Dalsin Industries is a precision metal contract manufacturer that has been in business for over 75 years. They also have a consumer business known as Memphis Grills; a high-end wood pellet grill business sold through an independent dealer network. Located in Bloomington, Minnesota with an automated facility in Lakeville, Minnesota, this ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems certified firm is spearheaded by the dynamic Tom Schmeling, President and CEO. Their motto, “Better by Design,” motivates them to deliver excellence in precision metal fabrication and design. With an outstanding history of innovation and quality, they offer best-in-class contract metal manufacturing and assembly capabilities along with high-value solutions to multiple industries. Their capacity for combining design-for-manufacture optimization, collaborative design assistance, high-velocity manufacturing processes, planning, rapid production control, global supply chain management, and environmental stewardship gives them an edge over their competitors.
In keeping with their core values, Memphis Grills offers the best outdoor grilling experience for their customers with their patented IntelliBurn Technology.
A League of Their Own: Dalsin Industries:
Founded on the pillars of respect, hard work, family values, and a good sense of humor, Dalsin has managed to create a niche for itself. The differentiator for Dalsin as compared to others is threefold. He says, “First and foremost: our people. We have a very talented workforce that helps our customers enhance their designs from a manufacturing, cost, and quality standpoint. Secondly, our capabilities and equipment: we have invested in technology that sets us apart from most of our competition and work to optimize the use of that equipment. Thirdly, or processes: we strive to deliver consistent quality and cost to our customers and meet their needs. Also, with our customers, we try to cultivate true partnerships where we are an extension of their engineering capabilities and pride ourselves on those longer-term relationships versus the transactional customers that aren’t looking for that level of support.”
Dalsin prides itself on leveraging automation in every aspect of its operations, encompassing everything from flat part generation, robotic welding, precision punching, equipment quality inspection, and even the delivery of parts. Dalsin has always looked towards technological improvements and embraced opportunity when they believed it would fit their needs. Their latest facility in Lakeville will feature cutting-edge automated equipment with two lines of punching and bending fed by an automated material handling system. Once that facility is fully operational, they plan to reinvest in technology in their Bloomington facility.
On the other hand, Memphis Grills were developed as an advanced grill that garnered widespread fame and a reputation for their high-end quality. It allowed them to scale the company by offering a broader range of products and expanding the dealer base. The grill allows consumers to smoke at 180 degrees, bake or roast at temperatures in between, and finally sear at 700 degrees. Therefore, it offers flexibility in grilling that other technologies can’t offer. The product line’s MSRP ranges from $1800-$7000 with cart and built-in models with doors and drawers that enhance backyard kitchen designs and a full line of accessories.
"We are always looking to improve, whether it is a process, technology, capability, performance, growth, or personal development. We always want to improve."
Pivotal Moments & Challenges: The Peaks and Troughs in a Leader’s Life:
Tom joined the company six years ago, having previously worked for four large public power, sports, marine, and consumer product companies. He says, “I joined as a VP of Sales and quickly focused on a strategy that aligned our capabilities and talents with the right customer profile. I was also very impressed with the level of talent in this organization and knew we were capable of growing this company.”
Tom had a knack for learning with a focus on growth throughout his career. He started college in the planning domain, then moved to distribution and then to procurement. He supported the production and product development segments in procurement and then moved into management roles, knowing that he enjoyed the leadership roles. Helping others achieve their goals in their careers came naturally to him. He says, “Ultimately, I moved into sales and marketing and a couple of years ago was given the opportunity to lead this team at Dalsin Industries and Memphis grills.” He took advantage of the opportunities that came his way to learn new aspects of the business. Having the privilege of working for some really good leaders and people in his life enhanced his professional development. He traveled the globe and had the luxury of meeting new and exciting people, augmenting his learning path. “One leader encouraged me to make the shift from the operations-focused side of the business into sales and marketing,” says Tom. “That was the biggest challenge professionally and the most rewarding in my profession. I had the same drive for personal development through college by getting my BBA and then my MBA. I have also had a very supportive family that allowed me to make some changes in my career that required moves to different locations.”
He believes that process definition and discipline to follow the process were the most unexpected lessons he learned in his quest for growth. He says, “When you start to approach the limits of capacity in your facility, any process issues become very apparent very quickly. We will continue to focus on those foundational process opportunities to make sure we have a solid platform to expand from.”
