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COVID Update: Changing Two Ways CIRAS Serves You Online

It’s been six months since COVID-19 forced CIRAS to temporarily halt in-person educational events. Since then, we’ve been working hard to meet your educational needs in cyberspace, opening up roundtable discussion groups and hosting more than 80 webinars involving thousands of people.

Recently, to help you better, we made some changes in how we’ll handle webinars and roundtables going forward.

Celebrate National PTAC Day on Sept. 16

We’re inviting you to learn more about a major part of CIRAS programming.

Ninety-four Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs), including CIRAS, form a nationwide network of more than 600 dedicated professionals who work to help local businesses sell their products and services to government agencies.

If you’d like to know more about the network, we invite you to join a special webinar on Wednesday, September 16, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. to celebrate National PTAC Day.

Doing Enough? CIRAS COVID Assessment Helps You Make Sure

Like most responsible companies navigating a pandemic, Larson Manufacturing worked hard to secure its Lake Mills manufacturing facility against COVID-19. Among other things, the company posted signs, upgraded its cleaning procedures, and installed social distancing barriers. ut was that enough?

To make certain, Larson this summer became one of Iowa’s first companies to receive a free CIRAS virtual COVID-19 Preparedness Assessment.

Register now for ILC Virtual Annual Conference

Attention continuous improvement practitioners!

Get ready to take advantage of another quality, daylong learning and networking opportunity, this time without leaving your desk.

Registration is now open for the Iowa Lean Consortium’s Annual Virtual Conference – the ILC’s first attempt at taking its popular yearly educational conference and reformatting it for cyberspace.

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.

CIRAS Will Stay with Online Events in 2020

See you (in person) next year.

As a response to COVID-19 and the still-spreading pandemic, CIRAS has decided to cancel all in-person events through the remainder of 2020. We simply don’t believe it’s practical to schedule face-to-face events in the current environment.

However, that doesn’t mean we intend to stop educating Iowa businesses.

Sponsorships Now Available for ILC Virtual Annual Conference

Notice: Here is a perfect opportunity to get your organization’s name and logo in front of hundreds of Lean practitioners.

The Iowa Lean Consortium is searching for companies to sponsor this fall’s Virtual Annual Conference. This is a great opportunity to place your brand in front of continuous improvement professionals who are dedicated to building Lean cultures in their organizations.

Iowa State’s ABE Department to Host Virtual Tour

Iowa State University’s Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering is hosting a virtual open house on Wednesday, August 5, so interested companies can learn more about the technology available on campus.

Interested businesses can participate in three 40-minute sessions covering Industrial Technology, Ag Engineering and Ag Systems Technology, and Biosystems Engineering.

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.

Our COVID-19 Site has Expanded

As the pandemic continues to evolve, we wanted to remind you of some of the many additions we’ve made over the last few weeks to the CIRAS COVID-19 website.

CIRAS is committed to bringing you the best information possible to help you make necessary decisions about your business. Toward that end, we’ve been regularly adding content and refocusing our efforts to answer the questions that Iowa businesses tell us they’re concerned about.

Schuster to lead ILC; McMahon to new workforce efforts

In case you missed it, we want to remind you that leadership is changing hands at the Iowa Lean Consortium.

Tracy Schuster took over as program director of the Iowa Lean Consortium in May.

Help CIRAS Plan the Future of Live Events

July marks the fifth month without any in-person CIRAS gatherings on the CIRAS schedule. We cancelled our entire schedule of educational trainings in March as part of a nationwide effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As of now, that cancellation runs through the end of July. But we just wanted to remind you that … Continue reading Help CIRAS Plan the Future of Live Events

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.

ILC Moving to a Virtual Annual Conference this Fall

This is a complicated world we’re living in, but Lean practices require us to say it simply:

The ILC Annual Conference that was scheduled to take place October 27-29 in Des Moines has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, we will deliver a Virtual Annual Conference online on October 28.

