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CIRAS NEWS Newswire Stories

Lab Helps Manufacturers Explore Industry 4.0 Technologies

CIRAS and industry partners continue to invest in new technologies for Iowa manufacturers. Ramco Innovations recently donated a selective compliance articulated robot arm (SCARA) to CIRAS. The company is a technology partner in the Digital Manufacturing Lab created in 2019 with substantial donations from Alliant Energy and the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The lab is … Continue reading Lab Helps Manufacturers Explore Industry 4.0 Technologies

Tapping into University Resources

A partnership with the Iowa State University Office of Biotechnology gives CIRAS access to the sophisticated equipment and technical expertise of the Materials Analysis and Research Lab (MARL) to help manufacturers solve complicated problems. CIRAS was recently contacted by Danfoss Power Solutions in Ames for answers on a corrosion issue. A rust protection product used … Continue reading Tapping into University Resources

Company Gets VA Certification in Record Time

An Anamosa company is better positioned to compete for government work after connecting with Julie Fagle, a government contracting specialist with the CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). Gregory Husmann, of Husmann Development Inc., reached out to Fagle late last spring for assistance with a bid on a new Veteran Affairs (VA) clinic. Husmann is … Continue reading Company Gets VA Certification in Record Time

Manufacturer Gets Help Navigating New Bid Process

A Cherokee manufacturer has utilized their ongoing relationship with CIRAS to understand a new bid process, expand its list of potential customers, and learn how to certify its cybersecurity protocols. Bob Simonsen, marketing manager at RJ Thomas Manufacturing, recently contacted CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) government contracting specialist Mary Zimmerman for assistance with a … Continue reading Manufacturer Gets Help Navigating New Bid Process

For The Record

Federal grants and awards reinforce the efforts of CIRAS to achieve its goal to “enhance the performance of industry through applied research, education, and technical assistance.” Here’s a list of some recent awards and how they’re being used to help CIRAS in its work with Iowa companies. More than $745,000 has been received from the … Continue reading For The Record

3D Printing Devices Ease Everyday Challenges

An Ankeny-based rehabilitation facility has partnered with CIRAS to develop a cost-effective solution to an everyday challenge faced by some of the people it serves. On With Life (OWL) works with people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury, stroke, concussion, or other neurological disease. Many of the people it serves use wheelchairs and have … Continue reading 3D Printing Devices Ease Everyday Challenges

Sales Grow After Rethinking Supply Chain Costs

Fox River produces high-performance socks at a plant in Osage. The company has increased sales, invested in new equipment, and added jobs since implementing a new sales approach based on a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) model. The Osage manufacturer has seen revenues increase by $1.5 million since updating their sales approach with a TCO … Continue reading Sales Grow After Rethinking Supply Chain Costs

Enhance Customer Value with Augmented Reality

A global supplier of vending equipment and services turned to CIRAS last year for advice on maintaining quality customer support during the pandemic. CIRAS suggested implementing an augmented reality (AR) tool provided by TeamViewer. The solution proved so effective the company plans to use it after pandemic concerns subside. “One of our biggest concerns early … Continue reading Enhance Customer Value with Augmented Reality

Growing in a Labor Shortage

By Ron Cox Iowa is one of the best states in the country at leveraging our workforce population. We have historically low unemployment (4th best over three decades) and historically high labor force participation rates (5th best). Iowans’ willingness to work is a great state strength, yet we continue to have labor force shortages that … Continue reading Growing in a Labor Shortage

Webinars Address Need for Resiliency

The COVID-19 pandemic taught Iowa companies many things about their operations, but perhaps the greatest lesson was the need to develop more resiliency to better handle business disruptions regardless of their origin. To help companies with preparedness, CIRAS hosted a series of business resiliency webinars last spring on 19 topics ranging from building resiliency in … Continue reading Webinars Address Need for Resiliency

Hybrid ILC Conference Draws Record Number of Businesses

A record-breaking 120 companies and organizations were represented at the 10th annual CIRAS Iowa Lean Consortium (ILC) conference October 26 and 27. More than 320 people participated in the event either in person or online. The conference featured two keynote speakers and more than a dozen breakout sessions. “We were very pleased by the response … Continue reading Hybrid ILC Conference Draws Record Number of Businesses

2021 DBE Conference Debrief

A conference focused on connecting Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) with numerous resource partners was held November 3 in Des Moines. The well-attended event provided opportunities for businesses to learn best practices, meet and identify potential business partners, increase their business exposure with other DBE companies, and collaborate with other contractors. CIRAS partnered with the Iowa … Continue reading 2021 DBE Conference Debrief

CIRAS Expands Supplier Scouting Capabilities through IEDA Partnership

By Melissa Burant The risks of having a global supply chain have never been more apparent. Severe weather events, the pandemic, and geopolitical issues have disrupted the global supply chain. The impacts of this are felt by every Iowa manufacturer. Finding new suppliers, especially local ones, is hard. A Google search is a great starting … Continue reading CIRAS Expands Supplier Scouting Capabilities through IEDA Partnership

X-ray Imaging Positions PowerFilm to Quickly Fix Potential Problem

An Ames manufacturer of solar panels avoided scrapping $30,000 of incorrect work after Iowa State University experts helped the company find a way to inspect 750 problem panels for a potential defect. Dan Stieler, president of PowerFilm, said he turned to CIRAS and Iowa State’s Center for Nondestructive Evaluation (CNDE) after discovering that one of … Continue reading X-ray Imaging Positions PowerFilm to Quickly Fix Potential Problem

CIRAS Helps Company Rebound after Fire

A central Iowa manufacturer of sports performance equipment credits CIRAS with getting the company back on track after a fire left them dealing with extensive smoke and water damage. “Without them, we would’ve been set back a year or more, and if we’d tried to move forward on our own through trial and error, it … Continue reading CIRAS Helps Company Rebound after Fire

Grant Paves Way for Businesses to Compete for DOT Work

CIRAS has received an Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) grant to help prepare disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) to compete for highway construction projects and other DOT-funded work. This $133,000 DBE Support Services grant will fund CIRAS staff to offer one-on-one assistance to DBEs, which are generally defined as small businesses that are 51 percent or … Continue reading Grant Paves Way for Businesses to Compete for DOT Work

Deco Products Uses CIRAS Team to Tackle Internet Marketing

A Decorah manufacturer of precision zinc die castings expects to see more than a $1 million increase in sales thanks to work by CIRAS to help the company improve its internet marketing. Dave Magner, director of sales and marketing for Deco Products Company in Decorah, said his company first turned to CIRAS about five years … Continue reading Deco Products Uses CIRAS Team to Tackle Internet Marketing

CIRAS to Lead Multistate Diversity Effort

A new program to attract under-represented minorities to technical and managerial roles in manufacturing is the focus of a $919,000 award received by CIRAS. CIRAS, in partnership with Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers in three other states, will create a structure for an internship program to build a pipeline of future employees for MEP centers … Continue reading CIRAS to Lead Multistate Diversity Effort

CIRAS Helps Appraiser Get First-ever Government Contract

A Windsor Heights real estate appraisal company was awarded its first-ever government contract last February after reaching out to CIRAS for assistance with the process. Neilly & Company Real Estate Appraisals received $3,900 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine the value of a facility located in Jefferson. Justin Niceswanger, a government contracting specialist … Continue reading CIRAS Helps Appraiser Get First-ever Government Contract

Automated Data Makes for Rapid Reports and More Problem Solving

A Story City food packaging company expects to save more than three-and-a-half weeks of labor over the next year after CIRAS helped the business automate weekly and monthly reports for managers. Dennis Sankot, production manager for American Packaging Corporation, used to spend about 16 hours a month transferring data from the company’s ERP (enterprise resource … Continue reading Automated Data Makes for Rapid Reports and More Problem Solving

The Iowa Workforce Skirmishes by Ron Cox, PhD, CIRAS Director

A historical look at Iowa’s labor force leads to a new approach for companies to address systemic workforce shortages. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines skirmish as “a minor fight in war usually incidental to larger movements.” This seems a fitting description of the labor force issues that have been brewing in Iowa—and what the data suggests we … Continue reading The Iowa Workforce Skirmishes by Ron Cox, PhD, CIRAS Director

Iowa Manufacturers Find Immediate Value in Wearable Tech

It started as a single question in a loud, pandemic-influenced Sioux City popcorn factory: How do we meet our obligation to monitor employee hearing if COVID-19 social distancing requirements are blocking us from running hearing tests in the usual way?   The answer, which American Pop Corn Company discovered with help from CIRAS, involves new workplace … Continue reading Iowa Manufacturers Find Immediate Value in Wearable Tech

UEA Toughens Practices, Improves Culture around Cybersecurity

A Waverly manufacturer of custom rotary motion products has upgraded its technological practices and revamped its culture after attending a CIRAS educational event on cybersecurity.  Howard Samarin, IT supervisor at United Equipment Accessories (UEA), said he was shocked after he and the company’s system administrator attended a December 2019 CIRAS event on data security.  “We got … Continue reading UEA Toughens Practices, Improves Culture around Cybersecurity

Researchers on Tunable Stiffness Bone Implant Turn to CIRAS for Technical Help

Iowa State University researchers have designed a new customizable device for optimizing the healing of broken bones—a tunable rod that can be 3D printed and custom matched to the needs of individual patients.  They formalized the idea only after working with CIRAS to explore the limits of 3D printing technology and confirm that their invention … Continue reading Researchers on Tunable Stiffness Bone Implant Turn to CIRAS for Technical Help

CIRAS Helps Rada Manufacturing Sharpen Its Marketing

A Waverly cutlery manufacturer expects to see more than $1 million in new sales after CIRAS helped the company analyze its changing market and launch new initiatives during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Rada Manufacturing Company, which has been making knives for fundraising groups and small retail operations since 1948, sought out CIRAS for … Continue reading CIRAS Helps Rada Manufacturing Sharpen Its Marketing

Pareti Mobile Walls Builds Business with BidMatch

A Belle Plaine, Iowa, maker of display panel walls is looking forward to a record year after CIRAS helped the company find more than $130,000 in government contracts through its BidMatch computer service.   Kathy Kyle, owner of Pareti Mobile Walls, credits Julie Fagle, a government contracting specialist with the CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), for helping her company rebound after … Continue reading Pareti Mobile Walls Builds Business with BidMatch

Hogan Company LLC Gets Leg Up on Government Contracting with CIRAS Help

A new Dyersville concrete construction company landed four government contracts during its first few months of operation and began mapping a path to more ambitious efforts after working with a CIRAS government contracting specialist.  Hogan Company LLC opened its doors in early 2021 and found its way to CIRAS through the SBA–Small Business Development Center. … Continue reading Hogan Company LLC Gets Leg Up on Government Contracting with CIRAS Help

Grants Will Match Investment in Manufacturing 4.0 Technology

Iowa manufacturers who invest in new technology to become more competitive now can have up to $75,000 of that investment matched by the state of Iowa.  Iowa legislators approved a new “Manufacturing 4.0. Technology Investment Program” in May. The measure creates a program at the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) to help manufacturers ease the … Continue reading Grants Will Match Investment in Manufacturing 4.0 Technology

Cybersecurity Is Necessary to Secure Growth

By Jodi Essex Are you still ignoring the word “cybersecurity”? You can’t any longer.  As security breaches continue to occur in industries across the country, the need to assess your company’s level of security becomes increasingly important. Many businesses wonder where to begin with such an assessment, and this is where CIRAS can help.  Our cybersecurity … Continue reading Cybersecurity Is Necessary to Secure Growth

Capstone Students Help Company Improve Trailer Production

A Red Oak maker of disinfecting chemicals and equipment for swine and poultry producers expects to see more than $1 million in new sales over the next two years after Iowa State University engineering students helped the company begin to take more control over its manufacturing.  Craig Steen, president of JBI Distributors, said Iowa State … Continue reading Capstone Students Help Company Improve Trailer Production

Aerial Services Finds Powerful Partner in CIRAS Advisor

A Cedar Falls mapping and imagery company has used valuable support from CIRAS to garner more than $11 million in government contracts over the past five years.  Aerial Services Inc. is a veteran-owned small business that provides companies and governments with a wide range of services, including aerial LiDAR, digital orthoimagery, and comprehensive mapping solutions.  Ryan Kibsgaard, … Continue reading Aerial Services Finds Powerful Partner in CIRAS Advisor

Grants Plant Seeds to Help FIRST® LEGO® League Grow

Two major sources of grant money are helping Iowa organizers of FIRST LEGO League (FLL) increase access to programs promoting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to Iowa youth.

