March, 2009

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Article Index

2009 Manufacturers Alliance Award Winners
Article by: Justin Dorsey
Large Company: American Medical Systems, AMS
Compliance News and Notes - Those Pesky Air Hoses
Article by: Vija Kelly
A recent inspection resulted in a citation that highlights the difficulties in dealing with OSHA. In this instance, when the OSHA inspector toured the shop, one of the employees was blowing off metal parts, directing the air into a rather deep hole and creating loud noise.
An Easy Way to Go Green!
Article by: Kelley Buckentine
In a time of ever increasing challenges comes a breath of fresh air - Green Solutions North America (US), Inc. Green Solutions exists to do the right thing, and through its Revive Program connects those who have with those who have not by redirecting no longer needed corporate assets into the hands of charitable organizations in need.
MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss
For the month of March 2009, reported April 1, 2009. For the eighth month in a row, Minnesota's Business Conditions Index fell below growth neutral.
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2009 Manufacturers Alliance Award Winners
Large Company: American Medical Systems, AMS
AMS is a well-known local success story in the medical device field.



Originally founded as a manufacturer of urinary incontinence devices, it has expanded into a wider range of products to address disease states in the pelvic region of the body. Paul Andress, Director of Manufacturing for AMS, describes the relationship with the Manufacturers Alliance (MA) well. "The partnership we have formed with MA has been very fruitful. The training, monthly presentations, Leaders Alliance groups, tours, and the peer-to-peer networking opportunities have proven very valuable to both AMS and past companies I have worked at. It has certainly helped AMS instill a continuous improvement mentality.

With respect to internal metrics, Paul cited increases in productivity of 20+% in 2008, a near-40% reduction of raw work in progress inventory, a 16% reduction of scrap per unit, and a 30% increase in clean-room space. He also made an interesting comment to the effect that he has been an active user of the Manufacturers Alliance on-line resume posting . As he says, "it's not just that the job qualifications relate to what we're looking for. It's that I can network with other members regarding the job applicant's experience. As anyone who hires knows, that's a great asset."



Mid Company: Mate Precision Tooling
Mate Precision Tooling is one of the world's largest independent manufacturers of CNC tooling. Bruce Roles, Senior Manufacturing Engineer, has led Mate's Lean initiatives. Bruce came to know the Manufacturers Alliance (MA) through a prior employer. And, he turned to it as soon as he moved to Mate three (3) years ago. As Bruce says, "Winning this award is very important to Mate because it validates our Lean progress." Mate has been very proactive with regard to its MA membership. In all, it has five (5) employees who are members of and/or facilitate Leaders Alliance peer groups offered by the Manufacturers Alliance, including: Supply Chain Management, Quality Management, Product Development and Lean Enterprise. It has also been very active in both promoting and attending company tours. Bruce says that he is reminded of how valuable the MA membership is whenever he goes on company business outside the state of Minnesota. "When I discuss the manufacturing culture in Minnesota when I'm traveling, I'm always amazed how interested others are in the peer-to-peer culture that the MA has helped to foster here. I've come to think of it as a 'hidden weapon.'"



Small Company: Robinson Rubber Products Company
Robinson is a custom molder of high-end mechanical rubber goods. A good example of a Robinson product would be the rubber power coupling on a generator that keeps the platform and electrical current stable so that the resulting lighting doesn't flicker. Interestingly, Robinson produces its own array or proprietary rubber formulas and mixes its rubber on site to meet customer demands. Like the other two winners, Jay Beck, Robinson's President, echoes the theme that the ultimate value of Lean is team coherence. "It's actually kind of odd because I can't attribute the tangible benefits of this Lean journey to any singular metrics. Nevertheless, we are adding new business and new customers at a rate that I've never seen before in my 25 years with Robinson. For us, it's unprecedented - but efficient - growth. Our lead times are half what they were three years ago and we use fewer presses than we did three years ago. Still, that doesn't account for our growth. The bottom line is that it all adds up to something more than the individual metrics. So, is this award important to us? You bet it is. It's great for our whole company to know that others have taken notice of what they've done. The notion of constant evolution is now well ingrained in our culture. And, our employees see that as invigorating - not constraining. And, the Manufacturers Alliance has played a huge part in that transformation."
Justin Dorsey, Director of Sales & Marketing, Advanced Capital Group located at 50 South Sixth Street, #975 Minneapolis, MN 55402. call (612) 230-3009, email jdorsey@acgbiz.com, or visit www.acgbiz.com.

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Compliance News and Notes - Those Pesky Air Hoses
A recent inspection resulted in a citation that highlights the difficulties in dealing with OSHA. In this instance, when the OSHA inspector toured the shop, one of the employees was blowing off metal parts, directing the air into a rather deep hole and creating loud noise.

