Up to the challenge: Lisa Sparks

What is that phrase they always say? “The grass is always greener…” While that’s not always the case, at Steffes, we believe in each employee’s professional development and that we work best when we work together. We believe the grass is truly greener here. And Lisa Sparks, production planner for our Grand Forks West facility, would agree.

Lisa had been serving in a similar role for another company when she was notified the company had been purchased. Production and distribution activities were to relocate to Illinois, and, as the experienced manager of those two areas, she was asked to transfer to the new facility. She knew the move just wouldn’t be right for her and her family, so she made the choice to retire early.

While she enjoyed her free time, Lisa felt she was destined to come back to work, but only if it were for the perfect opportunity. “I knew I needed a new challenge; I just wasn’t sure what that would be,” she said. “During my interview at Steffes, I was truly impressed with the core values that were displayed on the wall as I toured the facility. I also appreciated the transparency of the challenges I would be facing.”

Lisa has served as the production planner at the Grand Forks West facility for nearly two years now. She was hired to plan contract manufacturing activities, and after about five months of success in that role, she tacked on flare production planning, too. Her duties now encompass all production planning for Grand Forks West.

“Each day has new challenges,” she said. “Planning two value streams is a balancing act with ever-changing priorities and complications from every angle, and I truly enjoy it.”

Lisa’s favorite project has focused on the phasing out of Kanban cards in her facility. A Kanban card is a tool used to track components of production and progress in manufacturing. Steffes recently transitioned to a more efficient alternative called ‘Epicor,’ and it has been working swimmingly. “We have eliminated the Kanban cards for flare production entirely,” Lisa said. “It was a complete team effort. Because of the success in flares, we are now moving to remove the cards from contract manufacturing, as well… All of Grand Forks West will be Kanban-free for production parts in the near future.”

Lisa has been able to pass on her invaluable knowledge through Steffes’ pledge to ensure professional development opportunities for its employees. “I was asked to help train other planners! I’ve really enjoyed this new opportunity, paying close attention to their learning styles to ensure they can retain the information that is covered in the training once it’s complete.”

What’s the best part about the work Lisa does? Well, it’s the team. “People go above and beyond to help other areas,” she said. Although everyone has their own duties and deadlines, Steffes employees are dedicated to working together to find the best solutions and get the job done well. “We are committed to making the entire company successful,” she continued.

Hailing from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, Lisa and her husband, Tim, live in rural Grand Forks with their two dogs, Odin and Baron. They have three grown children – Ashley, Alexa, and Zach – and three grandchildren named Ellie, Cade, and Isla. Lisa spends her free time enjoying the company of her family, gardening, reading, or perhaps taking in a documentary.