FLL Explore, formerly known as FIRST LEGO League Junior, is one of two programs created to help elementary school students grow in their use of STEM skills. This year it was included as part of the 2021 STEM Scale-Up program, which was created by the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council to provide schools and other organizations with free access to roughly a dozen STEM programs each year.

At the same time, a grant from Microsoft Community Challenge is helping FLL launch new teams with an underserved population in metropolitan Des Moines.

Decker Finds Peace of Mind through CIRAS Technology Assistance

A Keokuk maker of grooming brushes and other agricultural products expects to save at least 50 percent on energy costs after CIRAS advised the company during replacement of an aging plastic injection molding machine.

Tony Fox, president of Decker Manufacturing, said his company contacted CIRAS last summer seeking unbiased advice about replacing an aging hydraulic machine that had become an energy hog and needed frequent repairs.

CIRAS Helps ALMACO Assess COVID-19 Risk from Suppliers

The problems caused by COVID-19 last summer were bad enough, but what really bothered Steve Skaggs was not knowing what was coming next.

“We had been having some spotty parts shortages, which was creating some anxiety,” said Skaggs, purchasing manager for ALMACO, a manufacturer of seed research equipment in Nevada. “We just didn’t know for sure who or where the next problem was going to come from.”

So Skaggs turned to CIRAS for help in assessing ALMACO’s vulnerability to supplier problems tied to the pandemic.

Woofables Uses COVID-19 Slump to Plan Future Growth

A Coralville bakery catering to the culinary needs of dogs expects to triple in size over the next three years after CIRAS gave it the confidence to expand its service of two different parts of the market for high-quality treats.

Woofables, a gourmet dog treat bakery established in 2004, is wrapping up a major expansion that included creation of two separate production lines to serve both small pet boutiques and large commercial supermarkets. Company leaders say the investment will make Woofables more efficient at serving two growing segments of a growing industry—segments with competing interests that don’t always align.

ISO Helps M3 Boost Business

A Bloomfield metal fabricator expects to see a roughly $5.5 million benefit after CIRAS helped the company prepare for ISO 9001:2015 certification. Sam McClure, co-owner of M3 Fabrication, said his company initially sought ISO certification both to improve its overall quality and to set the company apart when trying to recruit new customers. “The main … Continue reading ISO Helps M3 Boost Business

LMT Defense Finds Bigger Role in Government Contracting

An Eldridge arms manufacturer won business worth more than $17 million after CIRAS helped the company wade deeper into government contracting.

Lewis Machine and Tool Company, which does business as LMT Defense, for decades has been a major manufacturer of firearms for military and law enforcement customers, many of them overseas. The company had performed a variety of U.S. government work since it was founded in 1980, but LMT leaders last year set a new goal to vastly increase the percentage of company sales inside American borders.

Muscatine’s MARRVE Will Make Fuel from Former Food

A Muscatine solid-waste treatment facility is building what it hopes will become a major biogas production plant after Iowa State University helped the city discover its best formula for using food waste to produce methane.

Jon Koch, director of the city of Muscatine’s Water and Resource Recovery Facility, said his agency recently completed the first two-year, $4 million phase of developing Muscatine Area Resource Recovery for Vehicles and Energy (MARRVE). The effort has turned a former recycling center into a hub for food manufacturers around the Midwest to drop off food waste for treatment by Muscatine’s anaerobic digesters.

The goal eventually is to handle enough food waste—and produce enough biogas from that process—to generate and sell the equivalent of 1,000 gallons of vehicle fuel per day.

Persistence Helps Bowe Machine Break into GovCon

A Bettendorf machine shop landed government contracts worth more than $100,000 after CIRAS helped a new supervisor delve deep into the intricacies of government bidding.

Bowe Machine in Bettendorf.

Michael Bigsby had been working at Bowe Machine Company for roughly six months when he proposed that the company pursue government contracts. Bigsby had been involved in quoting government jobs for a previous employer, but he had never played a major role in the bidding process.

So, he sought help understanding the procedures.

Online Orders Are an Elixir Following COVID-19 Collapse

A Holstein, Iowa, meat producer now finds itself on the cusp of full-blown e-commerce thanks to a computerized online order system that the company was driven to adopt in response to COVID-19.

Tiefenthaler Quality Meats, a family-owned company known for its skinless brats and other meat products, originally approached CIRAS in March seeking help managing the online portion of a yearly anniversary sale. However, those conversations soon shifted when pandemic safety concerns led Tiefenthaler’s to close its retail store to customers. Tiefenthaler’s also cancelled the anniversary sale because of the pandemic and its impact on business.

CIRAS Supplier Scouting Helps Bring Business to Iowa

A Hiawatha-based assembly and supply chain integration company expects to see at least $5 million a year in new business after CIRAS facilitated a partnership with an air purification company.

World Class Industries started work in October under a contract that quickly will see the company producing 24,000 room-sized air purifiers annually for Timilon Acquisitions.

Mix of Ancient, Advanced Technologies Salvage Older Elevator

A downtown Des Moines apartment building avoided a costly elevator replacement last year after CIRAS helped its owners recreate an essential piece of safety equipment.

Investors bought the aging, 11-story building at 600 East Fifth Street in Des Moines in 2013. They then renamed it The Lyon and spent two years remodeling it into 103 new apartments. A problem soon became apparent, however, in that something important seemed to have been lost during the sale.

UEA Finds Success through Proposal Process

A Waverly manufacturer of slip rings landed a $1.7 million contract from the Federal Aviation Administration after CIRAS helped the company understand government bidding requirements and learn how to write a formal proposal.

Hemen Dattani, sales director for United Equipment Accessories (UEA), was tasked last March to explore federal contracting opportunities so UEA could leverage a newly forged research and development partnership to expand design capabilities and make the company competitive in new markets. He turned to the CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) for help.

TG Industries Flips a Switch to Cut Costs, Stabilize Supply

An Armstrong maker of hydraulic lift vehicles expects to save money and eliminate production delays after CIRAS helped the company find an alternative for a problem part.

TG Industries, which also does business as Arm Lift, started using a particular type of rocker switch in its vehicles in 2000, said engineer Loren Kinnander. By 2019, the once-standard switches were no longer common. Prices rose as they became harder and harder to obtain from the company’s single overseas supplier.

CIRAS Guides Grinding Improvement at Weiler

A Knoxville-based heavy equipment manufacturer estimates that the company retained more than $10 million in sales after CIRAS helped it solve a problem with cracking shafts on a rock drill used in highway construction.

Mark Prachar, a project engineer with Weiler, said the company took control of a new process for making components for its rock drills in 2018—only to find cracks in the shafts produced. Company engineers, many of them Iowa State University graduates, turned to CIRAS for help diagnosing the problem.

CIRAS Helps 43 North Iowa Chart New Course

Despite a global pandemic, two north Iowa service organizations will be ending 2020 on firmer footing thanks to a merger facilitated by CIRAS-arranged coaching and strategic planning. North Iowa Vocational Center Inc., or NIVC Services, formally joined with North Iowa Transition Center, or NITC, at the beginning of this year to become 43 North Iowa—a … Continue reading CIRAS Helps 43 North Iowa Chart New Course

CIRAS Helps Latham Hi-Tech Seeds Have Smooth Spring

An Alexander, Iowa, seed company estimates it will gain more than $3 million in new business over the next year, partly because CIRAS helped the company become more efficient in the face of rapid growth.

Chris Latham, chief financial officer for Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, said his company struggled to keep up with its orders for soybeans and seed corn in 2019 as it expanded into new markets in South Dakota. The increased business, along with a growing trend of farmers seeking to accept their seed as close to the beginning of planting season as possible, seemed to be creating bottlenecks.

Collaborating to Predict Machine Failure

A Davenport manufacturer of electrical safety devices is prototyping a new product intended to help equipment operators predict when their machines will fail.

The new system, which is expected to be released within the next year, will use special sensors created by Davenport-based Grace Technologies integrated with predictive algorithms using an Internet of Things (IoT) architecture. The technology has grown out of a collaborative, CIRAS-supported research effort between Grace and Iowa State University.

SSAB Finds Valuable Partner in Iowa State Students, Faculty Research

A Muscatine steel factory is on the verge of innovation after increased student involvement developed into major research at Iowa State University.

SSAB, an international steel producer, recently completed CIRAS-arranged research and filed for a patent on a new optical fiber technology for measuring the temperature of molten steel in electric arc furnaces in real time. The company also is experimenting with Ames Laboratory on ways to improve the rolled-steel alloys SSAB manufactures.

Mary Greeley Medical Center Uses Lean as Bridge to Baldrige

Mary Greeley Medical Center capped a 10-year journey in 2019 when the hospital became Iowa’s first-ever organization to receive the Malcom Baldrige National Quality Award.

It happened, in part, because Mary Greeley used Lean techniques to trim waste from hospital activities and create a more efficient, more patient-centered environment.

GovTalk: CIRAS Helps Copywriter+ Ink Contract

A Des Moines freelance writing business found financial stability in the opening months of the pandemic after CIRAS helped it pursue and obtain a government contract.

Kristi Kenyon, owner of Copywriter+, said her company was roughly three years old when she met Justin Niceswanger, a government contracting specialist with the CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), at a networking event.

Before that, government contracting “wasn’t something that I even knew was a possibility” for writing jobs, Kenyon said.

CIRAS PTAC: A Smart Way for Construction Companies to Build Their Teams

Building a new federal courthouse in downtown Des Moines is much more complicated than signing the paperwork and pouring concrete.

“It comes with significant challenges,” said Elizabeth Campbell, director of Emerging Business Inclusion for Ryan Companies, the Minneapolis-based firm that landed the Des Moines courthouse’s three-year, $105 million contract.

One of them is the subcontracting.

Vermeer Using Virtual Reality to Train Technicians, Captivate Customers

An Iowa equipment manufacturer who turned a CIRAS educational event into major experiments with virtual and augmented reality soon expects to see huge dividends in lower training costs and more attentive customers.

Vermeer Manufacturing Company, a Pella-based manufacturer of industrial and agricultural equipment, formed its own three-person augmented reality team in 2017, shortly after the company attended a CIRAS educational event on the topic.

Three years later, Vermeer has created a successful virtual reality marketing tool and soon will launch a new VR program to train dealer technicians how to service and repair Vermeer equipment.

Experts: Be Prepared for Anything during Economic Recovery

Iowa companies may be well positioned to navigate the coronavirus, but experts say they should be prepared for surprises during what is likely to be a long and unpredictable economic recovery.

Business leaders shouldn’t expect to suddenly reemerge in rosy times, they warn. Instead, plan for all contingencies, and don’t count on being able to relax anytime soon.

“I think basically what’s going to happen is that the economy is going to plug along until there’s some small interruption, and then we’ll have a setback,” said Mike O’Donnell, program director for the CIRAS Manufacturing Extension Partnership. “The looming threat is that if you’re not prepared to go through a sawtooth-type recovery, then that can be dangerous. Lack of cash flow is really dangerous as a manufacturer.”

