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MEI Credits Employee Effort for Success

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MEI staff members volunteering for Kids against Hunger. MEI packed more than 250,000 meals and funded more than one million additional meals.

Established by John Romnes in 1971, Minnesota Elevator, Inc. (MEI) in Mankato, Minnesota, serves the elevator industry through the design, manufacture, installation and service of elevators (ELEVATOR WORLD, July 2010). It specializes in installations, modernizations, maintenance and repairs. Since 2006, MEI has used several strategies to accelerate growth during the global recession. Employing 225, MEI believes its acquisitions, investments, lean manufacturing plan and product development have helped the company maintain its position in the industry, despite the global economic struggles.

MEI has experienced growth in field operations since 2008, acquiring three companies: Badger Elevator in Milwaukee; Dynatron Elevator in Kansas City, Missouri; and Lagerquist Elevator in Daluth and Minneapolis, both in Minnesota. In September 2012, it purchased the commercial elevator backlog of CemcoLift.

In 2006, MEI implemented an improvement plan involving employee interaction. The company brought in a consultant to train its staff to improve lean manufacturing efforts, and, since 2007, has trained more than 100 employees to streamline manufacturing, improve processes and increase efficiencies. MEI invested US$1 million in lean-manufacturing R&D projects and, since 2008, has achieved an annual cost savings of 3% of sales.

Within the initial stages of the improvement plan, each employee was asked to turn in five improvements annually. When submitting an individual or team improvement, it states the problem and implemented solution. To put a greater focus on safety, MEI asked employees to also submit two safety improvements. In 2009, MEI agreed to pay for each employee to enroll in one education course. In addition to MEI’s consistent improvement efforts each year, the company invites its staff to vote for five employees, two supervisors and one leadership member to attend its annual “Recognition Trip.” Candidates must meet the aforementioned individual and team improvements to be considered.

MEI encourages its employees to give back to the community. In 2010, it offered to give each employee up to 8 hr. of vacation for 8 hr. of outside volunteering time and, in 2012 agreed to match up to US$500 for each employee who donated to a 501C3 nonprofit organization. Since the plan started, MEI has grown to more than 2,000 individual improvements, 900 team improvements, 400 safety improvements, and employees have enrolled in 300 educational classes and volunteers more than 2,500 hr. annually. In addition, MEI donates 10% of its pretax profits to charitable organizations.

In 2010, in conjunction with Vertitron Midwest, Inc. (VMI), MEI established a 24.-hr.-fitness facility available to all MEI and VMI employees and spouses (EW, August 2011). Both companies created a wellness program, called “Elevating Good Health,” designed to encourage employees to engage in healthy lifestyles. According to MEI’s president, Rick Lowenberg, “Our success is a direct correlation to having great customers and the constant effort of our employees’ involvement in the continuous improvement process. Our employees exemplify our motto ‘Working together to be the best.’”

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