Preparing for Getting Back to Work

After more than two months of reeling from the effects of a deadly pandemic, many Iowa communities are now on their way back to work. But what exactly should that look like?

CIRAS experts suggest you focus on two things as you press to get back to normal – going in phases and being thorough.

ILC Virtual Lean Government Exchange is June 2

The Iowa Lean Consortium’s annual event focusing on continuous improvement in government is moving online.

Lean management techniques have the power to transform a variety of industries, but the process can face different obstacles depending on the industry involved. Government and nonprofit entities face unique challenges within their Lean journeys. The ILC created this event several years ago as a way to help you overcome them.

Pandemic Places Lean Coffees Online

It’s the same Lean Coffee conversation you’re used to, only a lot closer to your kitchen.

Last month, as part of the CIRAS response to COVID-19, the Iowa Lean Consortium was forced to cancel all in-person Lean Coffee events through the end of July. Instead, we’ve moved the discussions online to offer a robust virtual forum for anyone interested in sharing ideas and personal experiences with Lean.

Reminder: New CIRAS Services Can Help you Handle COVID-19

April was a disruptive time for Iowa businesses, and the challenges are not yet finished.

CIRAS has been honored to play roles in many of your COVID-19 stories over the past month. We wanted to take this chance to remind you that we’re still here to help you as those stories continues to develop. CIRAS has added new services in recent weeks to help with your pandemic response and recovery needs, and, as a part of the MEP National Network, we’re offering our traditional services in new ways to help your company get through this disaster.

Iowa Manufacturers Respond to COVID-19; CIRAS Adapts to Assist

Thousands of face shields are scheduled to be delivered to Mary Greeley Medical Center this month as part of a CIRAS-coordinated effort to help Iowa manufacturers meet this state’s tremendous demand for personal protection equipment.

That’s just one of many instances where Iowa industry is coming together to overcome COVID-19.

Government Contracting Amid COVID-19

A federal disaster has recently been declared for the State of Iowa, allowing local, state and tribal authorities in Iowa to receive federal funding in response to COVID-19.  This leaves many businesses wondering how they can get in on the action and provide goods/services during a disaster.

CIRAS Survey: Business Impacts of COVID-19

MARCH 1, 2020 — As COVID-19 proliferates across our nation, the crisis continues to negatively impact our economy and spark concerns for the future for small- to medium-sized businesses. CIRAS, with a mission to enhance the performance of Iowa industry, has been conducting a phone survey so we can better understand the needs of Iowa companies and better connect them to appropriate resources.  

Here is what we’ve learned so far:  

CIRAS Status: Our Operations During COVID-19 Pandemic

May 27, 2020

At CIRAS, our mission is to Enhance the performance of industry through applied research, education, and technical assistance. During times of crisis, we do everything we can to continue serving Iowa industry while ensuring the health and safety of our team and your team.

In order to serve you while minimizing risk to our team and Iowa industry, we are operating with some changes to our services:

Internet Marketing Boot Camp Brings Big Benefits

It’s an Internet world out there, but it’s not easy. Those page views, clicks, and online sales don’t just happen automatically when you turn on your company’s computer.

Are you sure your website is actually working?

CIRAS Launches New Web Page with Coronavirus Advice

Roughly one month after the outbreak of coronavirus began, authorities now estimate that more than 75,000 people have been infected and more than 2,000 are dead. Thousands of manufacturers across China have struggled to reopen after travel restrictions prevented employees from returning from Lunar New Year holiday. With work delays still uncertain, large sectors of the U.S. economy seem to be holding their collective breath waiting for additional shoes to drop. In manufacturing, the impacts to the complex global supply of parts are not fully understood, but the slowdown seems likely to impact the demand for U.S. products in China.

ILC Seeking Presenters for Annual Conference

We’re looking for a few good Lean stories.