Industry 4.0 Assessment Helps CJ Bio Start Smart with Tech Upgrades

A Fort Dodge feed ingredients company expects to save millions of dollars by implementing technology upgrades identified through a CIRAS Industry 4.0 assessment.

CJ Bio, which produces amino acids for livestock and poultry feed, expects to have the top two or three items of improvements on its list completed by the end of 2020. The list, which details places where technology enhancements could have the largest impact on the company’s bottom line, was created through a CIRAS-guided process of reassessing CJ Bio’s current use of technology in its business.

Internet Marketing Boot Camp Moves Online

A major CIRAS tool for helping Iowa companies get the most out of their internet marketing efforts is moving permanently online. The Internet Marketing Strategy Boot Camp, a popular CIRAS event that has existed for roughly eight years as a two-day deep dive into topics such as search engine optimization and web analytics, was repackaged … Continue reading Internet Marketing Boot Camp Moves Online

Agreement Means Meat Processors Grow

Joe Cordray put it simply when asked to explain the impact of new inspection rules that went into place for small Iowa meat processors this spring.

“It’s really a pretty big deal,” said Cordray, a longtime meat science professor at Iowa State University. “The smaller plants, they’re essentially located in rural Iowa. And a lot of our rural Iowa towns could use a little revitalization.”

ToolKeepers Finds Its Fit in Government Contracting

Understanding your business doesn’t mean you don’t need help understanding government contracting.

ToolKeepers is a Fairfield company that uses high-density foam to make custom inserts that organize and protect tools (or other valuable objects) used in military and industrial settings. Clark Plummer, ToolKeepers’ director of strategic accounts, said the company long ago “recognized its ability to provide solutions to military and government organizations, but . . . needed help making connections with government purchasers and adapting products specifically to the needs of government organizations.”

New Normal: Dickson Industries Growing with Gowns

A Des Moines company with an eight-decade history of working with fabrics in the food and medical industries is returning to its roots following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded in 1946, Dickson Industries made its name making medical fabrics and garments before venturing into various lines of food-industry clothing and preconsumer products, such as specialized netting used to enhance the flavor of meat during smoking. When the coronavirus decimated demand for food-industry products, Dickson officials realized that they were ideally situated to help fill part of Iowa’s need for personal protective equipment (PPE).

Ag Leader Seeks CIRAS to Help New Ideas Grow

The best part about the CIRAS innovation process, Mike Myers believes, is that it makes it easier for his company to quickly find the ideas that help customers most.

Myers is marketing development manager at Ag Leader Technology, an Ames company created 28 years ago to help farmers better monitor their fields. Today, precision agriculture is a wide-ranging industry with competition fueled by venture capitalists and start-ups looking to profit from helping farmers manage data.

Now, more than ever, Ag Leader needs to be focused on the right ideas.

Scanner Helps Improve Firefighting Tools

A Nevada, Iowa, maker of firefighter hand tools is growing in stature after CIRAS helped the company modernize and improve the designs for its tools.

Fred Malven, a longtime volunteer firefighter, founded Malven Fire Tool Works four years ago when he retired as an associate professor in Iowa State University’s College of Design.

Pandemic Prompts Collaboration Among Iowa Manufacturers

The call came toward the end of March. The state of Iowa was projecting that it would come up at least 500,000 face shields short of what was needed to provide front-line medical workers with personal protective equipment in the battle against COVID-19.

Would Adam Gold be willing to help?

Gold, president of The Dimensional Group, a Mason City custom packaging company, soon found himself in a flurry of CIRAS-arranged calls, emails, and meetings. A plan quickly formed to pair Gold’s company, which had no previous experience producing medical equipment, with Ottumwa-based Angstrom Precision Molding. Within two months, the team would produce more than 1.3 million medical face shields.

Pandemic Pushing ISU Job Fairs Online

Career fairs at Iowa State University are going digital this fall.

University officials say the change is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and provides an option that still will allow employers to network with many students and alumni during the events. It also eliminates the time and expense of travel.

M’s Makes Most of CIRAS Events

For Candace Drahn, part of staying ahead means discovering what you don’t know.

“As a small business, it’s hard to get out and educate yourself about industry trends,” said Drahn, vice president of M’s Machine and Manufacturing in Monona. “CIRAS kind of condenses everything into the small business mindset that I need. . . . It gives me a good overview of what I need to be doing on a particular topic.”

ISU Research Helps PigEasy Prove Potential

A Templeton, Iowa-based maker of farm machinery intends to launch a new product this summer after Iowa State University research—provided through the CIRAS Technology Assistance Program (TAP)—helped the company prove that its invention works.

CIRAS Connections: Technology on the Road

Alison Holten has seen the spark of recognition ignite. This, she explains, is why it is so important for CIRAS to work with local partners to carry the capabilities of Iowa State University to the rest of the state.

CIRAS TAP—Connecting Iowans with Tech, Each Other

Pengo Corporation had a problem. Pengo, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of drilling attachments and related wear parts, went in late 2016 to test a new auger in front of a major client. And it failed. The company turned to CIRAS materials specialists Paul Berge and Adam Bosenberg, who quickly found decarburization in the … Continue reading CIRAS TAP—Connecting Iowans with Tech, Each Other

SmithCo Sees Growth Ahead

A Le Mars manufacturer of side-dumping truck trailers believes his business is on the road to steady growth after CIRAS helped improve the company’s management structure and confirm that its marketing is on the correct path.

SmithCo Manufacturing Inc. was founded in 1994 to make side-dump trailers for the construction industry. Change loomed, however, as the company entered its third decade. SmithCo, long popular in construction, agriculture, and municipal waste hauling, had discovered a lucrative new market in the mining industry. But could the business handle it? Operations manager Scott Lovell saw the potential for enormous growth over the horizon, and he wanted to make sure his company was ready.

All-Electronic: The newest CIRAS News in Online

Attention CIRAS News readers:

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all corners of Iowa industry. CIRAS exists to help Iowa companies overcome problems like these, and our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to deal with the challenges that lie ahead.

Toward that end, we have decided to only send an electronic version of the spring 2020 edition of CIRAS News so you can download it on your schedule and hopefully, share it with others you think may benefit from the content.

COVID-19 Causing Increased Sales in Some Industries

It’s no surprise that there is a major boost in the procurement of personal protective equipment and medical supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the COVID-19 report on federal spending data from the Federal Procurement Data System, other industries are seeing an uptick in demand as well. The $2.2 trillion stimulus is allocating various agencies additional funds to address needs related to the pandemic, and it’s not all for medical supplies.

CIRAS Points Graziano Brothers to New Future

Toward the back of a long, narrow office, tucked away in a storefront that has been a south Des Moines landmark for more than 107 years, Frances Graziano sat behind a paperwork-laden desk last September and chuckled.

Was she scared? Absolutely.

“It’s terrifying,” said Graziano, president and CEO of the Graziano Brothers food company. “It’s absolutely terrifying. Is the product going to work? Do we have everything in place? Are we going to have a handle on the quality control? Is there going to be a market for our product outside of its current geographic area?”

Early this year, for the first time since 1912, the manufacture of Graziano Brothers sausage took place somewhere outside the small brick building on South Union Street. The change, which followed roughly 18 months of planning and preparation alongside CIRAS experts, is part of a broad, multistep plan to breathe new life into a historic family business and position it for a much longer future.

Planning for Future at Tiefenthaler Quality Meats

It all started roughly 38 years ago, when John Tiefenthaler needed a job to take part in a high school vocational program. Tiefenthaler, then 18, visited the local Holstein, Iowa, meat locker. Uncertain how to act, he clumsily introduced himself and assumed that somebody would call him later. When no one did, he eventually admitted … Continue reading Planning for Future at Tiefenthaler Quality Meats

Danfoss Explores Exciting Possibilities of 3D Scanning

Craig Klocke believes machines one day will be much more efficient because an electronic eye will constantly be checking what they make.

Installing scanners at the end of a production line would allow manufacturers to continuously watch for the changes that come when cutting tools are wearing out, said Klocke, head of additive design and manufacturing for Danfoss Power Solutions in Ames.

“As tools wear, as machines wear, the scanning would allow the machines to adjust,” Klocke said. “You’d end up with a better product, and you’d know exactly when it was time to replace a part or tool. You’d have continuous adjustment of the process.

CIRAS Solves Case of Computer Corrosion

Methodical detective work by a CIRAS metallurgist helped a Hiawatha computer company keep a new product on track—and preserved the potential for an estimated $25 million in new sales.

Crystal Group, a manufacturer of rugged computers for use in extreme military and industrial environments, was working on machines for a new autonomous vehicle last spring when the company noticed a problem. CIRAS project manager Adam Boesenberg ultimately diagnosed some corrosion in the computers’ cooling systems as stemming from the use of a coolant that has known problems interacting with aluminum parts.

Cobots Proving to Be a Smart Choice at Metalcraft

There are many reasons Iowa manufacturers come to Ramco Innovations looking for automation.

“Certainly, a lot of it is that it’s hard to fill a lot of positions these days,” said Joe Stoltz, vice president of technology for the West Des Moines company. “And once you find people, it’s hard to keep them doing a repetitive job.”

So how do you get more work done without adding staff? The correct technological solution for any particular company depends on exactly what you need machines to do. But Iowa manufacturers can’t answer those questions until they understand their options.

ILC Mentors Help Put Lean Training into Practice

John Magnussen, continuous improvement manager for Pella Corporation, likes to compare Lean management techniques to riding a bicycle: getting trained is great; but at some point, you just have to grab the handlebars and go.

“You didn’t learn to ride a bike by reading a book,” Magnussen said. “You went out, and you rode a bike! You can read and train all you want, but until you go and actually practice it, you’re not going to know.”

Kimberley Construction Building New Role as Government Contractor

A year-old commercial and residential construction company is taking its first major steps into government contracting after CIRAS helped the company understand the intricacies of selling to the government.

Kimberley Construction was formed in September 2018 as an offshoot of Kimberley Development, a 41-year-old Ankeny home building company. Troy Sydow, project manager for the newer company, said the home developer realized last year that it had been turning away smaller upscale renovation jobs and decided to form a new division to capture that work.

Transit Ad Firm Sees Benefits After a Second Look by CIRAS

A Carlisle advertising company that specializes in bringing brand marketing to transit buses credits a key portion of its business to the technical expertise of a CIRAS government contracting specialist.

Jeff Lamb, co-owner of Midwest Truck Advertising, said CIRAS performed a valuable service by checking over a bid proposal he submitted to the Iowa Department of Transportation in late 2017. The fledgling company was competing with several other firms for an overarching contract to see which company would have the right to place advertising on 25 of Iowa’s 35 city bus systems.

3D Printing as a Process Improver: Small Changes, No Waiting

It all started with the search for a better way to check electrical connections on air conditioners.

Wes Draughn, manager of manufacturing and engineering for the cooling business unit at Lennox Manufacturing in Marshalltown, had a design for a new process to help Lennox team members be more efficient in checking the quality of their work. “We needed a way to interact with the unit at different times throughout the assembly process, and the plugs that we needed weren’t available off the shelf,” he said.

An intern had designed a new guide that could be used to help assemblers test connections at multiple locations on the line. The new “plug” would provide a more ergonomic grip for employees, meeting safety and other agency requirements. But there seemed to be no way to get it built.

SmithCo Sees Growth Ahead After CIRAS Helped Company Prepare

A Le Mars manufacturer of side-dumping truck trailers believes his business is on the road to steady growth after CIRAS helped improve the company’s management structure and confirm that its marketing is on the correct path.

