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In This Issue

Refocusing on the Future

Having it Your Way, With Lean - a Value Added Partnership


In Our Next

Small Business Development Center, a New Unit to Our Division

Update on our Edina Location at 7700 France

"Connecting knowledge
and the real world."

Refocusing on the
Future of Our Division

Bob Hoffman & Quote

We must go back to our original mission: to identify, develop and/or enhance the potential opportunities that exist for partnerships between Minnesota State University, Mankato and business, education, and regional entities.

Everything we do must be working toward that mission. Even with all the different centers and colleges that we have within our division, this is not only possible but mandatory for future opportunities.

We want to fundamentally transform the way in which external entities and Minnesota State Mankato interact in order to benefit the region. Our entire division, including the College of Extended Learning, IRETIMN, Minnesota Center of Excellence for Manufacturing and Engineering (MNCEME), Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and our 7700 campus in Edina need to operate under some specific principles:

  1. We must continue to strive to be agile, competitive, adaptive and, above all, responsive.
  2. We must make it easy and potentially profitable for the external community to engage the University.
  3. We in the University educate, create knowledge and disseminate knowledge.
  4. We will design and implement multidisciplinary programs that engage students and faculty with real and varied experiences and opportunities.

The overriding objective is to provide our students with the most relevant learning opportunities that will enable them to not only have mastered the ability to learn how to learn, but they also will have developed skill sets that will enable them to be productive and to be valuable employees in their selected area of interest. We have to engage the external community in order to stay current with the latest developments in each and every area and also with the technological advancements that have impacted the global marketplace.

The value that we can create with these partnerships will focus on several areas including technology and research, information exchange with interdisciplinary depth, entrepreneurial opportunities and new jobs, and talent development and enhanced skills.

Within our division, each and every center and/or college will be addressing the needs of a different marketplace and/or a different group of constituents. However, the main objective will again be to develop and/or enhance these potential opportunities that will exist. Specifically, there will be opportunities to work with business and industry who will be interested in certificate-driven programs and/or programs that may be taken for credit and non-credit and that will address specific skills necessary in their ever changing marketplace.

Business, industry, government and non-profit organizations no longer have the luxury of time. It is becoming urgent that their current employees have the opportunity to develop and/or enhance skill-sets in order to compete with the rapidly changing marketplace. Also, the entrepreneurial opportunities that exist in our region will be the key to the future economic viability of this area. Our division can support these initiatives to assist the entrepreneurs in a variety of ways in order that they may be successful. With renewable energy becoming increasingly important, we are able to provide research and expertise in areas that can support and assist companies and entrepreneurs.

When we initially created this division, our major focus was on strategic business, education and regional partnerships. However, as we have begun to create these partnerships, we have also realized that there are other areas where we can support and enhance these partnerships and be a more valuable partner to the external community. These opportunities range from student-faculty projects to curriculum and certificate programs being presented inside a business for their employees. There are some programs that we are unable to provide at Minnesota State Mankato. However, by partnering with other major universities including the University of Minnesota and other colleges and universities in the MnSCU system, we are able to develop 2+2 articulation agreements that enable our students to gain a degree or certificate in their area of interest while attending Minnesota State Mankato for two or more years.

Today, the needs of the consumer may restrict them geographically or may mandate greater flexibility in the way we offer programs. Consequently, our delivery needs to provide the flexibility necessary to reach the individual learner. For us in the Strategic Partnership division, in order to play the key role we should be playing in our economic region, we need to be adaptive, responsive, timely and flexible. We are a key player in this area of the state, consequently, we have structured a division that can provide opportunities and can develop or enhance skill-sets necessary to fuel the economic engine.

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Having it Your Way, with Lean -
a Project Unites Uponor North America, Minnesota State University, Mankato
& Dakota County Technical College

MSU logoDakota County Technical College logo

Successful results were served up when Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) invited Minnesota State University, Mankato to serve as co-partner in delivering advanced process improvement training to Uponor North America of Apple Valley, MN. The environmentallcakey friendly company sought help to eliminate waste – time wasted, that is. The goal was to redesign work activities for better use of people’s energy. Ann Goebel, Minnesota State University, Mankato Director of Twin Cities Partnerships, brought a “hands on” approach for learning and applying lean to Uponor employee teams through work-related project events. These projects helped them reduce non-value added work and better utilize resources.

