Steinwall, Inc.

President and CEO Maureen Steinwall

President and CEO Maureen Steinwall

Injection molding company Steinwall, Inc., uses technology to embrace, not replace, its work force.

View Acceptance Speech Video
View Biography Video

« Return to main article

Manufacturing companies deal with a lot of fixed costs—costs that can weigh heavily upon them in an economic downturn. “The recession brought us to our knees,” says Maureen Steinwall, president and CEO of Coon Rapids–based plastic injection molding company Steinwall, Inc. She credits surviving those three years of financial hardship to luck and trust. “A lot of my peers that didn’t make it were craftsmen, not businessmen,” she notes. In her case, however, bankers trusted her because of her accounting background, customers trusted their relationship, and the “humanistic culture” of the workplace meant that employees trusted her, even during layoffs, to be open about what was going on.

Though she labels the experience painful and scary, the company is now safely on the other side, growing at 25 percent last year and 15 percent this year. The company has 48 injection presses that provide products for market segments including agricultural, electronic, computer, medical, appliance, recreation, and consumer goods. Customers include John Deere, Itron, Frigidaire/Electrolux, and Bosch International.

In fact, Steinwall is even trying to slow the company’s growth, since growing too fast often requires “resetting processes and procedures.” Typically, in manufacturing, “any time a human action is implemented into an input or output process, that is the point of error,” Steinwall explains. While other companies may focus on what she calls “hard technology,” such as automated factories with robotics and equipment, it’s not always financially feasible for smaller companies unless there are high product volumes. Steinwall also focuses on “soft technology”—namely, the human element.

To help minimize those points of error, Steinwall’s company has developed a knowledge management system, educating engineers by presenting tasks in a multimedia fashion to best help people learn. “Years ago, a craftsman took their whole career to learn,” Steinwall says. “We don’t have that luxury. The goal is to take anybody, regardless of language or intellect, with basic mechanical competence, and get them to become a skilled craftsman in a short period.”

One element of this knowledge management system is the multimedia work instructions used in training and installed at most workstations. Dating back to 1998, the company initially used video and original artwork, but the process was slow and expensive. The company jumped on the change to acquire new technology with the introduction of the iPad in January 2010. Now Steinwall, Inc., has 50 iPads equipped with video, photos, and responsive PowerPoint presentations that inform and educate workers about each of the presses. Employees can fast-forward, select specific segments, and stop by any station to refresh their memory. For new employees, the company also produces video segments called Orient Me, which serve as training tools.

Maureen Steinwall, whose father founded the company, joined as a vice president in 1983 after earning an MBA at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. She expressed interest in being “on the manufacturing floor,” but manufacturing was an unfriendly industry for women. When she assumed the role of president in 1985, many employees and customers quit, citing her gender as a major issue. That didn’t faze her, and in the long run, the company wasn’t hurt. Almost two decades later, Steinwall continues to grow, bringing in $19 million in revenue in 2012.

One of the company’s long-time customers is Eagan-based Itron, which produces gas, water, and electric meters with wireless solutions for the utility industry. Steinwall has been molding the parts that house the company’s electronics for 18 years. “Our relationship with Steinwall has grown over the years because Steinwall brings the technical expertise, innovative solutions, customer support, and competitive pricing that Itron needs,” says Kent DeLong, Itron’s purchasing manager.

Maureen Steinwall’s goal is to reach $50 million in revenue within 10 years. She eventually hopes to develop an employee stock option plan, as well as increase the growth of compensation per person by as much as 50 percent, while keeping a low headcount. Steinwall still sees opportunity in manufacturing to improve management: “Job enrichment, community—that’s what makes people feel wealthy,” she says.

Steinwall, Inc.
Location: Coon Rapids
Founded: 1965
Employees: 150
2012 projected revenue: $19 million

Co-founder Chuck Anderson and CEO Robert Hartzell

Chuck & Don’s Pet Food Outlet

Chuck & Don’s Pet Food Outlet grew from one to 23 stores in 22 years by selling quality food in a man’s-best-friendly retail environment.

Read Story | View Acceptance Speech Video|View Biography Video

Brothers (from left) Kory, Kyle, and Kurt Kottke

Kottke Trucking, Inc.

Good values and good service helped food hauler Kottke Trucking, Inc., grow throughout the recession.

Read Story | View Acceptance Speech Video|View Biography Video

Founder Brenton Hayden

Renters Warehouse

Renters Warehouse helps property owners profitably manage their leased holdings.

Read Story | View Acceptance Speech Video|View Biography Video

Director of Brewing Horace Cunningham, Head Brewmaster Michael Kneip, and General Manager Doug DeGeest

Cold Spring Brewing

Cold Spring Brewing refreshes its old business with new craft beers.

Read Story | View Acceptance Speech Video|View Biography Video

Founder Akhtar Chaudhri


Virtelligence is on the cutting edge of health care automation—an edge that legislation has sharpened.

Read Story | View Acceptance Speech Video|View Biography Video

Founder and President Mark Stutrud

Summit Brewing Company

Craft beer’s nothing new—Summit Brewing has been bottling and kegging it for a quarter-century.

Read Story | View Acceptance Speech Video|View Biography Video

Paul Radjenovich, Bonnie Radjenovich, Kathy Felling, Merle Felling, Brenda Jennissen and Patrick Jennissen.

Felling Trailers, Inc.

Felling Trailers, Inc., used the recent downturn to position itself for the recovery.

Read Story | View Acceptance Speech Video|View Biography Video

Angie Franks


Rural health care facilities are essential to their communities—and Healthland’s software is helping them keep up to date.

Read Story | View Acceptance Speech Video|View Biography Video

Tara Watson

Watson Chiropractic And Exceptional Home Health

Chiropractor Tara Watson has overcome floods, tornadoes, and other disasters to build her businesses.

Read Story | View Acceptance Speech Video|View Biography Video

Small-Business Success Stories Finalists

Twin Cities Business recognizes the following Minnesota companies as finalists in the Small Business Success Stories program for their notable achievements.

Read Story

Most Popular

Current Issue


Read this month's issue of Twin Cities Business.