SmithCo Manufacturing Inc. was founded in 1994 to make side-dump trailers for the construction industry. Change loomed, however, as the company entered its third decade. SmithCo, long popular in construction, agriculture, and municipal waste hauling, had discovered a lucrative new market in the mining industry. But could the business handle it? Operations manager Scott Lovell saw the potential for enormous growth over the horizon, and he wanted to make sure his company was ready.

CIRAS Scanner Captures History of Mini-campanile’s Bells

It is a bright summer day when Tin-Shi Tam climbs the steps inside Iowa State University’s iconic campanile to play her daily midday concert on the Stanton Memorial Carillon.

Up above, after she’s worked the carillon’s bells through a mix of tunes that includes both Garth Brooks and the theme from a Hong Kong soap opera, Tam starts talking about the miniature version—a one-fifth scale model of the campanile that eventually would be unveiled to the public in October.

“I think the whole idea about this project is that not only did we involve so many Iowa State students and faculty to build it, but this is a project that we can actually own,” Tam said. “It’s the whole process. We’ve documented every process. This is something that we can share and say, ‘This is how it works.’”

MarketWise Offers Insight, Advice in NE Iowa

Once every other month for five years, Donna Bruesewitz has taken a day away from her office and driven somewhere to learn from others who do what she does.

Bruesewitz is one of five original members who still attend regular meetings of MarketWise NE. The northeast Iowa business networking group was founded five years ago by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) in partnership with CIRAS.

ABI launched the group—along with others such as LeanWise, the CFO Roundtable, and the Operations Excellence Roundtable—by partnering with CIRAS and numerous other experts across the state. The goal was to help functional managers develop through the sharing of experiences, lessons, and best practices with colleagues just down the road.

 Capstone Helps Life Line Open New Door

A Sumner, Iowa, manufacturer of emergency vehicles believes it’s on the cusp of a major innovation after Iowa State University engineering students helped the company develop a new design for a side-entry ambulance door.

Life Line Emergency Vehicles, a maker of custom ambulance bodies since 1985, was scheduled to go to a national trade show this fall with a working prototype of its first ambulance with a motorized sliding side door—a new feature that’s expected to make it safer and more convenient for emergency medical crews to operate in tight spaces or along the side of a highway.

Cambridge Investment Group Saves Money via Continuous Improvement

A Fairfield financial solutions firm estimates that the company saved more than $1 million in 2018 by using continuous improvement techniques to shave time and lost effort off its work.

Cambridge Investment Group Inc. is a privately controlled financial solutions firm that provides a broad range of choices regarding financial solutions to more than 3,000 independent financial advisors around the country, as well as their hundreds of thousands of clients.

CIRAS Advice Makes Mobilis Home Medical Self-sufficient

Colleen Brabec believes CIRAS has made her smarter about government contracting. Brabec owns Mobilis Home Medical Equipment, a 17-person Council Bluffs company that sells wheelchairs, scooters, and related equipment throughout western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Mobilis used to deliver equipment for U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals in Iowa and Nebraska, but the company lost that contract … Continue reading CIRAS Advice Makes Mobilis Home Medical Self-sufficient

ILC Mentors Help Put Lean Training into Practice

John Magnussen, continuous improvement manager for Pella Corporation, likes to compare Lean management techniques to riding a bicycle: getting trained is great; but at some point, you just have to grab the handlebars and go.
“You didn’t learn to ride a bike by reading a book,” Magnussen said. “You went out, and you rode a bike! You can read and train all you want, but until you go and actually practice it, you’re not going to know.”
But wouldn’t be nice to have someone running beside you as you learned?

CIRAS Helps Bazooka Farmstar Bring Order to Its Growth

A Washington, Iowa, maker of manure-injection equipment was able to double capacity and drastically reduce lead time after CIRAS arranged coaching for its key managers.

Bazooka Farmstar is a rapidly growing 110-person agricultural manufacturer that’s seen sales grow 140 percent since 2016. But as the company took off, its production processes and management seemed to lag. Lead times increased, labor costs rose, and it seemed more and more difficult to maintain an adequate supply of parts.

“The manufacturing team was doing a great job of meeting their production requirements but was spending considerable excess time and effort in doing so,” said Jim Poe, a retired CIRAS project manager. “They have great people. They had the education and the knowledge. They just needed some help with organization and focus.”

Simply Soothing, Milkhouse Candles Light Wick on New Product

A popular Iowa-made brand of all-natural insect repellant now comes with a wick—thanks to a new union between two highly successful CIRAS clients.

Simply Soothing, the Columbus Junction maker of Bug Soother insect spray, launched a new line of 8-oz. candles this summer with help from Milkhouse Candle Company, a soy-based candle firm with factories in Osage and New Hampton.

The candles, which are being manufactured by Milkhouse but sold under the Bug Soother name, are the culmination of years of conversations between the two companies. It all began after Ryan Horgen, head of business development for Milkhouse, read an article on Simply Soothing in CIRAS News.

Polo Custom Products—Using CIRAS as a Compass to Grow Government Business

For Mary Phelan, it all boils down to CIRAS being a sounding board she can trust.

Phelan, program manager for government and defense at Polo Custom Products in Monticello, has been working closely with the CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) for roughly two years.

Birmingham Manufacturing Gets Reawakened to the Value of Innovation

Michael Nunn is still searching for the perfect product improvement idea. But thanks to some help from CIRAS, Nunn now believes he’s on the correct path.

HNI Helps Improve Muscatine Government, Hospital by Spreading Lean

America’s health care industry was running wild in 2008. Costs were out of control, and Trinity Hospital in Muscatine was struggling to keep up. The small institution lost $6.8 million that year, and it ultimately sought financial stability in a merger with the Iowa Health System.

Trinity’s new corporate parent (now known as UnityPoint Health) spent the next few years finding a myriad of new back-office efficiencies to save money, said Angela Johnson, current executive director of the hospital’s Muscatine campus. But by 2012, it nevertheless had become clear that broader change was still needed in Muscatine.

Polymer and Food Protection Consortium Adds Expert for Outreach

Iowa State University’s Polymer and Food Protec­tion Consortium has added a plastic manufactur­ing expert to help Iowa companies deal with their growing focus on the safety and effectiveness of food packaging.

Digital Manufacturing Lab set to Open in September

Doors will formally open next month on a new facility that CIRAS hopes will help take the risk out of new technologies for Iowa manufacturers.

Global Security Services Follows CIRAS, Finds Abundant Opportunities

A Davenport security company expects to take in more than $17 million over the next five years from new government contracts it landed after the firm’s newly hired business development person spent roughly five months working closely with CIRAS.

Metal 3D Printer Helps Prove a Robot’s Tanker-cleaning Viability

An eastern Iowa manufacturing company landed an important job providing parts for a railcar-cleaning robot after CIRAS helped the company prove its design under a tight deadline.

Work Continues on New Digital Manufacturing Lab

Iowa manufacturers who are struggling to modernize and grow—either because of uncertain technological needs or because they’re short of the people they need to get work done—will soon have access to a new option.

CIRAS, backed by substantial assistance from Alliant Energy and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), will open a new laboratory this summer where Iowa companies will be able to experiment with new manufacturing technology and explore how the machines might impact their particular businesses.

CIRAS Teaches Cobot to Clean at Miracle Tools America

Multiple times each day, the skilled workers at Miracle Tools America in Davenport must stop what they’re doing and clean. Making drill bits can be a dirty business, and the tiny water channels that keep tools from overheating have a tendency to clog.

Hence, the company decided to begin experimenting with a new type of employee—one that wouldn’t mind the monotony.

One made out of metal.

MarketWise Group Provides a Place to Share Ideas, Answers

Once every other month for five years, Donna Bruesewitz has taken a day away from her office and driven somewhere to learn from others who do what she does.

Balanced Scorecard Helps Schumacher Company Soar

Getting a radically revamped business on the right long-term path generally equires fresh insight and some concentrated planning.

Why Existing Workers Are the Real Answer to Iowa’s Workforce Problem

Iowa is out of people.

Almost every company I talk to, regardless of size, industry, or location, says that finding good people is their number one issue. The few exceptions are expert Lean practitioners—such as members of the Iowa Lean Consortium (ILC)—who tend to look at the issue differently: If every single person in our business was better at seeing, communicating, and solving problems, they ask, wouldn’t it help our workforce needs?

Cy-Hawk Partnership Helps TAP Extend Technology

Charles Romans sees tremendous possibility in the relationship he’s building with his counterparts on the other side of Iowa.

Romans is the 3D design prototype director for ProtoStudios, a University of Iowa rapid prototyping facility that’s part of the MERGE innovation lab in downtown Iowa City. Despite his black-and-gold employer, Romans and his staff have been working closely with CIRAS project manager Mark Williamson and Chris Hill, director of the CIRAS Technology Assistance Program (TAP), for more than a year as part of a joint effort to learn from each other and give taxpayers the maximum benefit from the equipment each agency controls.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!” Hill said with a chuckle. “It is possible for Hawkeyes and Cyclones to work together.”

CIRAS to Partner with Alliant Energy, Open new Digital Manufacturing Lab

AMES, IA – Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) is pleased to announce a new partnership with Alliant Energy that will make it easier for Iowa manufacturers to implement new digital technologies and become more productive.

Tortilleria Sonora Steps Out on Path to Food Safety Certification

Life began moving faster after Betty Garcia got the phone call.

It was the fall of 2017, and a Des Moines-area produce company was planning to launch a line of ready-to-eat meals. The company was wondering whether Tortilleria Sonora would be interested in supplying tortillas. First, there were a few questions about the business. Would Garcia mind filling out a questionnaire?

Walsh Door & Security Keeps Growing as CIRAS Guides

A rapidly growing Des Moines commercial door and electronic security company has become more efficient, more professional, and safer thanks to a long-standing CIRAS relationship that continues to grow.

Walsh Door & Security began as a builders’ hardware company, but the business evolved over the years to become one of very few U.S. firms that offer customers both physical barriers (doors, frames, and hardware) and electronic security (such as access control and video surveillance systems). Marty Walsh IV, co-president of the family-owned company, said the firm has grown steadily on both sides of its door and security business, even as the electronic offering expands.

Claim Technologies: Finding New Opportunities in GovCon

In the beginning, it was the pursuit of higher peaks that sent Randy Brandt to CIRAS.

Brandt’s employer, Claim Technologies Incorporated (CTI) of Des Moines, audits self-funded health plans to check for overpayments and administrative oversight. The company has worked with all sizes of private companies, school districts, and municipalities, as well as 16 state governments. But before 2018, the firm had only had two federal contracts.

Dickson Industries Opens New Doors by Achieving Global Quality Standard

A 72-year-old Des Moines company with a long history of making products that boost the flavor and appearance of meat is now pursuing new opportunities after CIRAS helped the firm obtain a Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification.

David Dickson, president of Dickson Industries, said his company obtained its certification last March after a CIRAS gap assessment helped Dickson understand the quality requirements and prepare for the review.

Learning Opportunities Abound at ILC Events

The nice thing about Iowa Lean Consortium events, according to Sara Richards, is that the useful tips are all around you.

Richards, a continuous improvement manager at Vermeer in Pella, attended two ILC events last year, including a May workshop in Omaha where facilitators Tracey and Ernie Richardson helped participants simulate a “real-life, hands-on” approach to continuous improvement.

ESCP Finds Business by Making the Web Work for the Company

For John Nelson, the difference was like night and day—largely because everything looks dark when customers can’t find your website.

 Nelson is sales manager for ESCP Corporation, a Davenport metal fabricator and manufacturer of metal stacking racks. ESCP’s website used to work wonderfully, he said. But then one day, a periodic Google algorithm change seemingly knocked the company out of favor. All web-based leads just evaporated.

