnet Ltd
Pioneer Metal Finishing
Rational Energies
Rhino, Inc.
Shutterfly Inc.
Spectrum Plastics Group
Stratasys Inc.
Stylmark Inc.
SurModics Inc.
Twin City Plating
United Business Mail
Verum Staffing
Wenger Corp.

Completed Certifications

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

Jason Hackett-General Dynamics
Mallory Stewart-General Dynamics
Nils Bergman-Data Panel
Michele Belgea-Travel Tags
Paula Heyer-Travel Tags
Kurt Welch-Travel Tags
Simone Austing-Travel Tags
Rob Belt-Travel Tags
Angie Dobmeyer-Travel Tags
Cory Novinska-Branches
Neil Bengtson-Whirltronics
Chris Knox-Travel Tags
Mark Luger-Travel Tags
Walker Deakins-TO Plastics
Brittany Erickson-Shutterfly
Matt Severson-Whirltronics

Manufacturer of the Year

We are now accepting nominations for our annual Manufacturer of the Year Awards in three categories: small, mid, and large-size companies. Visit our website for more information!


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

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Upcoming Events

February 7th 2023 09:00 am
- The Role of the Leader Online

February 8th 2023 08:00 am
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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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February 16th 2023 08:00 am
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February 21st 2023 08:00 am
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February 21st 2023 09:00 am
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February 22nd 2023 08:00 am
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February 22nd 2023 09:00 am
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Article Index

MA Advisory Board Member-Michael Verdon, MGS
Article by: Michael Verdon

Michael Verdon is Vice President, General Manager with MGS in Maple Grove. He has been with the company for over 10 years.

Gemba Walks
Article by: Michael Deason

A Gemba Walk is time spent in the work area, observing and looking for opportunities for safety, quality, and productivity improvements.

Buying a Hybrid Employee: Using Salary Data When Your Employees Wear Multiple Hats
Article by: Ann Bares

More and more these days, and for a variety of reasons, we see jobs that are essentially hybrids.

Starting Meetings
Article by: Jim Thomas

There have been many articles written about meeting management, mechanics and follow up. That is all valuable information.

MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

The October Business Conditions Index for Minnesota declined to a still strong 56.3 from September’s 59.4.

MA Advisory Board Member-Michael Verdon, MGS

Michael Verdon is Vice President, General Manager with MGS in Maple Grove. He has been with the company for over 10 years.

MGS is a leader and is benchmarked among their peers in the industry. Founded in 1979, they design and build state-of-the-art packaging and assembly automation equipment. With over 15,000 machines installed in 27 countries, our machines are a standard within the life sciences, ammunition, food and cosmetic markets. MGS is known and respected for innovation, integrity, and collaboration which are tenets of their company’s values.

MGS has six core values which are pervasive throughout the organization and guide interactions with employees, vendors, customers, business partners, and the greater community. These values include: being passionate experts, customer focused, caring for the community, teamwork, problem solving, and maintaining a can-do attitude.

How, when, and why did you get introduced to the Manufacturers Alliance? 
I became aware of the Manufacturers Alliance in the early to middle 2000’s, attending or sending folks to various seminars. After joining MGS, I became more involved in the Manufacturers Alliance; first by joining a Peer Group, then facilitating a Peer Group, and now becoming a member of the Board of Advisors.

How would you describe peer-to-peer sharing best practices to a colleague in manufacturing?
A true benefit of joining a Peer Group is the opportunity to visit 8-10 companies over the course of the year. The host companies provide insights into their respective organizations via a presentation and tour. They talk about what works for them and maybe what they could be doing better. You have the opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions to the host. There are opportunities to learn new tactics and compare your organization to others, hence learn best practices.

Have you used the members of a Peer Group to help to help solve an issue? How?
MGS has hosted several Peer Groups over the past several years. Each meeting has been very productive for MGS in that we have received new thoughts and ideas on topics such as Lean, Strategic Sourcing, Safety and Visual Metrics.

