As the demand for ventilators explodes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are partnering with another local manufacturer to do our part to help. Our customer has been producing a sub-assembly for a major international supplier of ventilators for the past 20 years, and we are part of their supply chain. You can read an article in our local newspaper HERE
We’re fortunate to support so many customers in critical infrastructure industries. As we continue working as a critical supply chain partner, we’ve made many changes to the way we work to keep our team safe. In addition, we are attaching a special notice to parts traveling through our manufacturing process so that our team knows when they are making a direct contribution during the COVID-19 crisis. The response has been fantastic!
Stay safe and healthy – and please contact us if we can help you with a project!
“Not all heroes wear capes, and not all heroes have four-year degrees” –Rachel Unruh, Chief of External Affairs, National Skills Coalition
As skilled workers find themselves on the front lines of the national response to COVID-19, Skilled America talks to manufacturers Traci Tapani and Mike Tamasi about how their companies have adapted in the age of social distancing, how they’ve shifted production to contribute to the fight against the pandemic, and what they think about the sudden attention their essential work has brought on the industry.
ENGINEERING IS IN HIS DNA – Bob’s love for creating and building things started when he was very young and has continued in both his professional and personal life. His father was an engineer at 3M and always had a machine shop in his garage or workshop. Bob was helping his father design and machine parts before he entered his teenage years.
While in school Bob took all the shop classes that were available and was offered a machining/engineering internship at 3M in Austin, Texas after graduation. Although he was primarily a “gopher” in his position, Bob was exposed to the design and manufacturing process – and he was hooked! Bob earned an Associate Degree in Machine Tool Processes/Tool & Die Mold Making at Saint Paul College and went back for an additional semester to learn CNC programming.
Bob spent 17 years at a manufacturing company that built analog prepress equipment for the offset printing industry. He was originally hired as a machinist but was quickly promoted to the machine-building/assembly area. Bob feels that accepting this challenge is one of the best decisions he ever made because he was able to machine components AND build things!
Bob shared, “As my career progressed, I had some very good mentors that gave me advice and opportunities as a leader and a manager. It also groomed me to serve as a mentor for other people.” Eventually, Bob was promoted to the Manufacturing Manager position overseeing machining, welding, painting, electrical assembly, and mechanical assembly. Production planning, inventory control, purchasing, production, customer service, quality, and shipping were added to Bob’s list of responsibilities in the final years that he held the position.
Bob joined our team at Wyoming Machine in 2009 after his previous employer dissolved in the wake of digital printing equipment replacing analog systems. Instead of being a user of sheet metal components, Bob became a sheet metal supplier. In 2012, Wyoming Machine combined the Estimating and Engineering departments into a unified team. Communication is key between these two groups and having them together allows them to work closely from the start of the quoting process, through the creation of production documents, to the actual production of components.
“Manufacturing is manufacturing no matter what you are producing. If you provide quality items and maintain great customer and vendor relationships, you can do anything.” – Bob Loder
Bob gives much credit to his team saying, “In my opinion, the team of engineers and estimators at Wyoming Machine are unmatched in the industry with their years of experience and dedication.” With a combined total of 206 years of experience in sheet metal fabrication, Bob and his team are here to help you with your next project!
Finding creative ways to promote careers in manufacturing and address the shortage of skilled labor is something we’ve worked hard at for many years. The cover story of this recent issue of Minnesota Business Magazine focuses on out-of-the-box thinking for smart hiring in a tight labor market. Co-President Traci Tapani was interviewed for the article and she shares how we develop people within our organization using teamwork, technology, and tenacity! (click here for the article – page 28)
Amanac is a weekly news and public affairs program produced by Twin Cities PBS. On Friday, June 29, 2018, Wyoming Machine was featured on a segment exploring ways for workers to retool and enter the changing job market. Watch this episode here (4:23mn)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Traci Tapani to Testify Today at Congressional Hearing on the Workforce Skills Gap
WASHINGTON DC—May 9, 2018
Traci Tapani, Co-Owner of Wyoming Machine, Inc., based in Stacy, Minn., and national expert on workforce development and the Skills Gap, will testify at a 10:00 AM hearing today (5/9/2018) held by The Congressional Committee on Education and the Workforce. The hearing will examine the skills gap between high school graduates and skilled positions, especially in manufacturing. The Manufacturing Institute estimates that 2,000,000 manufacturing jobs will go unfilled in the next 10 years.
Traci will discuss the skilled worker shortage and the creative solutions she and sister and Co-President Lori Tapani use to find and train employees. The sisters work closely with Community and Technical Colleges, as well as high schools and even grade school children to inspire technical educations and careers in manufacturing.
The Tapani sisters’ efforts are widely recognized. Last year they won the W.O. Lawton Business Leadership Award in Washington DC, sponsored by the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB). The annual award honors one large and one small business or organization committing time, money and leadership to enhance their community’s workforce and economy. The award also salutes the recipients’ partnership with their local Workforce Development Board.
Both Lori and Traci have also received the national STEP Award. The STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Award is given annually to honor the achievements of women in manufacturing.
The Manufacturing Institute launched the STEP Ahead initiative in 2012 to celebrate women in the manufacturing industry that are making a difference through advocacy, mentorship, engagement, promotion, and leadership. Women make up about 47 percent of the labor force, but only 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce.