The CIRAS Iowa Lean Consortium (ILC) is pleased to issue a call for presentations for our 2020 Annual Conference to be held October 27-29 in Des Moines. This conference is the ILC’s largest annual gathering, and we’re pleased to hold it once again as part of our continuing effort to promote the exchange of information and resources among continuous improvement professionals.

Webinar Week – A Special Series Spotlighting Government Agencies

Government contracting is about relationships. You have to know which government entities are in the market for the particular product or service that you provide, and they have to know you – where you are and exactly how you’re capable of helping them.

But how do you get in the game if you don’t understand the players?

ILC to Tour Kentucky Toyota in May

Sometimes, you just want to see for yourself.

If you’ve ever had a moment of curiosity about how Lean is practiced at the company that helped create it, then CIRAS has a trip that should fan the flames of your interest.

CIRAS Staff News: Meet Behrens & McGraw

We would like to announce that two new faces joined CIRAS at the end of 2019. (And watch this space for more staffing news in the days to come.)

Here are your brief introductions to the new CIRAS additions:

CIRAS is Sponsoring Winter Conference of Master Builders of Iowa

Iowa’s leading organization of construction contractors will hold its annual meeting next month, and CIRAS plans to be there helping companies learn how to advance their businesses.

CIRAS is a sponsor of this year’s Annual Winter Conference of the Master Builders of Iowa (MBI). Founded in 1912, MBI is one of 89 chapters of the Associated General Contractors of America, the most influential and widely respected construction association in the country. The Iowa chapter’s annual gathering is scheduled for February 24-26 at the Prairie Meadows Event and Conference Center in Altoona.

Our Annual Iowa-Made Holiday Gift Guide

One of our favorite times of the year is here!

‘Tis the season  to remind everybody once again that there are awesome Iowa-made products to give as gifts!

Develop Talent through Internships

Internships can feed the talent pipeline for many small- to medium-sized manufacturers facing serious workforce gaps as their senior employees near retirement. But internship success (finding, engaging, and retaining talent) requires strategy and planning to locate and groom qualified job candidates. As the Program Manager of Apprenticeship and Workforce at the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), I … Continue reading Develop Talent through Internships

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.

Learn the Secrets of “Writing Federal Proposals”

Government contracting is a complicated and detailed process with many precise steps that must be followed. For companies that are new to the government sector, it sometimes can be overwhelming.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to practice before you submitted that first bid?

We thought so, too.

Avoid the Rush! Renew your ILC Membership!

Now that our Annual Conference has ended, it’s time to being planning for next year:   It’s almost time to renew your Iowa Lean Consortium Membership! 

“Meet the Buyers” Builds Relationships

No one will buy your product or service until they become convinced that it will meet their needs. But before that can happen, potential customers have to somehow learn that you exist and what you can offer. CIRAS wants to help with that. Next month’s “Meet the Buyers” event in Johnston is designed to be … Continue reading “Meet the Buyers” Builds Relationships

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

Now Open: Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy

Dozens of Iowa manufacturers got their first glimpse of a path to new technologies on September 26, as CIRAS formally opened its new Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy.

Representatives from CIRAS, Alliant Energy, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) were joined by Iowa State University and Ames leaders for opening remarks and a tour.

CIRAS Wants Every Day to be MFGDay – (but especially in October)

More than 8,000 Iowans attended an estimated 150 events last October as the industry’s annual celebration of American manufacturing.

It’s not too late for Iowa businesses to get involved in the 2019 festivities.

ProCircular helps MetalCraft Toughen its Cybersecurity

Jonathan Heinz acknowledges that it took a while for his company to get moving on cybersecurity. But Metalcraft, a nameplate and ID tag manufacturer in Mason City, is now behind no longer.

Iowa Program Helps Companies Afford Extra Expertise — by Matching the Cost of 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.

 “We ask them to participate in every aspect of the development of a product,” Carr said. “It’s all collaborative engineering, and they’re just one more voice in the game.”

ILC’s 2019 Annual Conference is October 29-31

Are you anxious for inspiration? Excited to learn more about techniques that will help your company continuously improve and grow? Then you need to make plans to be in West Des Moines at the end of October.

