December, 2009

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The Great Manufacturing Get Together
Thursday, January 7 at Hennepin Technical College, Brooklyn Park Campus.

Opening session:
11:45 AM - 12:45 PM

Manufacturers Alliance presents: Dr. Jim Bensen, President Emeritus, Bemidji State University on "Making the Future Your Friend" Dr. Alex Cirillo Jr., Vice President, 3M Community Affairs & 3M Foundation on "Principles of Innovation" Presentations and Audience Q&A. This event is open to all attendees. Pre-registration is required. Learn More


Promotional Opportunity
Build your brand & reputation among Minnesota Manufacturers and the Business Community!

Sponsorships for the annual Manufacturer of the Year Award are now being accepted. To learn more contact Kirby Sneen at kirbys@mfrall.com or download the flyer for more information here


Annual Wage Survey
Local Manufacturers - Plan to participate in our annual compensation and benefits survey specific to manufacturers - now in its twelfth year! All 2010 participants will receive a free condensed summary of surveyed wage increases and a management trends report. To learn more contact Vickie Parks at 763-533-8239 or vickiep@mfrall.com

Diversified Plastics Wins $105,000 Xtreme Technology Makeover Award
Diversified Plastics, Inc. has won office technology valued at $105,179 as part of the Xtreme Technology Makeover contest. Organized by Verus Corp., RJS Software, 18 other sponsors and supported by five Twin Cities Chambers of Commerce (MetroNorth, Minneapolis Regional, North Hennepin Area, St. Paul and TwinWest), this contest was the first of what is to become an annual event. read More

MN Quality Conference
The Minnesota Quality Conference offers attendees an educational opportunity to learn from industry insiders and advance the use of quality principles, concepts and technologies. Attendees are seeking information in the areas of leadership, training, resources, equipment, and education. Read More

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

Other Announcements


MN ASQ Annual Conference
56th Annual Minnesota Quality Conference will take place at Earle Brown Heritage Center on March 8 & 9, 2010. The address is 6155 Earle Brown Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55430. This year’s conference theme is “Help Yourself, Help Your Customer, Help Your Company”. <br><br> The Minnesota Quality Conference offers attendees an educational opportunity to learn from industry insiders and advance the use of quality principles, concepts and technologies. Attendees are provided information in the areas of leadership, training, resources, equipment, and education. The presentations are carefully chosen to reinforce the idea of the Conference theme. To register for the conference one can visit www.mnasq.org. Companies interested to have an exhibition booth at the conference can also visit the website and register on-line. Any other enquiry regarding the conference can be directed to Conference Chair Wayne Ellison by sending an e-mail:eabritten5@msn.com.

Article Index

Featured Member: Johnson Screens Revisited
Article by: Justin Dorsey

When we last visited this company, it had just been awarded the contract for manufacturing and installing the decorative fascia on the outside of the “new” world trade center tower in New York City.  Not bad for a side-business.  Their “real” business is making filtering screens for the mining, agriculture, municipal water works and oil industries.


Supply Chain Environmental Footprints
Article by: Georjean L. Adams

The pressure is on for supply chains to green up.  Companies up and down the value chain are looking to “go green” for a multitude of reasons including: dollar savings through energy and waste reduction (lean and green manufacturing), regulatory pressures to avoid controls on toxics and/or to recycle waste product, and


Health Insurance is Just the Beginning
Article by: RJF Agencies

A holistic approach, including health management, is key to long-term savings.  Every year employers facing health insurance renewals again look for options to help reign in and control these expenses. The problem is that, despite what certain consultants and politicians might claim, there truly is no quick fix.


MN Economic Report
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

For the month of November 2009, reported December 1, 2009. Minnesota's leading economic indicator, along with Oklahoma’s, were the only ones among the nine states to expand from October. 


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Featured Member: Johnson Screens Revisited

When we last visited this company, it had just been awarded the contract for manufacturing and installing the decorative fascia on the outside of the “new” world trade center tower in New York City.  Not bad for a side-business.  Their “real” business is making filtering screens for the mining, agriculture, municipal water works and oil industries.

In fact, most of us have used a Johnson Screen in many everyday products. And not just any filtering screens- For the petrochemical industry, Johnson Screens made a series of oversized screen cylinders, the largest of which was sixty feet long, 19 feet in diameter and weighed 93 tons.  Some screen!  Because of its over-weight/length/height dimensions it took four weeks for the trucking company to transport it to Texas driving a highly regulated route of accommodating roads and at off-hour times.    

It just so happens that the v-shaped wire Johnson Screens makes by pulling coils of stainless steel rod through its patented forming machines also look good as ornamentations.  (And, ornamentations that can be formed and welded into nearly every imaginable shape and size).

