Impact Dakota working closely with Elinor Coatings
Impact Dakota has been at the forefront of driving growth and success for businesses across the state of North Dakota. With innovative approaches and a commitment to excellence for their clients, Impact Dakota has become a trusted advisor for organizations of all sizes, helping them navigate the ever-evolving business landscape. We connected with Jodie Mjoen, CEO and President of Impact Dakota, to discuss Impact Dakota’s history, their tailored solutions, and how you can get involved.
Impact Dakota is an independent business and manufacturer support organization brought to life with the help of the US Department of Commerce. The nonprofit organization is governed by a board of directors made up of manufacturers and related industry experts, while they’re supported by funds from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) system to assist in North Dakota. Furthermore, the ND Department of Commerce supports as a program partner.
Jodie Mjoen has always held a special place in his heart for our state and business landscape. Taking this passion and using it for good, Mjoen is a leading member of the initiative to create a more efficient and innovative North Dakota. “I’ve always been a North Dakota guy. In our communities, everything hits home. I grew up here, so I’m always thinking about how we can keep and even grow job positions in the manufacturing industry. Injecting money into the local economy from their customers buying their products, manufacturers have a significant positive impact on that small town, which is exactly what we aim to see with Impact Dakota,” Mjoen said.
Impact Dakota acts as a unique public-private partnership that was created by Congress in the mid-90s. Congress created the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program with the US Department of Commerce. Impact Dakota was created as a unique investment in the growth and maintenance of the infrastructure of US manufacturing, as much of our country’s manufacturing was increasingly heading overseas.
The businesses that were still here were struggling with some of their OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers), or the big “brand name” products produced for the original manufacturer. When products were sourced overseas, manufacturers were struggling with how to survive and continue building their organizations close to home.
As a public-private investment, Congress allocates funds to the MEP network to support the build-up of manufacturing infrastructure in the United States. The partnership allocates up to one MEP center in each of the 50 states and Puerto Rico, bringing Impact Dakota to life.
The investment made by a manufacturer helps access federal program dollars to offset costs so that Impact Dakota is able to build an infrastructure with the strongest industry experts in their respective fields. Rather than retaining an entire staff full of trained experts that are only needed in certain instances, Impact Dakota focuses on collaborating with partners who are experts in their field that aim to support their clients as well.
Did You Know?
Most companies similar to Impact Dakota will charge a fee for coming in, spending time analyzing and discussing the problem, and providing a solution at hand. Thanks to Impact Dakota’s public-private partnership, there is no initial cost to the client for assessments and sharing of solution options you can implement if you have the time, talent, and resources.
“We support large manufacturers with thousands of employees, but will primarily help small to medium manufacturers with 500 employees or less, as they don’t have the infrastructure built out yet. When we’re helping those smaller manufacturers, one of the biggest challenges they’re facing is workforce shortage issues,” Mjoen said.
Over the past decade, the gap between available workers and job opportunities has grown, according to Mjoen. In addition, when COVID-19 hit, millions of people suddenly lost their jobs, causing them to make significant changes in their lives. Some families had to adjust to living on one income, while others downsized or gave up owning additional vehicles to save money. People did whatever they could to take care of themselves, creating a situation where there is now an 11 million-person gap in the workforce shortage in the United States. With jobs available but no people, Mjoen believes that manufacturers could benefit greatly from something as simple as a shift in mindset to continue forward.
At times, manufacturers may feel inclined to give up and consider closing their businesses, according to Mjoen. The COVID pandemic exposed the vulnerability of our country’s economy, highlighting the trade imbalance between imports and exports, as well as the lack of domestically-made products. To address this issue, the US Department of Commerce aims to increase manufacturing capacity by 50% over the next decade. This is a substantial goal that calls for innovative approaches. To support this endeavor, the country is investing in expanding the MEP network and organizations such as Impact Dakota, which forms the base for the future of manufacturing.
“What we used to do with 100 people, we can now do with 60 people. We need to be very innovative in figuring that out. It’s critical to ensure that employees are maximizing their time and being as efficient as possible. Some companies place machines randomly throughout their location, which is fine until the facility grows over time. When that happens, companies are now moving items miles around their plant from one location to another. We can help them re-layout their facility so that it makes sense with the flow of their operation, saving hundreds of hours per week in the facility, which in turn could be millions of dollars being put toward a more efficient operation,” Mjoen said.
