The Minneapolis/St. Paul regional event was held May 18-19, 2016. This two-day event was jam-packed with activities starting early in morning and going until late in the evening.
The first day began at Anderson Corporation in Bayport, MN. Upon arrival, headsets and eye glasses were distributed, and then we walked in two separate groups through their 66-acre facility. It was most certainly a lot of walking, but well worth it. One take-away was their impressive re-use of their waste, scrap material and dust.
We then moved on to 3M and started out at their corporate Innovation Center. After a brief history lesson, we entered the exclusive World of Innovation, which is essentially a museum for 3M products. They are grouped by type of product (i.e., abrasives, advanced materials) and each display focuses on the science behind the technology. After some demonstrations and sufficient hands-on time, we transitioned to the CAM Center, which is their abrasives lab and wood shop. We enjoyed lunch and then a presentation on coated abrasives and the factors affecting finishing. This was followed by a tour of the wood shop and a demonstration of their profile sanders and the impact of proper dust collection on the sand quality. The visit concluded with seeing their robot in action.
Speaking of robots, our final stop of the day was Navy Island. The owner, Jeff Stone, has transformed his business from a plywood shop to a full-scale manufacturer of innovative acoustic panels. Jeff’s unique approach to manufacturing has resulted in tremendous growth for the company. The use of robots for material handling throughout the plant combined with the fact that he makes his own proprietary machinery made for a very interesting plant tour.
The day concluded with a group dinner back at the hotel, which was followed by a presentation by Jack West of Federated Insurance about Distracted Driving. Finally, attendees were invited out in the parking lot for a look at Jeff Schrock’s trailer for his BenchWorx program to teach woodworking skills to kids in grades K-8.
On Thursday, we had an early start to travel to Lacrosse, WI, to visit WalzCraft. When we arrived, we were welcomed by Dick Walz who explained the company history and gave an overview about their production process. They operate 24 hours a day, 6 days a week – including an office staff that works third shift to cue orders for the next day’s production. Every job is custom made, and their only inventory is raw materials. They uniquely refer to lead times as “wait time” instead because that’s what the customer has to do.
Before lunch, we enjoyed two informative presentations. The first was given by Jeff Lewis of Allmoxy software, which focused on people, processes, and profit. The second speaker was Darin Johnson of Lockdowel, who also demonstrated their fasteners by quickly and efficiently assembling a cabinet.
After lunch, we went on the plant tour of WalzCraft, which was an extremely interesting and impressive operation. Then we got back on the bus for the return trip to Minneapolis, with a stop for a plant tour and BBQ dinner at Northland Woodworks in Blaine, MN.
The CMA would like to recognize the sponsors of this event, as they make it affordable for attendees to participate. Aetna Plywood, along with Timber Products, Knape & Voght, and Arauco, sponsored the transportation for both days. Richelieu sponsored the dinner on Wednesday evening at the hotel. Brown Wood took care of the pasta buffet lunch we enjoyed at WalzCraft on Thursday, and the SCM Group contributed to the BBQ dinner that evening at Northland Woodworks.
Because we hit our limit of 30 attendees, we have decided to hold another event in the area next year.
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