Johnson Screens is based in New Brighton, MN, with supplemental domestic manufacturing and/or engineering facilities in California, Texas, New Jersey and Virginia.  Internationally, they have plants in Australia, France, South Africa, India, Japan, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

What wasn’t discussed much in the last article was Johnson Screen’s vertical commitment to Lean manufacturing.  Joseph (Joe) Ziskovsky is Director of Operational Excellence.  Joe began his Lean journey with self-immersion in Continuous Improvement Processes way back in 1990 and has been deeply involved with it ever since.  In fact, he was one of the first to achieve the Manufacturers Alliance “Lean Masters Certification.” 

Having been involved in Lean for so long, Joe has captured the essence of how to communicate it and, of equal importance, keep it going.  At every juncture, Joe asks the question:  "‘What keeps you from doing your job?’  Whatever it is, there is an ‘opportunity for improvement or OFI.’ Here, our entire Lean journey is built around OFI’s, LOFI’s – lost opportunity for improvement – and SOFI’s – safety opportunity for improvement.  Both OFI’s and SOFI’s are institutionalized with formal reporting and reviewing procedures.  And, each year we challenge every worker and every cell to review their environment for OFI’s and SOFI’s.  You never get 100% participation with any program.  The way we’ve resolved that is to say, ‘You don’t have to lead an OFI or SOFI exercise – but you have to agree to follow any agreed-upon solution.’  That approach respects those who respectfully disagree with Lean but also requires that their options are to lead – or follow.  And, that works for us.” 

Joe credits the executive team with a full-fledged commitment to Lean.  “As with just about everything, success in Lean turns on how committed the executive team is to it.  Fortunately, here it is now engrained.  It must not be too off-putting because we’ve got a really seasoned staff at every level.  Some of our folks on the shop floor have been here for more than 30 years.”

The bottom line is that Johnson Screens is one of those rare companies able to dynamically embrace change – and prosper from the experience. From its humble beginnings in 1906 making screens for farmers’ wells to making the ornamental screens on the World Trade Tower, it has been one long Lean journey. Given the worldwide green initiatives and the finite amount of resources, the future for Johnson Screens looks very bright indeed.

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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Supply Chain Environmental Footprints

The pressure is on for supply chains to green up.  Companies up and down the value chain are looking to “go green” for a multitude of reasons including: dollar savings through energy and waste reduction (lean and green manufacturing), regulatory pressures to avoid controls on toxics and/or to recycle waste product, and

  • liability fears  and product recalls
  • stockholder pressure (socially responsibility investment indexes)
  • enhanced reputation that affects brand and employee loyalty
  • customer demand for environmentally preferred/green  (consumers, retailers, governments and industrial companies)
  • increasingly limited natural resources with inevitable spiraling upward costs (petroleum and water in particular)
  • recognition that life cycle impacts - not only their own operations’ environmental performance but also that of their upstream suppliers and downstream customers – can threaten their product’s market success.

There’s a growing parade of demands on suppliers:

Some of you may have had to deal with restrictions on certain chemicals of concern from industrial customers who market products in Europe (RoHS heavy metals and now Substances of Very High Concern under REACH).  In addition, many firms (HP, Nike, Sony, IBM, auto manufacturers and others) make up their own lists of toxics in materials they won’t buy.  These lists are growing in length and diversity as companies try to anticipate future regulated chemicals and move toward “green” chemistry.

More and more companies want to get their buildings LEED certified and/or their products to carry “Green” labels, which requires careful scrutiny of their purchased products.

Energy-related emissions of greenhouse gas is the hot topic of the day.  Leading companies are trying to calculate the life cycle “carbon footprint” for their products and expect suppliers to identify their contribution to climate change.

Those of you in the supply chain for Walmart, will see customers pressuring you to meet “sustainability” metrics (http://walmartstores.com/Sustainability).  Walmart is currently focusing on: greenhouse gas emissions, waste (including packaging), water use, safe ingredients, as well as responsible and ethical production regarding employees and communities.  The goal is to require a sustainability label on all the products sold in the store.

You need to ask yourself:

Do you know what is in your raw materials and parts? (Do you even know who is in your upstream supply chain?)

Do you understand the environmental impacts associated with your products?

Are you prepared to meet customers’ green expectations to protect and grow your market?

It is a complicated area, with plenty of ambiguous definitions and changing information demands and technological capabilities.  Regardless, now is the time to start talking to your suppliers and customers to understand each other’s needs and what you can do to move toward sustainability.  Don’t get left behind.

EHS Strategies, Inc. offers management consultant in environmental, health and safety, specializing in chemical regulations, www.ehsstrategies.com. Contact Georjean Adams at 651-204-3371 or gla@ehsstrategies.com

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Health Insurance is Just the Beginning

A holistic approach, including health management, is key to long-term savings.  Every year employers facing health insurance renewals again look for options to help reign in and control these expenses. The problem is that, despite what certain consultants and politicians might claim, there truly is no quick fix.