Impact Dakota’s goal is to help people create the most innovative organizations possible and maximize their production efficiency. While larger organizations may have established systems in place, smaller ones often lack the necessary resources and streamlined processes. Although they may develop great products, Impact Dakota can help them identify and eliminate waste from their operations.
“Manufacturers are paid by customers for their value-added activities, such as painting, cutting, or assembling parts. They don’t build non-value-added activities into their customers’ quote times but they pay employees to walk around and look for tools, move parts all over their facilities, etc. We help eliminate those things and be innovative in their processes. You can buy a water spider to move parts around your facility, or you can simply get your materials in line so that it doesn’t have to be moved around. For many manufacturers, it can be as simple as a mindset shift. I’ve worked with manufacturing lines that were creating products from beginning to end; from metal to ready-to-ship. What used to take 41 people, now only takes 4 people by having efficient process flow and some automation,” Mjoen said.
Beyond optimizing manufacturers and striving for efficiencies within operations across the state, Impact Dakota also specializes in training and certifications for compliance guidelines. Whether it be ISO9001/AS9100 quality management systems, OSHA safety regulations, cybersecurity, food safety, operations optimization, leadership training requirements, or any other opportunity, Impact Dakota uses their team of experts or collaborates with partners, who pass through as needed, to save costs and provide the most skilled experience possible.
“The organization’s dedicated staff engages with partners in North Dakota that are just as passionate about the work as they are. We look for those partners in the state to continue boosting our local economy. We don’t turn manufacturers away, as most organizations need some form of technical support. Some of the training that we do revolves around large manufacturers who want to reduce their risk by having certified manufacturers working on their teams. Essentially, we’re looking for the ones that don’t know what they need so that we can guide them along the right path so that they can focus on making their awesome products for customers.” Mjoen said.
Did You Know?
Impact Dakota also supports nonmanufacturers, such as universities, with how to optimize their lunchlines, bookstores, and more.
As of late, cybersecurity infrastructure has been a concern for many with the rise of AI and increasingly tech-incorporated workplaces. As companies automate their manufacturing processes and rely more on electronic communication with customers and suppliers, a large amount of data is being exchanged, which could result in a data breach.
For the past three years, they have organized one-day workshops in collaboration with cybersecurity experts, aimed at enhancing participants’ comprehension of system security and organizational fortification. These workshops attract diverse participants, including manufacturers, universities, and professionals from various industry sectors. During these sessions, organizations acquire invaluable techniques, such as the implementation of 20 controls that can substantially mitigate the risk of cybersecurity breaches by up to 80%. These measures include adopting multi-factor authentication and regularly updating passwords.
“We’re helping to lower the risks and expenses associated with data breaches by taking preventive measures. While these measures do require an upfront investment, it’s much cheaper than dealing with the aftermath of a data breach. It’s especially painful to see small manufacturers suffer from a data breach, losing important information like intellectual property, bank account numbers, and private customer data,” Mjoen said.
What makes Impact Dakota unique is how they leverage their aforementioned public-private partnership to minimize expenses and save the client money on projects such as cybersecurity protection or efficiency implementation.
In contrast to the steep price range of $30,000 to $60,000 that manufacturers would face if they were to seek cybersecurity implementations in the open market, our offerings can be around $10,000 and $15,000 with Impact Dakota. This cost advantage extends to other services provided, whether it be manufacturing processes, layouts, strategic planning, or any other enhancements.
In North Dakota, many manufacturers are regular folks who stumbled upon innovative products while trying to solve problems. They’re used to figuring things out on their own but shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help. Some avoid spending extra money without knowing the potential benefits. By reaching out for help and exploring available options and solutions, manufacturers can achieve significant growth.
“Our aim is to optimize our communication methods, prioritize our focus areas, and deliver innovative solutions that bring maximum value to manufacturers. We can help identify their largest pain points and what support services are needed to improve or fix them without requiring a cost until the actual training or implementation. We’re very collaborative. If an organization is willing to do a portion of the work but doesn’t have the time or resources to implement the entire solution, we’ll come in and work only on what you need. We’re here to help reduce the risk of any disruptions coming from their supply base to help them see growth,” Mjoen said.