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Terry DeVine column: Fargo's Cardinal IG plant a model of efficiency

Dave Pinder, plant manager at Cardinal IG in Fargo, walks the floor of his 360,000-square-foot plant daily, greeting each of Cardinal's 275 employees. He knows all of them by name.

Dave Pinder, plant manager at Cardinal IG in Fargo, walks the floor of his 360,000-square-foot plant daily, greeting each of Cardinal's 275 employees. He knows all of them by name.

He starts work early, just like he did when he was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and generally stays around so he can talk to the people on each of the insulating glass plant's three shifts. Employee morale is important to him and he's genuinely concerned about the lives of each of his employees.

Got a problem, call Pinder. His open-door policy allows employees to march into his office at any time.

"They can call me 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," says Pinder, who also knows the names of each of his employees' spouses and their children. Is it any wonder Cardinal IG is a model of employee loyalty?

The company also is a model of cultural diversity. More than 50 percent of his well-paid employees are new Americans, coming from 16 different countries.


Performance is rewarded in spades. Cardinal IG, one of 23 glass plants across America owned principally by Milbank, S.D., native Roger O'Shaugnessy, has a goal-oriented profit-sharing plan. Each month employees can earn an additional 52 percent of their pay if goals are met -

38 percent in cash and 14 percent in a 401(k) contribution. More often than not, employees pick up most of the extra cash.

Cardinal Glass Industries opened in 1967 with 12 employees and $250,000 in annual sales. Today the corporation employs 4,500 people and has annual sales of $1.1 billion.

Pinder, a member of the West Point Class of 1986 and a major of artillery in the Desert Shield campaign against Iraq back in the early 1990s, was plucked from the military after 12 years by O'Shaugnessy. The Cardinal president has hired several academy graduates to run his plants. He likes their leadership abilities.

Pinder hired Mike Arntson as his production manager. The Bowbells, N.D., native is a member of the West Point Class of 1992.

The Fargo plant, which sends 90 percent of its product to Marvin Windows, opened in July of 1998 in a 140,000-square-foot facility. Two subsequent additions have expanded the plant to 360,000 square feet.

Pinder's operation runs with military efficiency. He delegates great responsibility to team leaders on each shift, who meet in the "War Room" to talk about the day's goals.

"Welcome to the best IG plant in the world," announces a sign in the lobby. "Play like a champion today," "We're the best in the world."


"I have a work force that would stay until the job is done, no matter the challenge," says the well-conditioned Pinder, who was a wrestler at West Point. "That's how dedicated they are. They'll do anything I ask without hesitation."

Pinder has a trusting relationship with the Marvin family of Warroad, Minn., and sings their praises daily. He talks frequently with Jake Marvin, CEO of Marvin Windows, and other members of the Marvin management team.

"They've trusted us with all of their business," says Pinder. "They put all of their eggs in our basket and we have this huge responsibility to them. We've simply got to be the very best in the world at everything we do. That's our credo."

Performance and safety are stressed. The plant runs three shifts around-the-clock, shutting down at 10:30 p.m. Friday for preventative maintenance on its expensive equipment, then coming back on line at 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

Employees have designed much of the equipment themselves. Pinder calls maintenance manager Mark Buiskar, another Milbank native, like O'Shaugnessy, "a genius."

There are four manufacturing lines on each shift and first-line supervisors on each shift. Right now three of those lines make glass, which comes from Cardinal's plant in Menominee, Wis. Soon there will be five lines.

The $20 million Cardinal IG plant has had only one lost time accident in the last three years.

Product is moved relentlessly, four daily semi-tractor-trailer loads to Marvin's plant in Grafton, N.D., four truckloads a day to Marvin's Integrity plant in Fargo and two truckloads each day to the Marvin plant in Ripley, Tenn.


Cardinal warranties its insulated glass for 20 years and Pinder believes the product will last the life of any building in which it is installed - 50 to 100 years.

Pinder rewards employee proficiency with monthly and annual awards. There are 30 team leaders and Team Leader of the Year in 2003 was Muamer Hajric, 25, a native of Bosnia, who has worked for Cardinal for 4½ years. Fellow employees select the award recipients.

Cardinal doesn't advertise for employees. Word of mouth produces a steady stream of applicants for vacancies. In many cases, more than one member of a family works at the plant.

Every new employee gets a copy of a "Leadership" manual written by Pinder. The 67-page manual covers every possible aspect of leadership and what employees must do to become proficient at it and advance. It's impressive.

"I enjoy what I do so much," says Pinder, who seldom wears a tie to work. "I look forward to coming to work every day. It's a truly wonderful organization."

Employees echo Pinder's sentiments.

Readers can reach Terry DeVine at (701) 241-5515 or tdevine@forumcomm.com

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