CIVCO’s Solstice SRS Immobilization System Speeds to Market Thanks to CIRAS Scanner

An Orange City manufacturer of medical devices found a faster, cheaper, and more precise way to bring its new product to market after CIRAS showed the company how industrial scanners could be used to prove the product’s effectiveness.

CIVCO Radiotherapy, a 36-year-old company that makes a broad variety of radiation therapy products, created the Solstice SRS Immobilization System to keep patients immobile during stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic radiotherapy (SRT). Both procedures involve delivering high-dose radiation to very specific areas of the head and neck.

Artistic Manufacturing—A Business Bringing New Ideas to Church

The shelves in Randy Monk’s Altoona, Iowa, office are lined with the artifacts of decades past. At one corner sits a stack of the stamped metal ashtrays Artistic Manufacturing Corporation once produced as a sideline. A few feet to the right, you’ll find one of the small, decorative metal pots that the company made and sold to florist shops until the 1960s. In between those historical outposts sit older versions of the crosses, cups, and communion plates that have been the bulk of Artistic’s sales for more than 50 years.

Quick Service by Metallurgist Gives ALMACO Peace of Mind

A Nevada, Iowa-based agricultural equipment company saved a possible $12 million worth of business because CIRAS metallurgists helped the company confirm the viability of a new machine.

American Packaging Finds Its Future, Proof of French Fry Potential

American Packaging in Story City landed a $750,000 contract and a new line of business because CIRAS helped the company prove that it could reliably produce plastic bags that a potential customer needed for frozen french fries.

A Good Elevator Speech Can Help You Maximize Opportunity

All it takes is a few good seconds to make a positive first impression and grow your business.

However, those few seconds can require hours of preparation to look natural, confident, and enthusiastic. And even then, it doesn’t always work. For example, at most meetings, conferences, and networking events, people are asked to introduce themselves and talk about their company. This is their time to shine! But many miss their chance at free advertising because they are uncomfortable or have trouble explaining what they do or sell.

 Leaning Together: Why ILC is Now Part of CIRAS

It’s the dawning of a new era for the Iowa Lean Consortium, and Teresa Hay McMahon is focused on a new world of service.

McMahon, executive director of the ILC since 2015, just finished leading the consortium through a new phase of its evolution. On July 1, the ILC formally moved under the CIRAS umbrella as part of a merger that’s intended to give both entities more resources to achieve their goals.

CIRAS Tech Scouting Helps VT Industries Open New Doors

A quick five years after its journey began, a Holstein, Iowa, door-maker’s quest to find new alternatives for one of its products has morphed into a massive new business and a new company-owned recipe for producing fireproof doors.

MEP Best Practices Conference: Lessons Learned

In September, leaders and subject matter experts from around the MEP National NetworkTM gathered in Kansas City for our biennial best practices conference. Why is this a big deal?  The 300 or so manufacturing experts in attendance brought back lessons learned from working with more than 26,000 U.S. manufacturers in the last year alone. In addition to sharing operational practices that make us successful, this was an opportunity to get a pulse on American manufacturing.

Blue-9 Celebrates One-year Anniversary of New Iowa Headquarters

A small Maquoketa company that sells dog training equipment around the world is boosting production and expanding its product offerings—all after CIRAS helped the company arrange important testing and other steps to get it off the ground.

Water Security in Iowa – Knowing What You Use, Having a Good Plan

For Bill Zimmerle, plant manager of the Valent BioSciences Corporation (VBC) facility in Osage, it all comes down to planning for the future.

The future, you see, requires water.

American Power Systems Energizes Its Export Business

A Davenport manufacturer of alternators and other electrical equipment for specialty vehicles expects to more than double the amount it sells overseas within the next three years.

Officials at American Power Systems Inc. predict the company will at least double its current six-figure export sales once it fully implements everything leaders learned during a CIRAS-driven class presented via the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub.

I make widgets. Why should I care about cybersecurity?

It happens every day. The news fills with words like botnets, malware, ransomware, heartbleed, phishing, and sniffing. We are told we must make passwords “long and strong,” avoid “unsafe” websites, and keep computers “up to date.” We wonder what hackers could ever want with us.

Mostly, we just wonder what is safe and what we should do to protect ourselves.

Here are a few ways businesses can start to address cybersecurity:

Assessment: Iowa Mfg Need Help with Tech, Strategy

Iowa manufacturers have been slow to take proven steps toward improving their businesses—and now face a widening technology gap and workforce challenges that are placing increasing pressure on smaller companies, according to a recent CIRAS review of the state of Iowa manufacturing.

CIRAS’ 2017–2018 Iowa Manufacturing Needs Assessment Report, a document based on comments derived from six public forums and a survey of leaders at 228 manufacturers across Iowa, shows Iowa companies continuing to sort themselves onto one side or another of a widening profitability gap.

Staff Update: Osborn Joins CIRAS as Project Manager for Growth

Cary J. “C.J.” Osborn joined CIRAS earlier this summer as a Newton-based project manager leading our growth services on the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) team.

Kay Park Recreation—A New Generation Rebuilds the Family Business

Kay Park Recreation was born in 1954 because its founder, Keith Borglum, was in the right place at the right time.

“His older brother happened to know some guys on a county conservation board,” said Keith’s son, Larry Borglum. “In the 1950s, when they started making parks everywhere, his older brother said, ‘I know some guys who could do that…’ ”

HUBZone Firms Seek to Seize Attention of Agencies, Prime Contractors

Steve Belland and Moe Abu-Nameh have gone the extra mile to give federal government agencies and their prime contractors a reason to work with the duo’s Hiawatha trucking company.

Now, the Iowans just need to find the right match.

Advanced Media Production Firm Seeks Certifications, Growth via GovCon

Terrence Thames wants to play a larger role in his profession and his community.

That’s one of the reasons Thames (at right in photo above) is pressing to grow his small Des Moines advertising agency into a major creative provider for private brands and public organizations around the country.

CIRAS PTAP—Link to National Network of Contracting Expertise

Government contracting is a byzantine business—a long and plodding trek through a jungle filled with complicated regulation, documentation requirements, and new marketing challenges.

Sound impossible? Not if you have help.

Planning Continues to Bring About ‘Year of Manufacturing’ Industry Expansion

Industry experts from around the state are developing a detailed plan for growing Iowa manufacturing—with CIRAS slated to play a leading role both in the plan’s design and its implementation.

The ongoing effort stems from 2017’s governor’s Year of Manufacturing initiative, which charged the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Innovation Council (IIC) with finding ways to increase a $29 billion  manufacturing gross domestic product to $32 billion by 2022.

The Dimensional Group Finds a New Approach

By the time CIRAS walked through his door, Adam Gold was ready to listen.

It was 2014, and it was clear that The Dimensional Group was a company with problems. The Mason City custom packaging and commercial printing firm had stretched beyond its capabilities.

Internet Marketing Is at the Core of Any Growth Strategy

For most of the online era, companies were able to maintain two separate growth strategies: a traditional marketing plan and a web/e-commerce plan. Not anymore.

Buyers, from consumers to professional B2B purchasing agents, have changed. It is now imperative to include your website, search engine optimization, search engine market­ing, social media marketing, email marketing, and web ana­lytics as integrated pieces of your overall marketing plan.

Digital Manufacturing—Better Efficiency via an Internet-linked Vending Machine

Asked to explain the value of his two-year-old electronic supply cabinets, the comparison Joe Greving reaches for is to a major technological shift.

“I can’t imagine going back to the way we used to do it,” said Greving, president of Iowa Steel Fabrication in Osceola. “Once you have an iPhone X for 30 days, you’re not going back to a flip phone.”

CIRAS Helps Avoca Surface Take Smooth First Steps into Government Contracting

It was a quest for help with the paperwork that sent Patrick Richards to the Flying J truck stop in Avoca.

In 2016, Richards was in the beginning stages of creating what would become Avoca Surfaces, a countertop business owned by Richards, his son, and another father-son team. Lori Holste, executive director of the Western Iowa Development Association, suggested that Richards meet with Andy Alexander, a government contracting specialist with CIRAS’ Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP). And a long-term partnership was born.

IMPACT: CIRAS and its Partners Sparked Improvement by the Billions

CIRAS projects have a big impact on Iowa and its communities.

Over the last five years, we’ve helped Iowa companies invest, expand sales and avoid costs to the tune of more than $2 billion.

WORKFORCE PIPELINE: CIRAS Helps Companies Find Solutions

CIRAS projects have a big impact on Iowa and its communities.

One of the things we do is to help companies find their way around a scarcity of workers. Sometimes, that means helping them reach out to graduating students:

CONNECTIONS: CIRAS Helps Iowa Companies Find Answers

CIRAS projects have a big impact on Iowa and its communities.

For example, our latest edition of CIRAS News took a look at the breadth of who we’ve helped over the past five years:

JOBS: CIRAS help Iowa Companies Continue as Good Employers

CIRAS projects have a big impact on Iowa and its communities.

For example, our latest edition of CIRAS News took a look at how we’ve affected employment over the past five years:

Iowa State Solar Car Team Probes the Practicality of a Sun-powered SUV

Members of Iowa State University’s PrISUm solar car team see a silver lining in the clouds that dampened their recent trip to Australia for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

Despite rainy weather and a missed checkpoint that knocked them out of the finish, the Iowa State engineering students are taking pride in the fact that they managed to build a practical and highly functional solar-powered SUV—one that, once tweaked, appears destined for future competitions.

CIRAS PTAP—Iowa’s Local Link to a National Network of Contracting Expertise

Government contracting is a byzantine business—a long and plodding trek through a jungle filled with complicated regulation, documentation, and new marketing challenges.

Sound impossible? It’s not. But no smart explorer launches a trip through the jungle without finding a good guide. CIRAS exists to serve as that guide for Iowa businesses. Many Iowa businesses have known this for a long time.

What Iowans may not know, however, is how much knowledge and experience is available to back up the CIRAS government contracting team if the way proves complicated for your particular business.

It’s Iowa State University Career Fair Time Again

Iowa State University’s twice-yearly flurry of smart people seeking employment started on Wednesday.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to attend a spring career fair:

CIRAS Helps Avoca Surface Take Smooth First Steps into Government Contracting

It was a quest for help with the paperwork that sent Patrick Richards to the Flying J truck stop in Avoca.

 In 2016, Richards was in the beginning stages of creating what would become Avoca Surfaces, a countertop business owned by Richards, his son, and another father-son team. Lori Holste, executive director of the Western Iowa Development Association, suggested that Richards meet with Andy Alexander, a government contracting specialist with CIRAS’ Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP). And a long-term partnership was born.

CIRAS + MEP = The National Network for Manufacturers

One of the promises CIRAS makes to our clients is that working with us brings you more than just our 500+ years of combined industry experience. Clients also get connected with CIRAS’ vast network of experts. Usually, this means one of our great partners or the service providers we work with in Iowa. But frequently, it means tapping into the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: All-Small Mentor-Protégé Program can Open New Doors

Small businesses that sell products or services to the government received a new tool for growth last fall when the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) launched its new All-Small Mentor-Protégé Program.

The program, which expanded on capabilities that previously existed for Certified 8(a) disadvantaged businesses, essentially put all small businesses on a higher level of competiveness by making them viable bidders for larger-scale federal contracts.

CIRAS Shows ADA Enterprises How to Build for the Future

A Northwood, Iowa-based manufacturer of pig and calf flooring and commercial outdoor furniture should see a major boost to its production capacity because of a CIRAS-assisted expansion of its production plant.

Thomas Stensrud, president of ADA Enterprises, said his company’s recently remodeled and expanded footprint should provide 20 years of growth for the maker of park furniture and plastic-coated pork industry flooring. “We plan on at least doubling or even tripling our capacity,” he said.