How to ID Your Company’s Cybersecurity Risks

According to a 2018 IBM-sponsored study by the Ponemon Institute, the global average for a data breach is $3.86 million. That breaks down to almost $150 per stolen record. If you’re a small or medium-sized manufacturer, you may not think statistics like these apply to you. But out of 17 industries represented in the report, the most impacted sectors were financial, service, and wait for it — manufacturing.

Northeast Iowa Conference to Address Manufacturing Workforce Challenges

Northeast Iowa manufacturers struggling to modernize and grow will have the chance to learn new strategies designed to improve their bottom line in any economy.

Did you know?… How to Sell to Iowa Public Schools

Summer is ending, which means parents everywhere are beginning to shop for Back To School. Have you ever considered what may be on the school’s shopping list?

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.

Genesis Safety Group sees Benefits of Lean Safety

A Davenport maker of robotic systems is rethinking how material flows through its factory after participants in a spring Lean Safety event outlined a list of ways that the company could improve.

CIRAS Helps Walsh Door & Security Unlock Inventory

A Des Moines commercial door and security company improved efficiency and shaved roughly $200,000 off its costs after CIRAS assistance helped the company upgrade its inventory handling.

Dave Hunt, hardware inventory control manager for Walsh Door & Security, said his company went from carrying roughly $600,000 worth of door hardware at its Des Moines warehouse to roughly $430,000. The difference was made possible by a 2017 CIRAS class that helped Walsh become more professional about calculating what the company really needed on hand to meet its customers’ needs.

It All Started Almost a Year Ago…

Happy Birthday to us!

The end of June will mark the Iowa Lean Consortium’s first full year as a part of CIRAS, and we just wanted to give you plenty of warning so you can commemorate that anniversary properly. {Perhaps by attending one of the many Lean Coffee events across Iowa?)

Learn with Us: How to Develop and Coach Problem Solvers

Back by popular demand, author and Lean expert Jamie V. Parker is coming to Iowa in June for two events designed to help Iowa businesses take continuous improvement to the next level.

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.

Donald named Outstanding New Professional

CIRAS project manager Joy Donald will be honored with the Iowa State University Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award at a campus ceremony on September 23.

Your Company Needs to Forge a Foul Weather Plan

April showers appear poised to linger in Iowa for a bit longer.

What Our Peers Think:  Cybersecurity

Every day we hear another story about a hack. Terms like ransomware, two-factor authentication, data breach, botnets sound like they are from a science fiction movie, not the shop floor. Small- to mid-sized manufacturers are among the most frequent targets of hackers, driven in part by the perceived ease of beating your systems.The solution to cybersecurity risks is a complex mix of IT solutions, processes, and new cultural norms. Where do you start?

Lean Coffees – Conversations for Learning and Creativity

Spring is a time of new beginnings – both for you and for your business.

Are you looking for new ideas or a new way to get excited about continuously improving your company? Would you like to take part in regular conversations and share ideas with others about the benefits of Lean?

ISBF and IEDA Help Iowa Facilities Managers get a CEM

One key step toward making Iowa buildings more energy efficient is to place them into the hands of people who know how to find savings. Toward that end, two CIRAS partners have joined forces to help Iowa companies interested in reducing their energy costs.

Theisen Cleaners Grows by Systematically Soliciting Sales

Theisen Cleaners was born in 2016 when Jamie Theisen, after many years spent cleaning houses for herself and various employers, decided to launch a new residential cleaning service. Her husband, Joe Theisen, eventually joined her. By 2017, the couple was thinking of expanding the effort, possibly by branching out and cleaning area businesses.

CIRAS Seeks to Empower Government Contractors

The government sector is a vast ocean of possibility for Iowa businesses, but the waters can run treacherous if you don’t understand how it works.

To help with that, CIRAS experts have created a daylong training event to help Iowa companies take a deep dive into the world of government contracting and delve into advanced teaming strategies for business development.