Traci’s testimony begins at 35:50 on the YouTube video (link here)
We started 2018 with some excitement! On Friday, January 5th, Minnesota Senator Tina Smith chose to make her first Minnesota appearance at Wyoming Machine. We toured our facility and then hosted a roundtable discussion about workforce with a group of community leaders. Manufacturing offers exciting career opportunities, and the future relies on our ability to attract, develop and retain people. Here are some links to the media coverage:
Host Jennifer McNelly, President of 180 Skills LLC, interviews Traci Tapani, Co-President of Wyoming Machine, Inc., a family-owned business she runs with her sister Lori. From an early age, Traci learned that gender does not define a career path. Encouraged to be all she could be, Traci stepped up to the role of manufacturing owner at the early age of 27. Today, Traci is a force for change. From the White House to the factory floor, Traci influences leaders and inspires the next generation. Tune in to “She Bends Steel” to listen to Traci’s inspiring journey into manufacturing and how she pays it forward every day. (Click here to listen to the podcast)
Today’s Guest Traci Tapani
Look up “quick study” or “compassion” in the dictionary, and if WMI Co-Presidents and sisters Lori and Traci Tapani had their way, you’d see a picture of Linda Miller, WMI’s office manager and 27-year employee. Linda’s concern for others—whether as employee, civic leader or volunteer—shines through all that she does.
At Wyoming Machine
In 1990 when Linda began her career with Wyoming Machine she was hired to enter customer orders and file blueprints. It was evident from the start that Linda had both the capacity and desire to learn new things and take on additional responsibilities. As office manager (since 1999), Linda keeps WMI running smoothly. She is responsible for all financials, safety and OSHA, visitor tours, company parties and much more, but her passion for learning amazes all. After just one computer class Linda continued absorbing all things computer. Now Linda also manages IT.
And while her intelligence keeps WMI going, it’s Linda’s heart that keeps WMI glowing. For example, when Linda heard that an employee was struggling with a health insurance claim, she immediately called the company to resolve the issue. That’s just her style—the quintessential compassionate go-getter—and everyone at WMI knows it.
According to Traci Tapani, “Linda is an amazing person. She has taken the skills she has gained through her work as our Office Manager and used them to benefit her community. She cares deeply about people and she is very generous with her time and talent. Our community is better because of her.”
In Civic Organizations
Linda’s caring attitude has given her leadership roles at church and civic causes, too. When her daughters were in Girl Scouts, Linda became a scout leader. “Whatever the kids are involved in, I am, too,” Linda said. That means, add sports, music and many other of her daughters’ endeavors to Linda’s volunteer list.
As a 34-year member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Stacy, Linda has served as president of its council among other positions. Linda believes church mission trips to Ohio and Kentucky were especially rewarding. In those trips, church youth helped rehab condemned homes people lived in. “There were lots of tears from workers and residents when the homes were restored to code, allowing families to stay. These trips let my daughters and our youth see just how difficult some people have it. The kids returned home changed people,” Linda said.
Healing Hearts with Heartley Bears
Linda is also an election judge and treasurer of the Stacy Lions Club. But perhaps one of her most moving volunteer activities is the Heartley Bear Program. This program helps survivors grieve the loss of a loved one by converting their clothing into a teddy bear.
The program began when the funeral director of Forest Lake’s Mattson Funeral Home, Paul Hutchison, and his siblings, struggled with the death of their grandfather, Hartley. As they gathered his clothes, Paul saved his grandpa’s favorite flannel shirt and jeans. Paul’s grandmother made a teddy bear from the clothing for each grandchild. The process was so comforting that in 2009 Paul established the Heartley Bear Program at their funeral home—for anyone who has lost a loved one.
Two to three times a year Mattson Funeral Home becomes a teddy bear “factory.” Volunteers help survivors create teddy bears while healing their hearts. According to Linda, survivors bring in their loved one’s favorite garment. Volunteers then give survivors a pattern and scissors to cut out teddy bear parts. “That’s when the tears flow and grieving begins,” said Linda. “There’s something about cutting into the loved one’s clothing that triggers deep-felt emotions.” As they cut, they share stories that help replace sheer grief with treasured memories. Another volunteer crew then sews pieces together and returns them to be stuffed.
“They love their bears,” said Linda. “Not everything is perfect—definitely not store-bought. Sometimes the characteristics resemble the person who passed. It’s what survivors envisioned.” At the day’s close, survivors have their picture taken with their bear and sometimes with volunteers.
Linda’s most poignant occasion was when their own pastor’s wife came in. Their pastor of 24 years suffered a heart attack and died while driving to confirmation class. “We were so close to him after all those years.” It was a cathartic experience that brought them together with tears and stories. Linda said the love in the room was palpable.
The Heartley Bear program has been an astounding success. In 2009 the National Funeral Directors Association, with 10,000-plus members, named Mattson Funeral Home one of five homes across the country to receive its “Best of the Best Award.” Now funeral homes and other organizations across the country have similar programs. In 2012, President Obama issued The President’s Volunteer Service Award for the Heartley Bear program. In the eight years Linda has volunteered she has missed only three sessions—two were for the weddings of her daughters.
Like Mother; Like Daughters
As you may have guessed, Linda’s daughters are also compassionate, successful young women. Paula graduated from Augustana University—Sioux Falls, and is an RN who also served in the Peace Corps. Crystal graduated from Concordia College—Moorhead with a music degree. Linda and husband Doug are now empty nesters enjoying their grandson and awaiting the arrival of another in December. But don’t expect Linda to slow down any time soon. Besides WMI, there’s always someone—or an organization—that needs her help—and she’s more than eager to assist.