American Coating and Welding Growing Rapidly—With CIRAS by Its Side

CIRAS government contracting specialist Andy Alexander was eating breakfast in downtown Onawa one morning in 2014 when he suddenly came face-to-face with the aspirations of a Monona County sheriff’s deputy.

“He walked in and wanted to know if that was my government car out there,” Alexander recalls. “I thought he was going to give me a ticket.”

CIRAS Helps Clarion Packaging with Search for Sturdier Future

A major manufacturer of egg flats and fast-food drink carriers has turned to CIRAS for help with the next phase of improving its business.

Clarion Packaging—a 100-employee plant in Clarion, Iowa, with a sister facility in Brook, Indiana—first approached CIRAS roughly two years ago for help achieving food safety certification. The company now is working with CIRAS to test its product quality and plan for the future.

Good Strategic Planning Starts with a SWOT

Usually, when you’re trying to take a cold, hard look at your future, it’s best to do it with fresh eyes.

That, according to Greg Ervin, is partly why Marion-based Timberline Manufacturing Co. has been working with CIRAS to plan the company’s best path to growth. Timberline, a maker of wire harnesses, control panels, and custom electronics that is now in its fifth year as an employee-owned business, approached CIRAS roughly a year ago seeking help with mapping the next portion of its future.

CIRAS Networking Helps Express Employment Make Good Matches

Connections created through CIRAS networking events and hands-on assistance have helped a Cedar Rapids-based recruitment company grow during the past year.

Express Employment Professionals is a full-service staffing agency specializing in the industrial, administrative, IT, and engineering fields. Michele Oswood, owner of the Cedar Rapids franchise, said her company’s client base has doubled since she purchased the business in February 2016.

GOVTALK — Meeting With Government Agencies

Many government contracting professionals operate at arm’s length so they can remain unbiased and avoid the appearance of impropriety. But building relationships is critical to securing government business, especially on smaller-dollar purchases that don’t require public bidding. Face-to-face meetings are the perfect way to establish a relationship with an agency.

Food Companies Seek CIRAS’ Help Analyzing Gaps in Food Safety

Ron Petersen thought he had it right, but he wasn’t sure.

Petersen, owner of Summertime Potato Company in Des Moines, sought CIRAS’ help last year to make certain that his company was in compliance with the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a sweeping 2011 law that gave the FDA new powers to prevent foodborne illness.

Engineering Capstone Projects Lead to Innovative New Products

Two Iowa companies over the past year have separately discovered a new way to safeguard vibrating truck fenders and a new, more attractive way to lock patio doors—both as a result of work done by graduating students at Iowa State University.

Capstone students in Iowa State’s College of Engineering worked on the truck fender project for Link Manufacturing, a Sioux Center company that manufactures heavy-duty truck suspensions. The company asked students to extend the life of after-market fender brackets that sometimes were breaking because of vibration.

ISU Job Fairs Start Sept. 19 (but it all Starts with CyHire)

Iowa State University’s digital job board helps companies connect with a pool of potential employees that includes both graduates and current students.

“CyHire is my one-stop shop for finding internships,” said Bradley Hagen, a senior in mechanical engineering. “There are always hundreds of jobs on CyHire. The built-in search filter is helpful when deciding which companies and jobs I’m going to pursue.”

 Mariposa Farms Sprouting New Levels of Manufacturing Expertise

Success sort of snuck up on Dave and Denise Conkling. Their business sprouted and grew, until one day it seemed to have grown beyond their control.

“We started really small, and we just managed everything ourselves,” said Dave Conkling, owner of Mariposa Farms. “We were looking at the business one way, because we had this 20-something years of experience. When CIRAS came in, they could look through different eyes, and it became clear to them what we needed to do.”

USM Wear Technologies—Building Tougher Tillage Tools with Help from ISU

For years, Loran Balvanz’s company has made money selling tougher, longer-lasting equipment to the people who grind garbage and recyclables for a living.

Now, the same technology may be poised to revolutionize how farmers till fields.

B Fabulous BBQ Uses Government Contracts to Grow Gracefully

For one Iowa restaurant and catering business, the recipe for success so far has included a side of government contracts.

B Fabulous BBQ in Slater has cooked up nearly $100,000 in business from public-sector clients over the last two years, said Deanna Faubus, who owns the company with her husband, Billy. “For a small joint like us, that’s a significant amount of sales.”

SAM Serves as Key Step in Selling to Government

The government must keep going, in good times and in bad.

Many small businesses that are involved in government contracting have learned that this stability means federal, state, and local government agencies can be a tremendous and steady source of income. And it’s a market that exists for more than just major-league defense contractors. Small business owners are sometimes astonished when they realize they are capable of supplying a product or service that the government needs.

On Growth: CIRAS Has Tools to Find New Technologies or New Markets

Earlier this year, Deere & Co. announced the $4.88 billion purchase of Wirtgen Group, a German company that makes construction equipment used in building roads. Analysts touted it at the time as something that would help the farm machinery manufacturer diversify and ease its dependence on agriculture.

Why is this important? Because it illustrates the realities of growing a business: there are only two real paths to do it in a lasting way—creating new products and/or finding new markets.

CIRAS Helps Frog Legs Smoothly Transition to Carbon Fiber Wheelchair Wheels

An Iowa manufacturer of wheelchair wheels and caster forks has begun selling stronger and lighter versions of those products—thanks partly to CIRAS’ help in testing and refining what the company describes as “the world’s first carbon fiber wheel set.”

Ottumwa-based Frog Legs Inc., which has sold aluminum wheelchair wheels and suspensions since 1997, began selling a new carbon fiber version of its products earlier this year.

State of the State: Looking for Clues to Competitiveness in Iowa’s Manufacturing Wages

Wage levels both reflect and influence the competitiveness of Iowa’s manufacturing sector. The average manufacturing worker in Iowa earned $42,470 in 2015, about 86 percent of the national average. Accounting for Iowa’s lower cost of living improves the picture, boosting the state’s pay on a price parity basis to 95 percent of the U.S. average.

The pay differential* for Iowa’s manufacturing workers varies by the type of work they perform. Iowa’s average production worker, for example, earns 104 percent of the average U.S. production worker’s wage. Iowa‘s engineering-related workers average just 90 cents for every dollar earned by their national peers.

This article demonstrates how closer attention to wage distributions might inform the state’s innovation and workforce attraction/retention efforts. For our example, we classify Iowa and U.S. manufacturing jobs along two dimensions: occupation and inferred skill or experience level. Nine occupational groups are considered, which together account for 95 percent of all manufacturing jobs.

Iowa Program Helps Companies Afford Some Added Expertise—By Adding Interns

Interns at ALMACO get much more than an overview of the company’s custom-built agricultural equipment. They become part of the team.

Brian Carr, ALMACO’s vice president of engineering, said student employees at the Nevada-based company get directly involved in completing projects—from initial design, through problem-solving challenges, to the eventual result.

 Gross-Wen Technologies: Using Algae to Clean City Sewage

A pioneering enterprise formed to treat municipal and industrial wastewater with algae hopes to launch into large-scale operation this summer with construction of its first functional, city-sized test facility in Dallas Center, Iowa.

Gross-Wen Technologies, a company launched by Iowa State University researcher Martin Gross and professor Zhiyou Wen, has been working for roughly two years on plans to turn its discoveries into a two-pronged business. The Gross-Wen approach uses tanks of wastewater, vertical conveyor belts, and a special biofilm to grow and harvest the algae. Once water treatment is complete, the algae can be scraped off the belts and sold as a fertilizer, effectively subsidizing the cost of running a large-scale treatment system.7

A Sample of CIRAS Knowledge

CIRAS’ mission is to improve Iowa industry through research-proven best practices. To do that, we have to stay up-to-date on what’s out there and what works.

Here’s a wrap-up of just some of the things we’ve learned over the past year:

CIRAS Helps Frog Legs Make Smooth Transition to Carbon Fiber Wheelchair Wheels

An Iowa manufacturer of wheelchair wheels and caster forks has begun selling stronger and lighter versions of those products—thanks partly to CIRAS’ help in testing and refining what the company describes as “the world’s first carbon fiber wheel set.”

Ottumwa-based Frog Legs Inc., which has sold aluminum wheelchair wheels and suspensions since 1997, began selling a new carbon fiber version of its products earlier this year.

CIRAS Assessment Finds That Iowa Manufacturers Need Strategy, Technology Help

Iowa manufacturers need help developing strategies, exploring new markets, implementing proven ways of dealing with workforce constraints, and wielding technology as a competitive advantage.

Iowa State Capstone Students Find Companies Savings, New Efficiencies

Workers at a Des Moines maker of fuel and lubricant delivery trucks now have more efficient workstations thanks to ongoing ties to students at Iowa State University.

New EDM Will Help Students, CIRAS Additive Manufacturing Projects

Iowa State University students have gained even more valuable experience with manufacturing technology thanks to CIRAS’ recent purchase of an electrical discharge machine (EDM).

CIRAS Food Industry Survey Shows Diversity, Interest in Improvement

The Iowa companies manufacturing human and animal food are mostly small firms with well-established histories. Despite that history, some appear to be ripe for large-scale change.

‘MFG Day’ Means Iowans Learning about Manufacturing

Thanks to CIRAS and its partners, more than 8,000 Iowans ended October with a greater appreciation for the people who make a living making things.

PyroGraphics Resets Its Future with a Little CIRAS Assistance

Everything seemed to be going great, Dan Svec recalls, until the first hints of a recession appeared and began to expose the weaknesses at PyroGraphics.

In 2008, the West Des Moines printing company, which specializes in business promotional items and souvenirs, was starting to struggle in a declining economy in which most promotion had stopped. By 2012, when the company discovered CIRAS, the end was very much in sight.

CIRAS, IADG Testing New Way to Expand Industry in Iowa

 A 40,000-square-foot building on a nine-acre industrial site in eastern Spencer, Iowa, has become the testing ground for a new initiative in rural economic development—with CIRAS playing a large role.

State of the State – by Liesl Eathington

A previous “State of the State” explored growth in Iowa’s young worker population and the fact that production jobs are a declining fraction of the opportunities available to them. The breadth of those opportunities—or at least workers’ perceptions of what opportunities exist in the labor market—can be glimpsed in trends for post-secondary education.

Iowa State’s Cordray, Sebranek Named to Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Two Iowa State University professors have been named 2016 inductees to the national Meat Industry Hall of Fame.

Joseph Cordray and Joseph Sebranek, professors in the Department of Animal Science, are slated to be honored along with five other industry leaders at the International Production and Processing Expo in Atlanta on January 31, 2017.

U.S. Dept. of Commerce partners with CIRAS to help Iowa Manufacturers

AMES, Iowa – Iowa manufacturers are projected to receive up to $37 million in research-based, business-improving services over the next 10 years after U.S. Dept. of Commerce officials on Friday moved to renew the department’s longstanding relationship with Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS).

The award means CIRAS will continue to serve as Iowa’s affiliate of the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturers Extension Partnership (MEP), a nationwide network of centers created to enhance the performance of U.S. manufacturing. Through this partnership, CIRAS will continue providing services to help small- to mid-sized manufacturers improve their businesses and will add new services to help all Iowa manufacturers navigate rapidly changing technologies and business models.

Iowa FIRST LEGO® League Close to Top in Per Capita Participation

Iowa now ranks second nationwide in per capita youth membership on a FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team.

Yet, even with another year of explosive growth in Iowa youth getting a STEM boost through research and robots, Camille Schroeder, director of K–12 outreach programs at Iowa State University’s College of Engineering, said the participation milestone does not mean that Iowa’s FLL program has stopped recruiting students and mentors.

“We want to be able to provide this experience for any youth who wants it,” Schroeder said.

