Having it Your Way, With Lean - a
Value Added Partnership
Business Development Center, a New Unit to Our Division
on our Edina Location at 7700 France
and the real world."
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
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
- We must continue to strive to be agile, competitive, adaptive and,
above all, responsive.
- We must make it easy and potentially profitable for the external
community to engage the University.
- We in the University educate, create knowledge and disseminate
- 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
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
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
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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 environmentally 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.
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."
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.”
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.
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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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 comparing 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
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.”
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
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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