While there are certainly ways to reduce your operations’ direct insurance price, this doesn’t always equate to lower overall costs. Addressing overall costs is highly complex and must be looked at from the highest levels, taking into account organizational objectives and vision. Keep in mind that all decisions related to health insurance should be evaluated based on your current cultural conditions and the potential ramifications changes could inflict.

The simplest ways for an employer to reduce their direct expenses are to reduce benefits, shift costs to employees, or change to or offer a consumer-driven health plan. Many Minnesota firms are doing just that. According to RJF’s 2009 Employee Benefits Benchmark Survey:

  • Nearly half of all companies increased their employees’ contributions toward their premiums.
  • More than a third of all companies increased plan deductibles.
  • A quarter increased their plan’s overall out-of-pocket maximums.
  • More than 1 in 3 companies now offer a consumer-driven health plan.

Your broker should be able to provide you with these options as well as additional plan adjustments that may reduce direct costs. You may also opt to re-market your company to the insurance carriers in hopes of finding a lower rate. Depending on your unique situation, this may or may not be a good idea. Talk to your broker to determine if it makes sense for you.

But be aware that cost-shifting and plan changes can have negative repercussions that can lead to reductions in productivity and profitability. By understanding your culture and organizational objectives, you can better evaluate how these types of decisions will affect your employees and weigh that against your long-term goals. If nothing else, you will feel better about the decision(s) you ultimately make.

Realizing long-term savings while simultaneously increasing productivity and profitability is possible. However, it requires a more holistic approach to the wellbeing of your employees, and involves much more than finding quality competitive insurance (though that is critical).

Another key component is health management. Sadly, companies often succumb to the temptation to focus on the short term and fast-forward into typical wellness activities. This approach offers limited returns and often runs out of steam long-term. Sound health management can and does provide more benefits to your employees and your organization. However, just like any other aspect of business, health management (HM) needs a clear roadmap to provide direction and guide evaluation efforts.

Steps to Create a Quality Strategic HM Plan

1. Establish a Clear Vision.

Ideally, long-term success is achieved by incorporating HM into a larger initiative to create a culture of health, safety and engagement. Be clear and realistic about what you want, and include senior leaders in the discussion. For example, determine what is important to your organization about having healthy, safe and engaged employees and what that would look like for your organization. A clear vision is necessary for planning to be meaningful.

2. Set Clear Goals and Strategies.

Set goals for what you want HM in your organization to look like three years from now; then work backwards to determine what years one and two need to look like for that to happen. Once you have clear goals, you can devise strategies to meet them. Resist the temptation to jump into strategies before a clear vision and clear goals are set.

3. Engage Employees.

HM should be a benefit offered for and with employees instead of a program done to employees. Therefore, it is critical to engage employees in building the HM plan so they share ownership. Consider doing employee surveys or focus groups to determine what is most meaningful for your employees. Then create a structure that will continue to support engagement and includes a HM team and HM champions.

4. Create the Operational Plan

Determine timelines and a budget for implementing each strategy and the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved with making the HM plan a success. Consider budgeting for HM when you determine your health insurance premium contributions for the upcoming year and plan to launch your new benefit at the start of your health plan year.

5. Implement Your Plan

Just implementing the plan won’t ensure things go according to plan. Constant evaluation is critical—and be ready to adjust the plan as you learn. To facilitate this, build in evaluation methods at regular intervals within the plan, and update regularly.

By incorporating health management into a larger goal of establishing a culture of safety and wellbeing, you’ll be well on your way to realizing tremendous returns while reducing costs.

To learn more, contact anyone on RJF’s Employee Benefits or Health Management teams at 763-746-8000 or learn more at www.rjfagencies.com.

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MN Economic Report

For the month of November 2009, reported December 1, 2009. Minnesota's leading economic indicator, along with Oklahoma’s, were the only ones among the nine states to expand from October. 

The Business Conditions Index, based on a survey of supply managers, climbed to 57.1 from October’s 55.9. This was the fourth straight month that Minnesota's index has risen above growth neutral, signaling an end to the economic pullback in the state.  Components of the overall index for November were new orders at 64.3, production, or sales, at 62.3, delivery lead time at 57.9, inventories at 55.6, and employment at 46.1.  “Minnesota’s economy with less reliance on the farm sector, tends to behave more like the national economy.  As such, the global recession and rising productivity have reduced manufacturing employment by more than 41,000 or 12.3 percent over the past year.  I expect these job losses to halt as the strong growth in new orders translates into a somewhat stronger labor market.  Additionally, since the beginning of the year, the U.S. dollar has depreciated by more than 13 percent against the Canadian dollar.  I expect the decline to continue and stimulate the sale of Minnesota products to its major trading partner in the months ahead,” 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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