What was one major lesson learned in the past year that you feel others could benefit from reading?
Not from the past year but from a life time of leading great organizations:

  1. Make sure people have the ability and awareness that they can make a difference and they have an accountability to do so.
  2. There is more than one way to get to Chicago – just because you take the train does not mean it is the right method for everyone. What is important is that they get to Chicago in the right place, on the right day and at the right time. Give them the latitude to make choices.
  3. Affirm and congratulate often and openly, criticize meagerly and behind closed doors.

What is the biggest challenge Minnesota manufacturing faces today? What do you think it will be in five years?
The biggest challenge most manufacturers face today is the availability of a sufficiently qualified labor pool. Minnesota enjoys being a tech-rich manufacturing environment, and manufacturing has been growing at a rate faster than the education systems can produce qualified candidates. I do not see this changing in the foreseeable future. In order to offset this paradigm, Manufacturers are driven to automate, then invest time and capital in people and move them upstream in the process.

What qualities do you feel make someone an effective leader?

  1. Make sure everyone knows and understands the Plan (Vision) and what their specific accountabilities are in achieving the plan.
  2. Be a good communicator – by that I mean talk less, listen more, mentor often, and be humble.
  3. Hire the best people (right people/right seat), make sure they understand #1 then get out of their way.
  4. Allow people to make mistakes if there is a learning opportunity to be had – I call it “Failing Forward." Be ready with a life line but don’t throw it too soon.
  5. Make sure everyone knows and understands the Plan (Vision) and what their specific accountabilities are in achieving the plan – This needs to be instilled in every employee, often.
Michael Verdon is Vice President, General Manager at MGS in Maple Grove.He can be reached at

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Gemba Walks

A Gemba Walk is time spent in the work area, observing and looking for opportunities for safety, quality, and productivity improvements.

This time should be structured and consistent.

We rolled out Gemba Walks at a manufacturing plant that I worked for about two years ago, and instead of taking this space and your time to tell you about all the things we did right, I thought it might be more beneficial to share with you our mistakes and lessons we learned. My hope for this post is that you will read about our mistakes and can learn from them.

It is always important to remember that a failure is only a failure if you fail to learn from it. Being able to objectively identify your own mistakes and address them is the first step in continuous improvement, and will gain you credibility with your employees.

When we first started our Gemba Walk, we were given a prescription from our corporate leadership and told, more or less, “Do it like this.” The advantage of this, especially early in our lean journey, is that it gave us a starting point. That said, let me identify the mistakes:

  • We forced some managers to attend without making sure that they understood the “Why”.
  • In an effort to drive 5S and Safety, the walk became very much about “finding issues” that department supervisors were then required to fix.
  • We did not adapt immediately to the concerns these errors created.

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.

Michael Deason is a Lean manufacturing professional who has a passion for continuous improvement and service-based leadership to manufacturing

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Buying a Hybrid Employee: Using Salary Data When Your Employees Wear Multiple Hats

More and more these days, and for a variety of reasons, we see jobs that are essentially hybrids.

Hybrid jobs are those where the job holder covers a combination of functions that are more typically found on a stand-alone basis. The Finance Director who also serves as Director of Information Technology. The professional who splits her time between purchasing and inventory control. The bookkeeper who also has responsibility for sitting at the reception desk for two hours every day. 

Market pricing jobs like these - using compensation surveys like that published by Manufacturers Alliance to find comparable jobs in order to collect competitive salary information - can be a challenge. Unfortunately, there isn't one best approach to deal with the challenge, but that there are some guidelines to consider. And I find it helps greatly if you think of employee salaries as the “purchase price” for the bundle of talent and capabilities you need to buy to get the job done.

The Proportional Split
The most common approach I see to a "mixed bag" job is what I will call the proportional split. This involves identifying job matches and collecting survey pay data for each function, and then giving the data for each function a weight that reflects the proportion of time spent on that function. In other words, if an employee spends 75% of her time doing inventory control and 25% of her time on purchasing responsibilities, the survey data for these two functions would be weighted accordingly. 

This proportional split approach is best suited to situations where there isn't a significant difference in the value or skill level being straddled, where the functional areas being combined are more closely related. A combination of compensation and benefits work probably fits this criteria; a combination of compensation and firmware development, not so much.