Mergers Point to Major Success for Innovative Iowa Companies

Three major business deals involving some of Iowa’s most innovative and best-run firms in their fields should send a strong message to other Iowa companies, CIRAS believes: innovation combined with strong business skills reaps substantial reward. The owners of Harrisvaccines, Harvest Innovations, and Hagie Manufacturing all agreed over the past year to sell major portions … Continue reading Mergers Point to Major Success for Innovative Iowa Companies

Health Insurance—A Prescription for Fear among Iowa Manufacturers

Iowa manufacturers’ single largest fear, according to a CIRAS survey, is the looming cost of employee health care. And the worry appears to be well placed.

“If you are a private employer in Iowa, you have reason to be concerned,” said Mark Becker, a Johnston-based employer benefits consultant. “There are far more questions than answers right now. On large insurance, there’s really no place to run.”

Snapshot of Iowa’s Professional and Business Services Sector


Why Iowa Firms Should Find Their Way to Manufacturing USA

By Mike O’Donnell

At this very moment, the future of American manufacturing is being written at nine specially linked institutes fueled by $2.1 billion from the U.S. government, research universities, and hundreds of American companies.

It’s known as the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) – or, following a rebranding campaign launched in mid-September, as “Manufacturing USA.” If you aren’t familiar with it, you should begin educating yourself as soon as possible. Because your ability to compete could change dramatically, depending on the work taking place there and how quickly you’re willing and/or able to embrace it.

CIRAS 3D Printer Builds a Foundation for Future Success, more Stable Cheerleaders

A trailblazing exploration of metal additive manufacturing as a new way for Iowa companies to make tooling could soon reap rewards in terms of cheerleaders with better balance.

American Athletic Inc., a Jefferson, Iowa-based sports equipment manufacturer, plans to launch a new product this fall aimed at helping high school and college cheerleaders around the country find a safer way to strengthen leg muscles and learn the kind of balance necessary for standing in someone’s hands. American Athletic describes its new EliteTM Cheer Stand as a safer, closer-to-the-floor way for cheerleaders to train. The product, which also was tested by Iowa State University cheerleaders, includes multiple plastic parts produced by Ottumwa-based Angstrom Precision Molding—using a mold built by CIRAS’ metal 3D printer.

Plastics Unlimited — A Family Business Positioned for many Possibilities

Perhaps the best way to think about the Kieffer family is to picture them with fishing poles, staring longingly into a lake. The owners of Preston, Iowa-based Plastics Unlimited seem ready, and they talk as if dinner is inevitable.

CIRAS Helps Nonprofits Improve, Continue to Provide Jobs

 Loy Van’t Hul believes one of the keys for Double HH Manufacturing is a focus on getting the job done.

“We provide quality products for a wide range of industries, and who we use as an operator, whether that person has a disability or not, shouldn’t make a difference,” said Van’t Hul, Double HH’s director of manufacturing operations.

Double HH (a subsidiary of the broader Rock Valley-based Hope Haven Inc.) is one of a half-dozen CIRAS clients who exist both as nonprofit companies and as vocational rehabilitation firms, using physically or intellectually disabled workers to provide products or services.

CCUR Director Celebrates a Year “On the Edge of Where Science Is”

Kevin Keener sees enormous potential in the innovative projects taking root at Iowa State University’s Center for Crops Utilization Research (CCUR).

Keener, now entering his second year as CCUR’s director, describes research­ers seeking to use fermentation and chemical changes to crop by-products to create plastics or adhesives. Sci­entists also are studying how to cre­ate oil-based materials out of natural components. And roughly 100 companies annually, most focused on food and feed production and food safety, are work­ing on projects in CCUR’s on-campus pilot-scale processing spaces or at the CCUR-managed BioCentury Research Farm outside Ames.

Upcoming CIRAS Innovation Summit Puts the Focus on Food

A program aimed at boosting Iowa industry one sector at a time will turn its attention to food next month.

CIRAS staffers are now finalizing the details for a November 15 innovation summit in Ames focused on the needs of food, beverage, feed, and grain processors. Similar to previous summits, the day-long event will include a morning session with short, interactive, technology presentations followed by an afternoon session in a tradeshow-like environment. Organizers say this format allows participants to learn about key technologies, then develop specific plans around how to implement them in their businesses.

Career Fairs are Coming! On-Campus Interviewing Saves Companies Money and Time

Each year, Iowa State University career fairs draw thousands of students seeking jobs and hundreds of companies recruiting new talent. This year, for companies looking to hire engineers, the only difference may be one of the settings—a new spot to conduct on-campus interviews.

CIRAS Strategy Coach Helps Facilitate Answers, Action

There are countless paths that a company can take in pursuit of growing revenue and increasing profitability. Every decision made along the way tends to matter: Should you invest in equipment upgrades, employee training, new technology, or better marketing? Should you push for better quality or new product features? How different are you, really, from your competitors? How do you identify and successfully navigate your most effective strategic path?

Iowa State Seeks to Educate Companies on Looming Food Law

Think of it as an impending explosion in the dark: It’s coming at some point. It may be a time bomb or a firecracker. You don’t know how big, or how close to you,  the eventual bang will be.

You probably ought to find out.

Experts say that’s roughly the current situation in Iowa’s food companies, many of whom can expect within months to feel the first full weight of important new federal safety regulations. A 2011 law called the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) gave the FDA new powers to prevent outbreaks of foodborne disease. But the impact of new rules was largely delayed as authorities constructed complex standards and procedures.

CIRAS has Economic Impact of $424 million for 2015; $2 Billion over five years

AMES, Iowa  –  The numbers are in, and they continue to show a strong value received by Iowa businesses who have built a relationship with Iowa State University.

Upper Iowa Tool & Die Adds Innovation — One Layer at a Time

A Cresco tool-and-die maker’s search for diversification has led the company, with CIRAS’ help, to stake out new territory as what may be the first Iowa business of its kind to produce parts for customers via additive manufacturing.

Upper Iowa Tool & Die & Innovations, founded in 1978, purchased a new plastic-based 3-D printer earlier this year after conversations with CIRAS convinced the company to aim higher in its search for a way to differentiate from competitors. Since mid-April, Upper Iowa has been pitching its additive manufacturing capability both to new clients and as an add-on for services to existing customers.

Third Annual Conference Showcases Opportunities to Grow Through Government Contracting

Want to better understand how to do business in the government sector? The third annual Iowa Vendor Conference on August 23 at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines is a full-day event that can help you and leaders in your business tap into the wealth of opportunities that federal, state, and local government contracting offers. Through a variety of workshops, you can learn to identify new potential customers, find opportunities called Simplified Ac­quisitions, actually understand the various questions in registration, and network with key contracting personnel, buyers, and exhibitors. Key­note speaker Guy Timberlake, chief visionary officer and CEO of The American Small Business Coalition, will discuss “Getting Your Foot in the Door” dur­ing the conference and will provide a free half-day “Competitive Intelligence Bootcamp” on August 24.

Working on Workforce: What to Measure and What Works Best

Iowa has been working on its workforce for a long time.

The state’s current labor market condi­tions are challenging employers who seek skilled workers. Some define the problem as a skills gap, others call it an overall workforce shortage, and still oth­ers blame current wage levels. Whatever the label, a growing disconnect between Iowa’s workforce supply and employer demands is threatening to weaken the state’s economic growth potential.

So what’s to be done?

State of the State – by Liesl Eathington

No discussion of Iowa’s workforce is complete without acknowledging the intense competition for workers among Iowa communities. As the state’s industrial structure diversifies, its occupational mix diversifies as well. That translates, in some communities, to a shrinking pool of available workers for manufacturing firms and other companies with specialized needs. Employers in small communities, drawing … Continue reading State of the State – by Liesl Eathington

Getting to Know Iowa’s Construction Sector

A look at the numbers:

Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub = Outreach with a Plan

Curt Burnett sees his job two ways: he is both the pilot of a “connection machine” and a regional navigator, charting a long-range course toward the future for Quad Cities manufacturing.

The complicated part is that Burnett, executive director of the relatively new Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub, is doing both things while the machine is still being built.

Award-winning CIRAS Road Map Helps Companies Navigate Government Contracting

Want to get the most out of CIRAS’ government contracting expertise? A new training schedule launched in January provides companies a step-by-step guide for getting the maximum benefit from CIRAS offerings.

ISU’s Economic Development Core Facility now the Place for Collaboration

Hundreds of Iowa’s economic, government and academic dignitaries braved a mid-June heatwave to help cut the ribbon on a new $12 million Economic Development Core Facility, the recently completed building that now becomes a joint headquarters for CIRAS and more than a half-dozen other Iowa economic development agencies.

Working on Workforce: What to Measure and What Works Best

Iowa has been working on its workforce for a long time.

The state’s current labor market condi­tions are challenging employers who seek skilled workers. Some define the problem as a skills gap, others call it an overall workforce shortage, and still oth­ers blame current wage levels. Whatever the label, a growing disconnect between Iowa’s workforce supply and employer demands is threatening to weaken the state’s economic growth potential.

So what’s to be done?

Working on Workforce: Productive Firms Have Fewer Problems Finding People

For Nancy Jacobs, it boils down to a tale of two departments.

In April, Jacobs became human resources manager for Misty Harbor, a Fort Dodge boat manufacturer that has been working with CIRAS for several years to get leaner and improve its productivity. Misty Harbor last year credited training in disciplines such as Lean manufacturing and the Theory of Constraints, among others, with boosting the company’s bottom line by an estimated $2 million in new and retained sales.

But the transformation is still in progress.

Iowa State Working to Educate Food Companies on Looming Food Safety Law

Think of it as an impending explosion in the dark: It’s coming at some point. It may be a time bomb or a firecracker. You don’t know how big, or how close to you,  the eventual bang will be.

You probably ought to find out.

Experts say that’s roughly the current situation in Iowa’s food companies, many of whom can expect within months to feel the first full weight of important new federal safety regulations. A 2011 law called the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) gave the FDA new powers to prevent outbreaks of foodborne disease. But the impact of new rules was largely delayed as authorities constructed complex standards and procedures.

Upper Iowa Tool & Die Adds Innovation – One Layer at a Time

A Cresco tool-and-die maker’s search for diversification has led the company, with CIRAS’ help, to stake out new territory as what may be the first Iowa business of its kind to produce parts for customers via additive manufacturing.

Upper Iowa Tool & Die & Innovations, founded in 1978, purchased a new plastic-based 3-D printer earlier this year after conversations with CIRAS convinced the company to aim higher in its search for a way to differentiate from competitors. Since mid-April, Upper Iowa has been pitching its additive manufacturing capability both to new clients and as an add-on for services to existing customers.

CIRAS Wins National Recognition for Government Contracting Road Map

The CIRAS Procurement Technical Assis­tance Program (PTAP) was recognized by its national peers in April for its extraordinary efforts to educate Iowa companies on the intricacies of government contracting.

CIRAS’ Internet Marketing Boot Camp Brings Big Benefits

A three-day program, now in its fourth year, is paying off in page views, clicks, and sales for Iowa businesses.

The Internet Marketing Strategy Boot Camp, first launched in 2012, has benefitted Iowa firms of all sizes, said CIRAS project manager Paul Gormley. The course covers five main points: Marketing Message Development, Web Development Best Practices, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, and Analytics.

CIRAS Helps Small Business Land More than $329K in Government Contracts

From the beginning, when Jeanie Waters launched 3rd Degree Screening in Council Bluffs in 2012, she knew that its success would require both commercial and government contracts. Waters, whose company provides background checks, drug tests, and field investigation services for clients worldwide, turned to CIRAS for help with the government part.

“The overall value [of CIRAS] is in learning the process and having educated support throughout,” Waters said. “You keep building on what you know and you build off your CIRAS representative.”

