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Survival of the Fittest - New Era of Darwinian Evolution?

Published on 01 February 2022

Yes, it’s a challenging time to be in business.

Market supply issues and demand pressures are intensifying. Customer expectations are rising. Margins are constantly being squeezed. The requirements to survive in business are complex and ever changing.

 

But it’s now a brand-new year. An opportune time for fresh starts.

 

So, as you think about your business making it through these uncertain times, a productive starting point can be looking at how others are succeeding. Examine the strategies, which achieved their desired outcomes. Explore the leadership mindset and operational infrastructure/tools that have demonstrated the ability to make meaningful differences.

 

Then consider how these approaches could be adapted/adopted for your business and give it that proprietary edge (which enables ongoing survival).

 

Minneapolis Glass, a craftsmanship-oriented, technology-first company based in a Plymouth, Minnesota, should be high on your observation list. Jennifer Lang, their innovative, forward-thinking, industrious President, understood the impact emerging technologies could have on business and became an early adopter more than 25 years ago. She sees technology as “essential to their ongoing success.”

 

“WE MUST DO THIS”

Minneapolis Glass wasn’t always an early adopter. Jennifer was convinced, however, that innovation through technology would add fundamental strength and stability to the company. “I'll never forget sitting in the courtyard at Glasstec 1998 in Dusseldorf with my father who ran the business before me. I told him that we must add barcoding and label scanning for efficiency in our growing business. Despite being a visionary himself, he tossed a napkin at me and said I was dreaming…adding ’we will never be big enough for that’.”

 

But when Jennifer took over the leadership reins, she sought out technology partners to work with Minneapolis Glass to create important operational advantages. “We spent a lot of time researching. We wanted the best.” She turned to A+W. “They were smart and savvy, taking the time to understand our needs. In fact, I went up to their office in Toronto and spent two days with them figuring out how to accomplish all of our objectives. Before we even signed a purchase agreement.”

 

Jennifer added, “A+W is a key partner. We’ve implemented a lot of technology through A+W that has helped us become who we are today.”

 

“WE ARE MORE OF A TECHNOLOGY COMPANY”

Jennifer’s strategic direction was compelling: Be the customers’ best choice by solving even their most unique problems, while simultaneously making it easy for everyone who interfaces with the company. The strategy was clear: align, empower, and equip the entire organization in ways that contribute to delivering a consistently predictable and superior stakeholder experience. 

 

The leadership team’s mindset has been equally as focused: innovate like a tech company. “We're constantly looking at ways to integrate new technology into what we do. It has become part of the DNA of our company. It has helped us streamline and be more efficient. In today’s marketplace you can’t function properly without it,” according to Jennifer.

 

“RELIANT ON TECHNOLOGY”

Minneapolis Glass’ employees were not always excited about the use of technology on the factory floor. As Adam Bauer, the Director of Information Technology, for Minneapolis Glass Company, tells it: Before the adoption of A+W’s CNC CAD Driver, CNC operators drew everything by hand and entered fabrication information manually. They thought they “could do it just as fast” said Adam with a chuckle and smile. Now a few years into implementation, “everyone has become reliant on the technology and can’t imagine going back to the way it used to be!”

 

PURPOSEFUL INNOVATION

Minneapolis Glass has been a long-time user of A+W’s optimization software. Adam Bauer, their resourceful Director of Information Technology, is a strong advocate of using technology to ‘bring out the best’ in the organization. He stated, “We have the right people. And they care a lot. The culture we’re building here relies on flexibility, accountability, and ownership. A+W software supports that.”

 

The leadership team’s commitment to performance-optimizing technology has enabled the company to consistently deliver on Jennifer’s strategy and sustain their business.

 

Jennifer stated, “I love the innovation I see at A+W. Ideas that promote continuous improvement will move the industry ahead.” Her best advice to glass industry peers? “Technology is critical to your success. Don’t skimp when it comes to software.” She added, “These are challenging times. It’s been challenging, and I think we must be prepared for it to continue. I believe the companies that continue to invest in their people and their processes will be the strongest, the ones that survive.”

Summary Information

  • A+W Software customer since the 1980s
  • Service Area: Deliver in 150 mile radius around Plymouth, Minnesota, the company headquarters, and distribution throughout the United States
  • Fabrication includes Backpainting, UV Bonding, Glass CNC, Metal CNC, filming, cutting, edging, glazing, and installation
  • Certified S/WBE and WBENC Woman-Owned company, where Jennifer Lang has been President since 2006 after joining the company in 1995
  • Jennifer Lang, President of Minneapolis Glass, is ranked 46th on the Women President’s Organization’s (WPO) 2019 Women 2 Watch List
  • Minneapolis Glass Company was a finalist for the 2016 Twin Cities Business Family Business Award, winner of a 2020 US Glass Magazine Design Award and the recipient of Twin Cities Business 2022 Manufacturing Excellence Award for process innovations that deliver manufacturing efficiencies while improving quality
  • Products: A+W Business, A+W Production, A+W Capacity Planner, A+W Barcode Manager, A+W Breakage Manager, & A+W CAD Designer
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