Harmony Enterprises President Steve Cremer accepts the ISO certification plaque from Enterprise Minnesota's President and CEO Robert Kill. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Harmony Enterprises President Steve Cremer accepts the ISO certification plaque from Enterprise Minnesota's President and CEO Robert Kill. SUBMITTED PHOTO
On Wednesday, July 30, Harmony's own Harmony Enterprises reached an important milestone in its history, acquiring International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification.
Robert H. Kill, president and CEO of Enterprise Minnesota, based in Minneapolis, presented the certification plaque during a celebration meeting last week.
Several employees from Harmony Enterprises and guests from Southeast Technical College in Winona also attended to see the certificate presented to CEO Steve Cremer.
"I love to present plaques to companies for the ISO," Kill stated, opening up the celebration. "I have worked with and enjoyed Harmony Enterprises for many years."
The consulting organization, Enterprise Minnesota, helps manufacturing companies become operationally efficient and well positioned to grow profitably.
The ISO 9001:2008 standard that Harmony Enterprises was awarded by Enterprise Minnesota's CEO sets out the criteria for a quality management system. It can be used by any organization, large or small, regardless of its field of activity.
This standard emphasizes a number of quality management principles including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement. Using ISO standards helps ensure that customers get consistent, good quality products and services, bringing in many business benefits.
At the celebration, Ramon Hernandez, customer service manager of Harmony Enterprises detailed the innovative history and future direction of the company to the visitors.
"Our vision statement is to produce the highest quality products and services to earn the trust of our customers all over the world. Our strong suit is the high quality products we make," he described.
The company was founded just over 50 years ago. In 1962, businessmen in Harmony saw many people leaving the city and sought out a way to get them to remain in Harmony. One of the first products the company developed was the bikini chair and another was the portable ice fishing shelter.
By 1965 they began focusing on a prototype canvas tent and lift mechanism on campers.
"At one time there were about 300 folks sewing the canvas on site," Hernandez noted.
But in 1971, the company took a different turn.
"A grocery store in Iowa could no longer burn cardboard and asked us to come up with a good way to dispose of it. That was when we created the cardboard baler and we have been making balers ever since," he stated.
That history shows a company willing to cater to customer wishes and innovation.
"The company is innovative and our machines utilize HIMI and Ethernet. Our company is always looking for how to help the customers," Hernandez said.
One of the company’s goals is to try spreading technology to many of their products so that picking up trash is much more efficient in places like the Atlanta Airport. The wireless they have in place there automatically watches the amount of trash it contains. It alerts personnel not long before it is necessary to be emptied. The company has also been experimenting for the past few years on a compactor run by solar power.
Harmony Enterprises is a global company, with sales in over 80 countries at the present. They also have an office in Toulouse, France, although manufacturing is not done there. Working in France did prove to be a rather arduous process.
According to the International Trade Administration, many of the standards in France are taken from international standards like the ISO. And since the standards for the European Union are different from the United States' standards, oftentimes products tested and certified in the United States are retested and certified in countries like France.
"Trying to understand the French rules was fun and took a long time. But if we operate under their standards the product is really good," Hernandez related.
As he closed, congratulations and letters were given to the company for its achievement. A representative from the office of Congressman Tim Walz presented a letter to Harmony Enterprises. Portions of that letter and another letter a state senator were read to those in attendance, congratulating Harmony Enterprises.
"Harmony Enterprises should be proud….They set an example for all of us," Walz wrote.
Providing great quality products to their customers is a key reason as to why Harmony Enterprises began the process to become ISO certified.
"We want to continue to make sure our products are all good quality," said Steve Cremer.
The company has been providing quality products for a long time, as evidenced by their service calls from their customers.
"One of our customers gives us 25 service calls per day. We try to save them money by helping them over the phone, but we do outsource with our service technicians. Most of their equipment is 20 to 25 years old, but they would rather fix it than buy a new one because they know it works," Hernandez related.
But receiving the ISO certification encourages the company to become even better.
"We did not go after ISO because a customer said we should. We did ISO because the process would make us better," Steve explained. "It has been a lot of work, but it will help us stay who we are and what we want to be."
As the meeting drew to a close, Steve offered a tour around the facility and into the new addition being constructed. There, Chris Cremer, Harmony Enterprises vice president of operations, explained the construction.
Previously, the area north of the facility was prone to flooding due to the slope of the soil. When the snow melted in the spring and water flowed down from the rain, semis would not be able to depart from that loading area.
"We would have them loaded and then they would come and say 'We can't get out,'" related Chris.
With the new addition, the water flow problems have been solved and shipping will be much more efficient. An area in the back will route the excess water into a pond, and a paved road will lead the semis straight into the building. The truck will drive into the building through the back and continue going forward, exiting the building in the front.
"Flatbed semis will be able to drive through the building. There will be lifts attached from the roof so our products can be loaded onto the trailer more efficiently," Chris said.
These improvements will add to Harmony Enterprises’ ability to follow its new status as ISO certified.