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How Minnesota Manufacturers Have Weathered Supply Chain Disruptions

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Global supply chain issues may have finally hit its peak. Disruptions and inflation hit several sectors hard, and it's still having an impact.

Minnesota-based companies who manufacture in the state say they fared fairly well, while navigating some challenges. WCCO's Jennifer Mayerle went to some known brands to find out what Made in Minnesota means.

Nordic Ware has manufactured in Minnesota for 75 years.

"We believe you should source locally, you should support your community, and I guess that's why we're still here," CEO David Dalquist said.

Dalquist said his family committed to making products for the kitchen close to home. Its St. Louis Park plant makes cookware and bakeware.

"Our business has gone up dramatically over the last few years. People are staying at home and cooking at home," Dalquist said.

Keeping up with demand proved to be tricky. The local company, despite sourcing from the Midwest, not immune to disruptions facing the supply network.

"The last 12 to 18 months have definitely been the most challenging. We're seeing production delays, transportation is a problem as well," sourcing manager Jeff Vinje said.

They've had to adapt, roll with raw material shortages, and extend lead times.

"Metal is our huge commodity, plastics, coatings for cookware and bakeware and packaging. We plan out a little further, we have added some infrastructure to our actual factory, so we are able to buy in bulk. We've added more space," Vinje said.

The company added a 25,000 square foot building to keep up with fulfilling orders.

"We're known in our industry for being very nimble and being able to turn product around really quickly for retailers, while those service levels have fluctuated over the last year, we're still far more competitive," Jenny Dalquist said.

"Not everybody is connected to everybody, but everybody is affected by everyone," Professor George John with the Carlson School of Management said.

John explains disruptions can ripple across the network. But there can be some insulation from the problems.

"Having more of your stuff in North America, including Mexico and Canada, is more resilient network, smaller and more resilient than something that's stretched out globally," John said.

Love Your Melon, known for its knit beanies, found that to be true.

"A lot of our core beanies are knit here. We have one knitting partner in Mendota Heights," COO Charlie Carlisle said.

Carlisle said having the knitting, assembling and finishing in the United States gave them an advantage.

"We haven't had to deal with the same challenges other people have had to deal with," Carlisle said.

The business did have to wait for a shipping container full of poms for the beanie. Carlisle says they adjusted inventory on the fly.

"We've been really fortunate, even though we've dealt with some things like: longer lead times on raw materials and some issues with attracting enough labor to fill the demand. I's overall a much better set up to have than be fully reliant on overseas manufacturing," Carlisle said.

That's something KC Kye has learned. His K-Mama Korean hot sauce manufactures locally, and uses local vendors, suppliers and packaging.

But some key ingredients travel a long way.

"The base gochujang is from Korea, so from the homeland. There's also sesame oil that travels here that comes from Taiwan, so we have to coordinate all that purchasing and logistics. We've literally had to look at every ingredient over again and almost reinvent the wheel. How much product do we need to order, how much in advance, at what cost," Kye said.

The time has forced companies to examine how they operate. And how they'll move into the future.

"It seems like the decision you made long ago is paying off," Mayerle asked Dalquist.

"Sure is. Couldn't be a better time to be making things in Minnesota," Dalquist said.

Nordic Ware is growing even more, opening a 55,000 square foot expansion.

Click here to learn more about Nordic Ware, here to learn about Love Your Melon, and here to check out K-Mama Sauce.

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