It’s a Rainy Day. Does Your Business Have a Plan?

Portions of western and central Iowa were under flood watches and warnings Wednesday, with more rain expected though Thursday. Fast-moving ice jams also clogged the Des Moines River in Ottumwa on Tuesday, sparking fears that more low-lying and water-adjacent areas could face problems in the coming days, especially the Raccoon River near Des Moines.

Meseke joins CIRAS as Point Person for Finance

Jennifer Meseke has joined CIRAS as finance and strategic projects manager.

Market Research Tools + CIRAS = Growth

Smart manufacturers are continuously searching for new ways to diversify their customer base, expand into new markets, and grow. Are you ready to see what the future holds? CIRAS can help you find the path.

How Lean Works in the Iowa Prison System

So, you think Lean won’t work for you?

What if we showed you how it works behind bars?

CIRAS Will Help You Get Ready for the “Future of Manufacturing”

CIRAS is on a journey to help Iowa manufacturers discover and implement the future of manufacturing.

Winning Proposals Start with Understanding RFPs

Success in government contracting requires that you convince a government agency that you’re the best choice to fill any particular need. To get there, you have to know how the system works, who to deal with, what the rules are, and how to cast yourself in the best possible light.

CIRAS is planning a special event this spring to help you understand all of that.

Start your New Year with a Lean Coffee™

A new year means it’s time for a new beginning and new resolutions about how we’d like to improve. Would you like to talk about that? Are you looking to connect with other Lean practitioners and share ideas about continuous improvement? 

If so, we think you should put “attend an ILC Lean coffee” on the top of your 2019 resolutions list. 

Cleaning Cobot is Coming to Miracle Tool America

Dozens of 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 are used to keep tools cool have a tendency to get clogged.

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

One who is made of metal.

Our Third Annual All-Iowa Holiday Gift List

Every year around this time, we like to take a minute to remind everybody that we make great things here in Iowa.

Because You Know We’re Worth It: ILC Memberships are due

Attention: Iowa Lean Consortium members! The renewal process for ILC memberships will operate differently this year. 

Fort Dodge Finds Efficiency, Better Service Through Lean

David Fierke still remembers the 30-year public works employee who looked him in the eye at one of the city of Fort Dodge’s first Lean events in 2009 and asked what Fierke, the then-relatively new city manager, really thought he was going to teach a veteran about filling potholes.

Probably not much, Fierke acknowledged. But after Fort Dodge employees spent several hours that day looking for waste in the city’s pothole-filling process, they nevertheless managed to make it better.

Cox Honored for “Achievement in Economic Development”

CIRAS Director Ron Cox was one 15 College of Engineering faculty and staff who received Iowa State University’s highest honors during an annual awards ceremony on September 14.

Touring Tech – Manufacturers Find Value When They See What ISU Can Do

Nathan Meyer was no stranger to CIRAS, but he wasn’t fully aware of all the technical expertise available at Iowa State University until he took a CIRAS-led tour of campus research labs in the fall of 2017.

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.

ANNOUNCING: Iowa Lean Consortium to Merge with CIRAS

AMES, IOWA – The Iowa Lean Consortium (ILC), a nonprofit founded eight years ago to promote business efficiency throughout the Iowa economy, will be merging with Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) effective July 2.

ePATHUSA pursues Government Contracting on the Path to Growth

Hari Nallure views his relationship with the CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) sort of like he’s found a trusted advisor.

Second Tri-State Procurement Conference on Tap for March

The reviews are in, and it appears to have been a hit: 
– “Broad range of information covered.  Wide variety of businesses represented” 
– “Got several ideas how to expand my business, the event opened up conversations and information in the tristate area” 
– “Tons of useful info” 
– “A very well balanced conference with a wide range of experts speaking candidly” 

Those are just a few bits of the feedback we received after the first Tri-State Procurement Conference held in Keokuk, IA this past spring of 2016.