The life lessons that his parents taught him prepared Tom for the challenges that he faced in his life. They instilled in Tom the value of work ethic, achieving dreams and ambitions through hard work and dedication, and providing appropriate support and encouragement to those who work with and under him. There were many teachers and coaches along the way that inspired him, and finally, when he got into the business environment, there were many leaders and peers throughout the organization that gave him important life lessons.
As the head of Dalsin Industries, his biggest challenge is talent acquisition. He says, “We are challenged with hiring and recruiting people in manufacturing. We typically have to train and develop employees into more skilled positions. It is a constant challenge to hire people to support our growth. It has also forced us to invest in technology and automation solutions to overcome those constraints.”
Personally, Tom and his wife have led a fulfilling life. He says, “I have raised three very active children, so our lives were consumed for many years chasing them to their activities. Two of them have graduated from college and are pursuing their careers, and one is still in college. Our reprieve is the outdoors. We like to go boating, swimming, walking our dogs, playing tennis, golfing, and biking, so you never completely detach from work, but you get to enjoy your interests and recharge.”
A Perfect Fit
At Dalsin Industries, we have been able to grow at a rate that is significantly higher than the industry standard. Tom believes the effort, strategy, and execution required to maintain that level of growth takes a commitment from everybody involved. The vision that Tom has aligns with Dalsin Industries’ core values. “Never be satisfied with the status quo,” says Tom. “We are always looking to improve, whether it is a process, technology, capability, performance, growth, or personal development. We always want to improve.” This also accentuates how Tom has helped others in achieving growth. He shares, “Many years ago, when I supervised a distribution area, there was an hourly employee that I thought had potential. I encouraged her to get her degree, which she did and was able to move to the next level in her career. I like to think that I had a very small part in helping her achieve her ambitions professionally.”
Tom is part of a professional roundtable that helps deal with issues and challenges that each of them faces. He also has breakfast once a month with a mentor, which allows them to talk through the challenges and opportunities each of them faces. He shares, “Someone that can set a vision with an “end in mind” and get the entire team focused on achieving that vision and inspire you to focus beyond yourself and do what it takes to help the team achieve that result.”
Looking Forward: Business Plans and Future Prospects:
Tom shares, “We have a fair number of new projects with current customers and have brought on new customers to keep us focused on the growth in our contract business. We are in the process of opening our Lakeville facility, which has brought new technology and capability and is giving us opportunities with an expanded customer base. So, the short-term looks very encouraging on the contract side. For Memphis businesses, we will continue to monitor the economy and consumer sentiment. Business is softening some on that side, so we are focused on expanding our product offering and the dealer network and preparing for the upside in the economy and consumer confidence.” In addition, they are very excited about the contract side of the investment that they have made in their new Lakeville facility. It will give them new and expanded process capabilities, allowing them to expand their customer base and reach out to new industry segments. Meanwhile, on the Memphis side, they forecast a lot of growth driven by their product plans and expanding the dealer base.
Tom’s long-term goals are to see that their 3–5-year long-range plans materialize for both businesses. They have worked very hard to create a culture where people are excited to be every day, communicate that vision, acknowledge the importance of everybody’s role and progress towards their plans, and reward all of their employees for that success. He wants to take both businesses to a level that never seemed possible to the founders or current shareholders.
While, personally, he and his wife are enjoying the next phase of their lives as “empty nesters”. They plan to enjoy their interests, the outdoors, travel more, spend time with their grown kids and with friends, and find a way to give back through volunteering, etc.
Tom hopes that his legacy will be reflected through what they have built; a team and culture that looks for the greater good of the company and can take pride in their part in building this company and their professional development. Tom wants employees’ experience at Dalsin Industries to be one of the best in their professional careers.
He signs off on this note: “Focus on what your company does well and build off that,” says Tom. “That will help you focus on the appropriate customers and develop your capabilities and processes around that success. Take care of your people and build a culture that encourages people to help the company succeed. Lay out a vision and set people up for success and development in their careers and execution of that plan. Communicate often about the progress toward that vision. You will know when you start to get alignment throughout the organization and build off that momentum.”