Ajax Again Earns Top 150 Workplace Honors

Ajax Again Earns Top 150 Workplace Honors

“Even today, with all that’s going on around us that we can’t control, our colleagues continue to make Ajax a great place to work.”
– Kent Djubek, Ajax President

“There are plenty of well-run companies here in Minnesota that are really good places to work.  Our Top 150 Workplaces recognition places us among them. We’re honored,” said Ajax President Kent Djubek.

“Although we’re not always perfect, neither are we satisfied with being average. Through a continuous effort to improve, we can unleash our potential as individuals and as a company. In that way, Ajax will remain a great place to work.”

Ajax has been recognized as a Star Tribune Top Workplaces company each year since 2014.

To qualify for the Star Tribune Top Workplaces, a company must have more than 50 employees in Minnesota. Nearly 3,000 companies were invited to participate.

Star Tribune Publisher Michael J. Klingensmith said, “The companies in the Star Tribune Top 150 Workplaces deserve high praise for creating the very best work environments in the state of Minnesota. My congratulations to each of these exceptional companies.” 

View the complete Top Workplaces list here.

Ajax Workforce Unites Behind “Essential” Status

Ajax Workforce Unites Behind “Essential” Status

Minneapolis, April 13, 2020 – Kent Djubek, president of Ajax Metal Forming Solutions, has seen a lot in his 30 years at the company. But what he sees now from his Ajax coworkers is unique. “I’m just so impressed with this workforce, and so appreciative,” Kent said. “They’re clearly inspired to keep producing parts despite what’s going on.”

What’s going on is unprecedented in the company’s 75-year history. On March 19, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issued its Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.  It reads in part:

“If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, defined by the Department of Homeland Security . . . you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”

The Memorandum spells out the industry DHS definitions.  Among them:

“Critical Manufacturing – Workers necessary for manufacturing materials and products needed for medical supply chains, transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture . . . “

And:

“Transportation and Logistics – Employees supporting or enabling transportation functions, including dispatchers, maintenance and repair technicians, warehouse workers . . .

Kent quickly realized his company would fit the DHS critical infrastructure definition. Ajax makes parts for companies that manufacture essential products in climate control, transportation, architecture, construction, auxiliary power, and related industries.  The lights would stay on.

But that coin has two sides. The first was a mild sense of relief. Ajax has never closed its doors since the company’s founding at the end of World War II. A government-ordered shut-down, even if temporary, would have been hard to bear.

Then there’s the chilling side to the DHS edict. Coronavirus is a nasty bug. Death is unlikely, but it’s happening all too often, seemingly at random. Ajax people would now stay on the job while most Minnesotans remain safely at home through May 4, as ordered Wednesday by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.

In response, the Ajax maintenance team modified and intensified the company’s already-rigorous daily cleaning schedule. Daily reminders for each shift help keep safety measures like hand washing and social distancing front and center in everyone’s minds. Protective gear is widely distributed. 

But that’s playing defense. Those efforts yield no guarantee. Regardless of what his team does, Kent’s colleagues at Ajax might fall ill. What’s more, as Ajax people commute to and from the plant, they will need to stop for gas and supplies. That means more interaction, more public touchpoints, more risk.  Ajax colleagues would need to be courageous.

So Kent is staying positive. “We have contingency plans in place,” he said. “If the country’s economic picture darkens, we have the resources to support our colleagues and their families. Heartland Equity, our ownership partner, has our back on this.  Our financial footing is solid. We’re fortunate in that regard.”

Brandon Holmes, Ajax Production Manager, said that spirits remain high on the plant floor. “I can tell that our colleagues are proud of their designation as an essential supplier, he said. “Everyone seems happy to be working. We know we’re making a difference.”

Brandon said that communicating with coworkers before and after shifts is vital. “We share safety ideas and any new information from the CDC. We also go over the extreme-sounding information we pick up on the news or social media and set priorities. So far, we’ve made the right moves.”

Tom Ahonen, Chairman of Heartland Equity Partners, a mission-based private equity firm and an Ajax co-owner, said in a letter to the entire company that his firm would continue to support Ajax operations and colleagues through this crisis.

“As we navigate this crazy and unprecedented time together, I want my Ajax colleagues to know that my partners and I are grateful for your hard work, commitment, and spirit,” he said. “We are in this for the long haul, and shutting down isn’t good for our customers, our suppliers, or you. Together we’ll get through this season and come out the other side stronger.”

Kent agrees. “I am so very thankful that our colleagues here at Ajax are showing great courage despite unavoidable adverse conditions,” he said. “With a team like this, success is not merely possible; it’s likely.”

More content is available on the Ajax Metal Forming Solutions blog. Please visit www.ajaxmfs.com/ajax-news.

About Ajax Metal Forming Solutions

Ajax Metal Forming Solutions is an ISO 9001:2015 manufacturer that produces engineered parts for companies in climate control, transportation, architecture, auxiliary power, engineered products, and related industries. The company’s diverse ownership group includes 3rd generation family members, key company leaders, and Heartland Equity Partners, a mission-based private equity company. Ajax employs about 75 colleagues at the company’s Minneapolis campus. Visit Ajax at www.ajaxmfs.com.

About Heartland Equity Partners

Heartland Equity Partners is a Midwest investment fund focused on value creation through a process of investment, growth, and long-term retention. The fund invests in successful Upper Midwest manufacturing, value-added distribution, and business services companies that demonstrate stability and profitable growth opportunities.  Visit Heartland Equity Partners at www.heartland.fund.