The inspector pulled out the meter and read a decibel level in the 90's. He questioned the company about having a hearing conservation program. The company did not have a program in place because they did not feel that their employees were exposed to noise levels that averaged over 85 decibels over an eight hour period.

The job that caught the inspector's attention had a cycle time of 20 minutes and the actual air cleaning time was 2 or 3 minutes at the most. Ambient noise level was in the 70 dB range. This average does not average out to over 85 dB in eight hours. This job was only run once a month or so.

The inspector's on site response was that he would require thorough noise level tests be conducted. However, when the citations came in the mail, not only was there the order for the noise level testing, but a "Serious" citation for not having a program in place!

This scenario could be re-enacted at almost any shop. So what is an employer to do? Start with an assessment of your situation. Evaluate if you are vulnerable. Determine how many employees may be affected. Compare this to:
  1. the cost of a noise level assessment - your insurance company may do noise level assessments at no cost

  2. the cost of audiometric testing - about $24.00 per person per year

  3. the consequences of hearing loss to one of your employees that they can claim is work-related - whatever, the courts decide

  4. the cost of a "Serious" OSHA violation - as much as $7,000.00.


The smart thing is to determine whether you may have a problem. Look at the possible noise levels in each work area. Identify the equipment and processes that are generating the noise. Can this noise be mitigated by engineering controls? How frequent is the noise? Can you rotate jobs in a manner that reduces average noise levels below the actionable level? If it is clear there is a potential problem, have the noise levels formally checked and documented. Then determine the persons who may be exposed to excessive noise levels. Once the above steps have been taken, put in place a Hearing Conservation Program.
<img src="http://www.mfrall.com/newsletter/authorpics/vijakelly.jpg"align="left">Hazard Management is a consulting and training firm specializing in occupational safety and hazardous waste management. Call Vija Kelly at 651-697-0422 for more information.

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An Easy Way to Go Green!
In a time of ever increasing challenges comes a breath of fresh air - Green Solutions North America (US), Inc. Green Solutions exists to do the right thing, and through its Revive Program connects those who have with those who have not by redirecting no longer needed corporate assets into the hands of charitable organizations in need.

Each year over 220,000 tons of office furniture is destined for landfills. According to one estimate, that's enough furniture to furnish all the offices in Boston! The Green Solutions process embraces a subtle yet profound shift in corporate governance that makes it easy for companies to do the right thing, help our environment and address issues of deep social injustice along the way. Green Solutions provides a creative, compelling alternative to a traditional business problem. The charities win, the environment wins, and the business is behaving in a socially responsible way by reducing their carbon footprint.

Green Solutions was launched in Canada in 2006 by a team of former business executives that recognized that Fortune 500 companies have the power to change the world just by altering their perception of waste. They entered the US in March of 2008. To date, GSNAI has diverted thousands of tons of perfectly reusable assets, working towards their goal of one million tons diverted. Some clients have successfully received LEED points based on the GSNAI project report data.

Hundreds of charities have benefited from Green Solutions receiving items like typical office furniture, IT and electronics equipment, training/classroom supplies, and a variety of styles of tables and chairs. 95% of items are redistributed locally. 5% are processed through the School in a Box program, which consists of a filled shipping container sent to a third world country to literally set up schools for the children. 28 containers have been shipped so far to places like Sierra Leone, Belize, and Kenya.

Green Solutions is here to help alleviate some of the burden. If you have you been incurring storage costs on the same non-moving items for years or you anticipate a move or remodel, yielding no longer needed items. Contact Emily Riddering of GSNAI (612-627-1622) to see how the Revive program can support your corporate sustainability efforts.
<img src="http://www.mfrall.com/newsletter/authorpics/KelleyBuckentine.jpg"align="left">Kelley Buckentine is a dynamic lean leader, energetic trainer, and is certified as a 6 Sigma green belt with experience on both sides of the fence: operations and marketing. She may be reached at kelley.buckentine@gsnai.com

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MN Economic Outlook
For the month of March 2009, reported April 1, 2009. For the eighth month in a row, Minnesota's Business Conditions Index fell below growth neutral.



The leading economic indicator based on a survey of supply managers, inched up to 31.0 from February's 28.4 and January's 30.1. Components of the overall index for March were new orders at 29.4, production at 25.9, delivery lead time at 42.2, inventories at 30.4, and employment at 29.3. "The Minnesota recession began in December 2007, just as it did for the U.S. Between the beginning of the recession and February 2009, the state lost almost 82,000 jobs. Our job indices are consistent with additional jobs losses of another 30,000 in Minnesota by the end the third quarter of this year," 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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