Alumnus Pays it Forward: Business Operations Class Tours MN’s Largest Paper Converting Plant

Posted by on October 24, 2013

Minnesota School of Business-Blaine (MSB) students in Business Program Chair Dave Erickson’s Operations Management class recently made “graphic news” by touring an up-and-coming paper conversion, brokerage, and distribution business in Anoka. Patriot Converting, Inc., has grown to be the largest of its kind in Minnesota.

The tour gave the business students a chance to learn and see firsthand how a small business operates.

business program

MSB-Blaine Business Program Chair, Dave Erickson, with this Operations Management class.

The company is one of three paper converting companies that offers a large format sheet size of over 100” in length, and has designs on further expansion in the Midwest in the near future.

Company Executive Vice President Michael Stillwell, who happens to be a 2011 graduate of the business program at MSB-Blaine, said the 25-employee operation fits a strategic role in the state’s $6.2 billion printing industry (second only to agriculture) by converting gigantic rolls of paper from mills across the globe into usable paper configurations for printers serving a range of small to large business clients across the nation and world.

Patriot today has evolved since 2003 into a unique blend of printing conversion that pairs its core business of cutting and distributing paper sizes and shapes with Midwest Paper, Inc., a brokerage business that Stillwell created in 2009 while still a business student at MSB. He eventually partnered it with the larger firm to serve a unique place of conversion in the printing industry.

“We use a good team approach among our management and staff to act as a key middle cog in the whole operation of producing, preparing and shipping customized, cut paper products to the printers and their end-user clients,” Stillwell said. “We always err on the side of quality.”

The business students learned that the plant holds up to four million pounds of milled paper in giant rolls, can respond to urgent customer requests in less than 12 hours, and fills orders on a three-day notice. Patriot Converting, Inc., performs a range of critical operations functions in a relatively small, 24,000-square-foot plant and warehouse on the northeast side of Anoka.

Due to their success, the company was asked by corporate giant Walter G. Anderson last year to partner with its operation in Iowa for large-quantity, quick turn-around carton manufacturing and what Patriot can provide as a necessity—just-in-time paper conversions.

“Patriot can facilitate that need in Iowa as a highly value-added and related service,” Stillwell further explained.

“Our class was impressed with the amount of information it received in the operational advantages this business provides for customers, including providing products just-in-time when needed, at the right price and place, in order for the end users to use them in their businesses,” Erickson said following the tour. “We were also appreciative for the time and attention the firm gave us, and we hope to return in the future to see the additional progress they will make as a successful small business operation.”

Written by Dave Erickson, Minnesota School of Business-Blaine Business Program Chair


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