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Enterprise Minnesota

Innovation

Iron University

How one foundry mapped out a system to climb the company ladder

Published: Monday, May 24, 2021 - 11:02

Based in Winona, Minnesota, Alliant Castings is a foundry manufacturing abrasion and impact-resistant castings for a variety of heavy-duty industries. Utilizing the latest technologies, they create custom, proprietary materials to meet their clients' needs for demanding and extreme performance. In addition, Alliant Castings is focused on giving back to and being involved in the local community, with executive participation in several nonprofit organizations, area schools, and other community groups.

Company president Tom Renk wanted to develop a road map for employee progression and saw an opportunity to produce not just better employees but also better people by providing educational and personal enrichment opportunities. The leadership team needed guidance on developing training materials, curriculum, and ways to assess employee competencies to ensure company success.

Like any industry, a foundry operation is comprised of employees with various duties and skill sets. Higher-skilled employees command a higher hourly wage. Part of what Alliant Castings was trying to create was an intentional system mapping out a plan to climb the company ladder, whether that meant cross-training and learning a different skill or taking advantage of education opportunities. By demonstrating a path for progression, the company hoped to increase employee retention and reduce turnover, especially at the lower-skill positions.

‘I think it’s an opportunity to help better the people that we have here with a focus on the shop floor. There’s a certain yearning, I think, with some of the guys to latch onto this. We’re in the final stages of developing our curriculum with Enterprise Minnesota’s help, and I think we’ll get some really cool results from it.’
—Tom Renk, president of Alliant Castings

Enterprise Minnesota consultant Abbey Hellickson, part of the MEP National Network, worked with Alliant Castings’ leadership team to define employee progression in the company and the training components that accompany it. In order to be self-sufficient in keeping the program running, Alliant Castings’ staff needed to be trained on how to work with other staff and conduct their own trainings.

“For the foundry industry and for the size of their organization, it’s extremely unique,” says Hellickson. “Tom values growth, and he really values elevating his employees to be their best here and at home. So, there’s a foundation to this Iron U that’s really all about just being better people. I would say his approach and passion is something I don’t see every place. And when I look at the foundry industry especially, he is really trying to create those pathways and development opportunities for not only the employees to be successful but to also increase retention.”

Results
• $350,000 in new investment
• $50,000 in cost savings
• $35,000 in training

Could your company benefit from assistance with employee training? Connect with your local MEP center for more information.

First published April 30, 2021, on NIST’s Manufacturing Innovation Blog.

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Enterprise Minnesota

Enterprise Minnesota helps Minnesota manufacturing enterprises grow profitably. Chartered by the Minnesota State Legislature in 1987, Enterprise Minnesota is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and affiliate of the Department of Commerce, Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a program within NIST linking together all 50 states and Puerto Rico to strengthen the global competitiveness of U.S.-based manufacturing. Centers within the network provide information, decision support, and implementation assistance to smaller manufacturing firms in adopting new, more advance manufacturing technologies, techniques, and business best practices to help them compete and grow.