Download PDF

Ajax a Top Workplace Five Years Running

Ajax a Top Workplace Five Years Running

Ajax Metal Forming of Minneapolis, MN picked up another StarTribune Top Workplaces honor for 2019. That’s five and counting.


StarTribune Top Workplaces recognition is no small thing. It tells people that our company cares about our employees. It gets our name out there via a major metropolitan newspaper. More importantly, it means that our people think Ajax is a swell place to work.

We like that. A lot. It’s the kind of humbling endorsement that goes far beyond industry awards (we like those too, BTW).

If you’ve never run a business, you may not appreciate just how important your people are to the success of your company. When people think highly of the company they work for, they’re more effective at their jobs. Customers sense that right away.

Ajax is celebrating our 75th anniversary this year. We’ll continue to do what it takes to remain one of the top employers in the Twin Cities area. The future of our company depends on having great people in every role.

Ajax Metal Forming Solutions Again Named 2018 Top 150 Workplaces

Ajax Metal Forming Solutions Again Named 2018 Top 150 Workplaces

Ajax Metal Forming Solutions, a Heartland Equity Partners company, has once again been named one of the Top 150 Workplaces in Minnesota by the Star Tribune newspaper.

“Ajax Metal Forming has received the Star Tribune Top 150 Workplaces award for four consecutive years,” said Ajax Vice President Don Wellman. “Our workplace colleagues, managers and owners are committed to providing a safe, productive and rewarding work environment. We are honored to receive this recognition.”

Left to right – Ajax Metal Forming Collegues Tiffany Schluter, Don Wellman, Kent Djubek, Brandon Holmes, and Curt Jasper along with Tom Ahonen of Heartland Equity Partners.

Star Tribune Publisher Michael J. Klingensmith said, “The companies in the Star Tribune Top 150 Workplaces deserve high praise for creating the very best work environments in the state of Minnesota. My congratulations to each of these exceptional companies.”

Download Press Release

#winwithculture – Ajax gives our colleagues passion, purpose, and a keen understanding of how important they are to everything we do.

Forming A Citizen

Forming A Citizen

The path to American citizenship is neither fast nor easy.  It’s not supposed to be.  Find out how the Ajax HR department helped make an employee’s dream possible.

Read Article

Forming Ajax Careers, Now And In The Future

Forming Ajax Careers, Now And In The Future

“We’re building a deep bench,” said Ajax Director of Operations Curt Jasper. No, Curt wasn’t talking about a company softball team. This busy manufacturing company needs multi-skilled people who can step into pretty much any role on the plant floor as needed and perform well.

As leader of Ajax’s talent management effort, Curt has been innovating new ways to build his workforce since he joined Ajax four years ago. He and Administrative Assistant Courtney Mickelson have devoted huge amounts of time and energy towards the people side of the business.

“It’s all about managing talent. We’ve examined every corner of our business looking for ways to improve our career focus,” Curt said. “Every organization has practices they need to get better at, including us. But we wanted to avoid becoming too inwardly-focused.

”The Ajax team is proactively learning how to grow the company’s talent pool by volunteering on local organizations’ boards or discussion panels to understand colleague and employer issues.“ We always look for new avenues to approach our next career objective,” Curt said.

The Company’s #1 Talent Builder – The Skills Matrix

Curt Jasper and Courtney Mickelson devote huge amounts of time and energy to the people side of the business.

Ajax Plant Manager Brandon Holmes is a perfect example of how development programs can identify and grow talented people quickly. Brandon joined Ajax in 2007 and worked his way up through production, fabrication, logistics, and management roles to become the company’s newest Plant Manager.

Brandon is a credentialed Class A Journeyworker whose professional development includes creating, attending, and instructing the M-Powered manufacturing program at Hennepin Technical College and the sheet metal program at Anoka Technical College, both in Minneapolis. Brandon has completed coursework in lean manufacturing and six sigma process improvement and is a Certified Professional Project Manager (CPPM).

The Ajax Skills Matrix is a color-coded grid that shows a composite of production skills needed and mastered by members of the Ajax workforce. This at-a-glance talent management tool, posted prominently in the company break room, inspires workforce members to learn new skills and become the multi-skilled team that boosts production efficiency. Managers can also assess the available skills at any given time and contrast that to the production schedule, enabling them to quickly identify and correct any future gaps.

Benefits To Workforce and Customers Alike

Ajax Production Manager Brandon Holmes

Put yourself in the Ajax customer’s shoes (if you already have, thank you!) and imagine you’ve just handed off a critical project on a tight timeline. Wouldn’t you be happy to know the many ways the Skills Matrix improves performance on your project? Here are just a few examples:

  • Increased workforce competency and greater personal commitment to your project’s success.
  • Greater management understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of people assigned to your project.
  • Increased production capacity and efficiency through earlier detection of skills shortages.
  • Improved recruitment efficiency through hiring and training people with backgrounds in areas of need.
  • Better project planning based on the projected availability of skilled people.
  • More consistency and stability, keeping the company, and your projects, moving forward.
  • Better product quality and reduced production bottlenecks.
  • Inspires workforce members to build their talents because the company’s steady growth yields new career opportunities.

It Starts At The Top

The Skills Matrix only works when company management is committed to seeing it through and keeping it embedded in the minds of people at all levels of the company. Vice President of Sales Don Wellman said the Skills Matrix must become part of the Ajax core culture. “It starts with us,” he said. “Management needs to prioritize the Skills Matrix in order to get the most from it.”

Don said once people begin to see the benefits of the Skills Matrix, the cultural embedding gets easier.  “The good news is that everyone can see how well it works,” Don said. “That gives the entire Skills Matrix project plenty of momentum to keep it rolling forward.”