The Highest Valued Skillset Approach
Often a "mixed bag" position involves a job which requires a specialized skill set, let's say that of a seasoned chemical engineer, but also has the additional responsibility for performing another important but less specialized role, such as supervision of a small group of hourly manufacturing employees. The proportional split approach is problematic here, where its outcome would be a compromise between the value of an experienced chemical engineer and the value of a plant foreman. If the going rate for an experienced chemical engineer is higher, as I suspect it would be, you can't "ding" the value of this role because you've added another set of responsibilities into the mix. You’d better offer the going rate of a chemical engineer (the highest valued skillset) to have any hope of attracting and keeping someone in the role. In fact, there are those who would argue (and have) that you'd need to pay a premium in order to get a chemical engineer to also spend time supervising non-engineering workers. 

The Premium Approach
In some cases, a job combines several positions that can only be market priced separately and on their own. And it may be that giving the job credit for the highest valued of these different roles doesn't really do justice to the complexity involved in overseeing multiple discrete functional areas. I can recall one particularly odd combination of a Manager that oversaw accounting, purchasing and customer service. Separately, these managerial jobs were market priced at about the same level - but that didn't do justice to this unique role, so we ended up adding a "premium" of 12% (essentially that company’s midpoint differential - or the difference between salary grades - kind of a "one up" adjustment) to the overall market value in order to account for the added complexity of this particular combination of responsibilities.

This, of course, is where market pricing and salary setting stops being strictly a science and crosses into the realm of art. And while we may all prefer dealing in situations where we simply add up the numbers to get the right answer, we can also count on the fact that organizational needs and circumstances will throw us the inevitable curve ball. We must also be attentive to the kinds of precedents we set when we choose to treat jobs formally as hybrids. Let’s face it: ALL of us must wear multiple hats these days – it’s simply part of work in today’s world. Jobs that get “special treatment” in this way should be the exception.

Rising to these occasions requires combining our best data analysis with sound business judgment to identify the approach which is fair and appropriate for the company and the employee.


Plan to participate in the Manufacturers Alliance's 2018 Manufacturing Compensation and Benefits Survey administered in partnership with Altura Consulting Group. Participation opens on December 11. Visit the Manufacturers Alliance website for more information.

Ann is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group, LLC. She has extensive experience consulting in the areas of compensation and performance management. She can be reached at

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Starting Meetings

There have been many articles written about meeting management, mechanics and follow up. That is all valuable information.

I find however that if I don’t start the meeting right it goes off the rails before it began, e.g. it goes longer than planned and all feel it was another colossal waste of time. 

Starting it right has it ending right and participants joining the next meeting you call.

Before it starts:

  1. Want to make a bad first impression? Don’t send an agenda and show up late yourself.
  2. Want to abdicate control of the meeting? Restart the meeting for stragglers.

After it starts:

  1. Make the meeting purpose clear. Why are we here? What do we want for an outcome and how will it be documented? Differentiate between a tactical decision based meeting to create short term actions and accountability vs. a working session which drives longer term strategic thinking. Issues arising for a different purpose should be tabled.
  2. Specify the purpose of each agenda item. Clarify the goal of each agenda item. Specify the owner of the outcome.Is this topic meant for a democracy where everyone gets a vote or does one person own the agenda item and they are seeking feedback.
  3. Reiterate the most important ground rule, e.g. confidentiality. Openness, urgency.
  4. Minimizing passive/aggressive behavior. Call out the elephant in the room early-don’t let it wander around outside the room after the meeting.
  5. It is OK to listen. Tell the participants the level of engagement you seek. They need not weigh in if there is agreement - move on.

I always like a meeting when it is clear the other participants have prepared as much as me and want to share in the fruits of the discussion. And, ending early is the gift of time.

Contact Jim for a more detailed discussion about this topic at or contact him directly by phone.

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 or

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MN Economic Outlook

The October Business Conditions Index for Minnesota declined to a still strong 56.3 from September’s 59.4.

Components of the overall October index from the monthly survey of supply managers were new orders at 59.9, production or sales at 64.0, delivery lead time at 53.3, inventories at 52.7, and employment at 51.7. “Over the past 12 months, Minnesota expanded both durable and nondurable goods manufacturing. Gains were strong for food processors and medical equipment manufacturers,” 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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