PTAP TIPS: Tell Us What You Can Do

The specialists in CIRAS’ Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) exist to help Iowa businesses understand what it takes to sell to the government.

One of the key things necessary to succeed in to government contracting is a capability statement. A good one includes the following information:

CIRAS Helps Cline Tool Assess and Enhance Safety, OSHA Compliance

Sometimes, you just want to know.

Cline Tool, based in Newton, recently completed a 15-month project with CIRAS to evaluate its safety plans and procedures. The result? Cline now has a new Safety Committee to address safety procedures, processes, and compliance moving forward. And its Board of Directors is much more confident after being reassured that Cline has a strong program in place that meets OSHA requirements.

WORKFORCE: If They Won’t Come, Build It—With a Robot

The evolution of manufacturing is occurring bit by bit across Iowa—including, among other places, at a metal door factory in Mason City.

Curries, part of the Sweden-based ASSA ABLOY Group, is where roughly 490 production workers go each day to produce steel doors and frames.Since 2012, the company has been working steadily to automate the final phase of its door-handling process—a manual labor-intense procedure that tends to spawn high turnover and can cause the kind of muscle injuries that are common in an aging workforce.

CIRAS Manufacturing Leadership Program Helps Companies Find their Next Generation

CIRAS’ first Manufacturing Leadership Program was broad, educational, and useful, according to the newly graduated Martina Bockenstedt, general manager for FarmTek and Growers Supply.

“It offered everything from finance and marketing to more of the leadership skills,” she said. “I could glean something from every one of them.”

CIRAS Planning March Innovation Summit for Metal Fabricators

Planning is now under way for CIRAS’ next campaign to focus its industrial and economic expertise on projects for the benefit of a large Iowa manufacturing subsector.

A total of 102 people from 55 organizations took part in two previous Innovations Summits arranged by CIRAS in spring 2014 and spring 2015 under a five-year effort funded by the United States Economic Development Administration’s University Center Program. The events, focused on bringing new technologies to businesses in the plastics and machinery manufacturing sectors, spawned upgrades and innovations that led to $1.5 million in new or retained sales for the participating companies and more than $184,000 in various cost savings to date.

CIRAS Helps American Pop Corn Company Overcome Industry Challenges

The maker of JOLLY TIME® Pop Corn turned 100 last year, but with eyes focused as much on the future as on the past.

Consortium Hopes Better Packaging Will Help Companies Cut Costs, Increase Sales, Improve Sustainability

Keith Vorst doesn’t think outside the box so much as he thinks about the box—and how it affects everything around it.

Vorst, an associate professor in Iowa State University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, also is director of the university’s new Polymer and Food Protection Consortium. He has spent the last year working to build a national center for packaging research and expertise—a place where companies in Iowa and elsewhere can go to assess the design, safety, function, and value of the packaging that envelops their products.

CIRAS’ Metal Additive Manufacturing Machine on Campus, Being Prepped for Early 2016 Debut

Iowa industry leaders should be able to launch test projects early next year with a new metal 3-D printer that CIRAS has obtained to educate manufacturers about the enormous, groundbreaking possibilities of additive manufacturing technology.

Iowa Animation Firm Draws New Future for Itself—With Help from CIRAS and Government Contracts

It was supposed to be a boom time for Grasshorse Studios.

Kathy Buxton and her brother, Stephen Jennings, relocated Grasshorse, their television animation and visual effects business, from California to Iowa in 2007 to expand the company. Iowa’s film industry was roaring, and the projects were lucrative, thanks to a generous state tax credit program for the film industry.

But it all changed drastically in a matter of months.

With Help from CIRAS, Dur-A-Lift Designs a New Home

A George, Iowa, manufacturer of farm equipment, scooters, and hydraulic lift equipment is ramping up production in a new 26,000-square-foot building that was designed, with CIRAS’ help, to take the entire operation to a higher level.

Diversified Technologies Inc. (DTI) traces its founding back to the 1888 blacksmith shop of a German immigrant. The company has evolved over the intervening decades to become a diverse corporate family that includes Sudenga Industries Inc. agricultural equipment, Ranger All-Season Electric Scooters, and the popular Dur-A-Lift line of mounted aerial lifts.

CIRAS & SBDC Help Frozen Food Company Grow Rapidly

The numbers tell the story. In less than four years, Sisters Home Style Entrées went from preparing 200 frozen meals a month for families and individuals to roughly 41,000.

The one-woman, Humboldt, Iowa, company started by Deb Davis swelled to employing 37 people. And, with help from CIRAS and the Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC), it moved from a 2,500-square-foot facility to a new 30,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.

Accumold Proves Proficiency, Wins Business Thanks to CIRAS-arranged Tests

An Ankeny-based plastics injection molder landed new business and launched new growth after the firm was able to prove its capabilities via testing arranged last year at Iowa State University.

Accumold, a company that makes small plastic parts for a variety of technology and medical devices, announced plans in February for a $12 million expansion that will add 200 jobs at its Ankeny plant over the next three years.

NEWS RELEASE: Iowa Celebration of Manufacturing Day will cover all 99 Counties

AMES – An unprecedented and heavily coordinated educational campaign means Iowans throughout the state will have easy access in October to a wide variety of events touting the benefits of a career in manufacturing.
So far, more than 2,000 happenings have been scheduled across the U.S. to celebrate National Manufacturing Day on Oct. 2. Events such as factory tours and educational seminars will be held both on Friday and beyond in a bid to tout the extraordinary opportunities available in American manufacturing.

Iowa State University Introduces Two New Online Master’s Degree Programs

ISU’s Engineering-LAS Online Learning recently launched new online master’s degree programs in engineering management and business analytics. Both are collaborative efforts with the Iowa State University College of Business.

Expansion at ISU Research Park will Create Economic Development Hub

This time next year, CIRAS expects to be settling into brand new offices at the Iowa State University Research Park in a new building that will, for the first time, pull together most of Iowa State’s economic development services into a single location.

The new building, to be known as the Iowa State University Economic Development Core Facility, will anchor an area called “Hub Square”—the new main gathering space for the 400-acre research park.

WORKFORCE: In Worker Shortage, Companies Can Build Stability by Sharing

Donna Dau’s goal for each of the last three years has been to replace as few employees as possible.

But shrinking that number in the future means a lot of recruitment right now—both of new workers and of the new companies that Dau hopes will help her expand on a potentially groundbreaking way of dealing with Iowa’s looming shortage of skilled laborers.

CIRAS can help you find your Automation Answers

Iowa businesses want to know more about automation, and CIRAS is working on ways to help them.

CIRAS currently is looking to expand its automation support capabilities and could have more details available about that in the coming months.

Why Legumes?

For four decades, Dr. Wilmot Wijeratne has studied natural grain production and ways to bring the best products to consumers. He was instrumental in developing the basic technique for extracting excess oil from soybeans, and he helped create a process to do that on a large scale.

Now, Wijeratne, director of food technology for Harvest Innovations, is looking at legumes—lentils, chickpeas, and garbanzo beans—to feed the latest needs of savvy shoppers.

CIRAS-Arranged Work Helps Legumes Lift Harvest Innovations

A long and profitable relationship between CIRAS and Indianola-based Harvest Innovations is expected to substantially boost the company’s sales, thanks largely to CIRAS-arranged work that helped perfect a technique for extracting proteins from legumes.

CIRAS Supports Iowa Lean Consortium’s Continuing Growth

Six years ago, the Iowa Lean Consortium (ILC) was just a group of volunteers with a passion for Lean and a desire to bring its practitioners together from across the Iowa economy.

Today, the organization has 76 member companies and 63 individual members and routinely hosts events with capacity crowds—sometimes with a waiting list to get a seat. Members come from manufacturing, health care, insurance, finance, government, and education to learn from one another.

With CIRAS’ Help, Air Control Seeks to Breathe New Life into Government Sales

By all accounts, it was a successful first date.

Mary Connell, president of Clinton-based Air Control/ACI Fab­ricators, attended an annual Midwest NDIA (National Defense Industrial Association) conference because CIRAS asked her to in its capacity as the company’s “matchmaker.” And she found a new business opportunity.

GOV TALK: How the Government Saves a Place for Small Businesses

Small businesses are expected to always have a place in government contracting.

United States policy, per the Small Business Act and other subsequent legislation, says the maximum practical op­portunity must be provided to all small business categories. The president annually establishes government-wide goals declaring the minimum percentage of prime contracts that should go to businesses in the following categories:

WORKING ON WORKFORCE: The Importance of Growing What You’ve Got

In a time of tight budgets and unfavorable demographics, it’s in Dave Zrostlik’s best interest to keep all the employees he has.

Zrostlik is president of Stellar Industries, an employee-owned maker of truck-mounted hydraulic equipment in Garner. Like the rest of Iowa, Stellar faces a growing shortage of skilled workers, as older employees retire and young rural residents head out of town for the brighter lights of big cities.

CIRAS-Sparked Group Holding First Forum for Discussing Sustainable Businesses in Iowa

Four Iowa corporations have joined forces with CIRAS to create the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum (ISBF)—a new nonprofit organization that will be dedicated to improving businesses while boosting environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

New CIRAS paper shows Iowa Industries may be at a Reshoring Tipping Point

Manufacturing jobs that fled U.S. soil decades ago for cheaper overseas labor might now be poised to come back – but only in certain sectors and only a little at a time, according to a newly released white paper from two CIRAS experts.

The upshot for Iowa is that producers in a handful of tipping-point industries should be keeping a close eye on labor and energy prices. In some cases, CIRAS experts say, those numbers could prove that manufacturers are paying too much to foreign suppliers or that U.S.-based suppliers are missing an opportunity.

CIRAS Innovation Service Cuts Costs, Boosts Business for Iowa Spring

An Adel-based manufacturer of springs for garage doors and agricultural equipment cut its costs by more than 30 percent and expects to boost sales by more than $1 million after adopting an innovative new technology that it tested as part of a CIRAS innovation service.

Iowa State Experts help Groschopp Improve Products, Satisfy Customers.


So you want to sell to the government? Then, come see us April 7.

Have you ever wonder what it would be like to sell to the government? Wonder who to contact or how that process works?

If so, you may want to attend CIRAS’ 2nd annual Iowa Vendor Conference, which is coming up next week. It’ll be April 7 in Ankeny from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

CIRAS Sets Table for Food Companies’ Success

For Iowa State University meat specialist Joseph Cordray, it all comes down to Americans’ changing demands for dinner.

Evolving societal preferences have created new opportunities for Iowa food companies, Cordray believes. Firms just need to innovate—or, if necessary, to find someone who’s willing and able to help them do it.

“Your spouse’s definition of a homecooked meal I guarantee is not the same as your grandmother’s definition of a home-cooked meal,” Cordray, a professor of animal science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Iowa State University, said of the changing consumer demand. “Your grandmother used to spend all day in the kitchen making it.”

CIRAS Prompts $3.4 million Economic Impact by helping Ryko Solutions Build a Better Funnel

A new design for handling car wash chemicals is expected to generate more than $3 million in economic impact for a Grimes manufacturer and its suppliers after CIRAS helped the company use cutting-edge technology to speed its new product to market.

CIRAS points Mason City nonprofit to cremation urns

David Crowe made the announcement without warning, his wife recalls. They were in the car one day, and he simply turned to say, “When I die, I want to be cremated.”

One week later, Crowe’s widow would become the first customer of a new business seeking to give Iowans a novel, low-cost burial alternative. The hope is that this new line of handmade wooden cremation urns, conceived with help from CIRAS by the nonprofit training center where Crowe worked before his death, will create new financial stability for the mentally and physically disabled folks who used to be Crowe’s coworkers. It also may solve problems for a few families along the way.