If you were there in the 80s, just the mention of Eddy Grant’s catchy Electric Avenue should have you tapping a foot.
But these ‘electric avenues’ are little-known, and much more important – they’re what electric wire harnesses provide to organize and simplify the kilometers-long tangle of wiring built into all the millions of modern motor vehicles and many other electric power circuits.
Electric harnesses lend a customized structure to the wiring in auto-electric layouts of cars and other complex electrical power circuits. They group and route cables into optimized electric avenues that are easily identifiable and easily reached.
This is the way that MNSTAR wire harnesses simplify troubleshooting and repair and even the assembly of auto-electric units. MNSTAR’s harnesses are famed for their durability in the most demanding environments and are individually quality tested. This American product incorporates only the best quality craftsmanship and materials, including Deutsch connectors and superior braiding.
MNSTAR is a volume-driven, custom electric-wire-harness manufacturer serving customers in North America and further afield mainly in the marine, first responder, federal, agricultural, and utility markets, in construction equipment, recreation markets, and others.
Some of the big pluses that benefit its clients are a superb research and development team and well-honed capabilities in detailed, quality engineering and high-level customer support. These service specialties stem from its extensive experience in customization, making it the perfect partner – especially when it comes to high-volume, complex projects.
As a result, clients esteem it for its outstanding prototype engineering. “If our customers do not have a schematic or design, we can create one for them based on their vision,” says Tammy Wersal, Chief Operating Officer.
MNSTAR engineers visit clients’ facilities to establish the exact needs, demands, and specifications of a design before drawing up the architecture. “We offer that specialty, whether it’s crawling around in the helm of a boat or taking measurements for harnesses for a cab vehicle for agriculture and utility. I do not think other wire harness manufacturers do this,” Wersal adds.
Adding to precision engineering and the five in-depth quality checkpoints that each unit must pass, every electric wire harness is individually tested for quality and safety. In addition, MNSTAR stores every test report for easy retrieval should clients request copies or have queries.
After the company’s three decades in the business, Chief Executive Officer George Klus and his partners bought MNSTAR Group Highland Holdings, LLC two years ago. Klus made a name for himself as the owner of several companies in the healthcare industry.
“I started networking with many different business leaders in my area of Minnesota. I discovered many people, aged sixty and older, who’d been phased out of jobs and were looking for new ones. It was harder for them to find a job at their age,” he says. “And most were in manufacturing.
“So, one day, I said to myself, ‘OK – we’re going to look at manufacturing companies and get into manufacturing. And we’re going to hire leaders over the age of sixty.’ That doesn’t mean that we don’t hire younger people, because of course we do,” he says. “But looking at it as a way to go out and explore a new industry that I hadn’t been involved with has been a breath of fresh air for me.”
His passion for business is tangible. “I love to build and grow companies. I don’t buy companies for a lifestyle. I buy them because I see opportunities to give back, provide employment, and build products in the wire harness industry that I’m enjoying learning about. It’s a lot of fun. And it’s fun to do something new at this point in my life.”
Klus says that appointing the correct leadership is vital to success. Because, as each client-related industry evolves, the specifications and applications for harnesses also change. For this reason, leaders who know how to adapt and can lead the company to adapt to the constant market evolution are essential for MNSTAR’s own evolution.
And now the hard work is paying off. Wire Harness News Magazine recently featured MNSTAR on the cover, alongside a five-page spread introducing the entire world of electric wire harnesses to the inner workings of its industry-leading outfit.
“This was significant, high-profile publicity for us. We were at the expo, and it was handed out to all the people that came. Great publicity and marketing,” says Wersal. Fox Business Channel’s Manufacturing Marvels also featured MNSTAR on an episode not long ago, giving it yet another deserved moment in the limelight.
Diagram of a healthy culture
Cultivating a healthy company culture is one of the leadership team’s top priorities. To this end, it implemented flexi-time schedules alongside wage increases ranging from just under 10 percent to around 30 percent based on skill levels, which made a world of difference to the annual income of the staff.
“We’re very flexible with working schedules if the staff gets their jobs done. They didn’t have benefits before. So, when George came on, one of the first things he changed was to offer a full benefits package for our employees. We also did wage increases for them. We want them to know we value them. We take care of them. We’re like family here,” says Wersal.
Big-hearted giving rules at MNSTAR. Its open-door policy means that staff always have a shoulder and know that they are free to discuss any issues with management. “We will make exceptions with our employees and help them out any way we can,” Wersal says.
Working at MSTAR has become a lot of fun, too with everyone chipping in with good cheer while building new traditions. Like the employee-of-the-month celebrations that allow everyone to acknowledge in-house stars for sterling work, while birthday pizza lunches on the first Friday of each month bring everyone together to celebrate colleagues’ birthdays.
MNSTAR also implemented an employee committee with access to a brand new, dedicated fund provided by the firm for parties and other staff events and extends its generosity to the rest of its communities.
The company pays every staff member for eight hours of community service away from work. “We want our people to be active in the community, and we want our community to know who we are. We constantly ask our community how we can help,” says Klus.
One such exciting project the company recently supported is the Judy Garland hundredth birthday posthumous celebrations at the local museum on June 10. The event honored this iconic figure from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, who rose to stardom when she debuted as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz.
Its support of this big day is just one of the many ways in which MNSTAR shows its commitment to its people and those of the area. “My philosophy when I bought this company is that I would never move it. It belongs in this community because this is the community that supported it. This is the community where the workers are from. We will build our business in this community. And so, we want to be a part of this community,” he says.
Caring about community
This commitment to the community reflects in the warmth and hospitality extended to visitors to MNSTAR. From industry partners to fabricators, trades students, and community members, Wersal is known for taking visitors on tours of its facilities.
The company also welcomes students from establishments like North Dakota State University and other tertiary institutions who want to spend their summers gaining work experience in its manufacturing plants.
MNSTAR Group’s membership of the local Chamber of Commerce means that it gets to offer its support for the September golf tournament where it sponsors the chamber dinner and more. The list of organizations that benefit from its largesse is as long as it’s varied, including Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, Food Shelf, United Way, and scores of others.
A plan for growth
Touching on their plans to double the company’s footprint soon, the two leaders allude to a brand-new facility being in the pipeline. But, since the writer’s request for more information was met with only a twinkle and a smile, it seems likely that further info on this impressive new project will have to wait for a later edition. So the suspense is real!
Current expansion plans are not a secret, however. The intention is to increase staff numbers from forty-five to around sixty by the end of 2022.
With staff morale at an all-time high, one can imagine that many would love to join such a stalwart team. Wersal’s praise for MNSTAR people could hardly be higher:
“We have a great pool of loyal employees who are passionate about their jobs. They are a close-knit little family. They love to make sure that everything is up to standard and that they produce a very high-quality product. They take great pride in that,” she says.
Naturally, the team also shows great pride in the company’s growth, and MNSTAR Group continues to invest in the latest in artificial intelligence and similar technology that will support its goal of growth. As market changes unfold, MNSTAR Group’s star remains on the rise.