"Uponor has contributed roughly 9,000 in-kind employee hours to the two-year project," Harold Torrence, DCTC Supervisory Management instructor said. "The company, which is the largest private employer in Apple Valley, is applying the training to better compete globally while responding to the needs of a diverse workforce."

The first two project rounds began in July, 2010 and ended in November in which 14 teams of two to four Uponor employees each were trained. These industry “students” varied in ages anywhere from 20 to 60 years old. A third round is set to begin this May.  

The goal of the applied lean Kaizen events (Kaizen, a Japanese word roughly meaning “to take things apart and think how to make them better”) is to use practical, hands-on projects to elevate the skill set of lean principles into Uponor’s culture.

Group Photo

“I want to lead teams to understand what these concepts are and pick a project that they apply so the employees and management see immediate return on that training investment,” Goebel said. (A value return most companies are seeking from training today.)

Goebel worked closely with Mary Kay McVey, Uponor’s Lean Operations Manager for project selection and management improvement targets. Some of the projects ranged from reducing overproduction, downtime, scrap and rework to improving the shipping and communication processes – challenges seen across all industry. All of the projects had measurable targets for results, and the groups gauged the estimated return on investment.

“We’re happy to go in and help people learn new methods in how to compete in their marketplace along with other higher education partners,” Goebel said. “We listen and then find the right resource partners to serve up whatever that business needs.” 

Goebel uses the analogy of a fast food restaurant – in particular, Burger King.  She sings the chain’s old jingle, “Have it your way, have it your way,” at each training she gives. “We have taught the consumer for the last 20 years or so that they could have a hamburger their way faster, with predictable quality, and at a value price. Therefore, any product they want is expected to be better, faster and for a great value while having a lot of options,” Goebel explains. “That means for industry we also have to be very flexible to offer the options and stay in business.” It all makes sense once you compare it to food! Lean is all about meeting the customer demands and how efficiently the product can be delivered.

Torrence McVey & Goebel

The first two rounds of projects ended with a well-deserved celebration on November 11, 2010. Students from both sessions received certificates and some were able to present their projects. The students’ reactions were positive, since they were able to share and receive ideas from each other and realize, “Wow, I’m impacting something that’s really important to our management.”  

"We believe in the power of leadership training," Torrence said. "By empowering employees throughout a company or organization, you create an inclusive and integrated culture that respects every individual's unique characteristics while maximizing opportunities to synergize individual strengths into an 'it's all about us' mentality. Leadership training gets everyone on the same page in an exceptionally positive way."

This partnership injected renewed energy and productivity into Uponor’s operations. Thanks to some hard work and perspective expansion, we can clearly see that life learning extends much beyond college.

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What's New


Things are bubbling in the brand new emissions lab on campus. With the stoves and instrumentation in place and up to ASTM standards, IRETIMN has moved into the facility. IRETIMN is now able to test heating units for residential and commercial purposes for efficiency as well as safety. A current project Pull Quotecomparing the efficiency of a U.S. wood pellet burning stove to one from Sweden will be finalized within the next month under the direction of graduate student Sergio Gamarra.

Interim Director John Frey is particularly excited about another project in the works: A gasifier that converts woodchips into electricity. This gasifier, developed by Chris Frederick, burns the woodchips which release syngas into a Honda engine in order to drive a generator. Frey said they hope to develop several kinds of examples such as these and present them at Minnesota Farmfest and county fairs this summer to show people “what we can do with renewable energy.”

Medea Myhra, the most recent addition to the staff, is now in charge of the biogas lab located in Trafton. This lab focuses on anaerobic digestion to produce methane, and fermentation to produce ethanol and other fuels. Myhra is working with clients as she analyzes feedstock before and after digestion and the productivity of the gases from the material.

As one enters in, another departs. Associate Director Brad Wiyninger, who was with the IRETIMN for almost two years, is now leaving to fulfill a job with a private sector company. IRETIMN is seeking a replacement; a task Frey says won’t be so easy. “We are going to miss him,” Frey said.

IRETIMN is also seeking and hopes to obtain EPA certification by May or June of this year. They are currently involved in grant writing to obtain external funding and support. Overall, things are coming along nicely for IRETIMN.

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Strategic Business, Education and Regional Partnerships
Minnesota State University, Mankato
329 Wigley Administration Center
Mankato, MN 56001