Benchmark Site Profile – Winona and Rochester, Minnesota

by Bruce Wessels / December 14, 2023

The Benchmark Site Profile is an ongoing blog highlighting engineering and operations teams worldwide. This month features our two outstanding engineering and manufacturing sites in Minnesota —Winona and Rochester.

Welcome to Benchmark Minnesota

The birth of Benchmark Minnesota came in 1996 when Benchmark acquired EMD Associates located in Winona, Minnesota. 11 years later, Benchmark continued its expansion with the acquisition of Pemstar, including the Rochester, Minnesota facility. Together, these sites make for a key, strategic U.S. engineering and manufacturing hub for Benchmark in the northwest (as well as one of the foundations for Benchmark’s growing U.S. footprint).

Benchmark Minnesota is home to two of our outstanding U.S.-based joint engineering and manufacturing sites specializing in medical technologies, aerospace, defense, complex industrials, and next-gen communications. The two facilities are defined by more than 1,100 team members with an average tenure of nearly 12 years, attributed in great part to a company dedicated to promoting from within, up-leveling staff, and providing numerous opportunities to grow. By offering additional engineering services located in Arden Hills, Minnesota, Benchmark could be closer to its Twin Cities customers. Our employees are dedicated to—and motivated by—the life-saving products we help our customers build within high-complexity and mission-critical industries.

The Rochester and Winona Difference

Due in great part to our unique level of engagement and communication, Benchmark Minnesota is a preferred provider to our esteemed customers. Here, our customers have direct access to our leadership teams. We maintain an open-door policy with customers to work quickly through challenges and discuss various strategies. We also ensure that customers have considerable insight into project progress, have online access to project details, and can monitor progress in real-time through our proprietary process feedback system (PFS).

Our team’s customer support—combined with a deep level of expertise across the following disciplines and capabilities—keeps customers repeatedly coming back to work with us on complex, mission-critical technology solutions:

Our work has led to multiple customer awards, including a quality excellence award in 2022 and numerous recognitions from a key medical customer due to solving key challenges on a particularly complex product. We also have multiple customers with relationships that span well over 20 years.

Going Above and Beyond

One of the driving factors behind our Minnesota teams is our deep understanding and appreciation for the criticality of our work, especially regarding life-saving medical device applications. Benchmark is always willing to step up to the plate whenever our customers are in need, going above and beyond to help you achieve your goals.

Strategic, Responsive Support

When one of our customers, a medical original equipment manufacturer (OEM), was suddenly subjected to an unannounced onsite audit by the FDA, they immediately called their Benchmark manufacturing program manager. Our customer requested that Benchmark provide all the parametric data directly related to manufacturing a specific vintage complex medical system we built for them.

We went straight to work. Within 30 minutes of hanging up the phone, Benchmark had transmitted all the parametric data to the customer. This swift action allowed our customer to immediately show the data to the FDA while they were still on site. Our fast response contributed to the customer successfully demonstrating compliance with the FDA without findings. 

Thankfully, our PFS system (which we developed in-house) provides accurate component traceability, so we were able to respond quickly. As customers and regulators who have audited Benchmark have attested, other companies claim to have this level of traceability but only Benchmark truly has this capability.

Solving Unique Challenges to Meet FDA Requirements

Another example of our expediency came when a long-term customer needed to overcome several hurdles with the FDA. They had recently received a warning letter and had been in court with the FDA for a year. When they decided to move the program outside to solve these ongoing issues, they turned to Benchmark due to our long history together and our proven ability to help our customers solve unique challenges to meet industry requirements.

Within 30 days of moving the program to Benchmark, we were up and running, earning high praise from  our customer and obtaining closure of the issue by the FDA.


Uplifting Our Community

Globally, Benchmark holds our core values close to heart. One value that shines through in Minnesota is our care and compassion for each other, our customers, and our community. At Benchmark Minnesota, our more than 1,000 local team members support us daily, helping to bring innovative solutions to our customers. We are, therefore, honored to give back in many ways, including:

  • Organizing a food drive for local families
  • Organizing a fundraiser to collect school supplies for local children
  • Sponsoring a holiday even for Hiawatha Homes (a local organization that builds homes for families in need)
  • Sponsoring a Minnesota State College Southeast scholarship that helped to raise over $2 million and send future engineers to school

Benchmark Minnesota is also actively working to reduce our carbon footprint. We strive to improve our sustainable practices and encourage more environmentally healthy facilities. The company launched our inaugural Benchmark Environmental Challenge to pursue this effort. This internal global competition aimed to reduce our environmental impact and align our ongoing efforts, enhancing transparency around our global environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and sustainability efforts.

 We are overjoyed to recognize our Minnesota team for coming third in the competition while competing against Benchmark’s global facilities network.

Some of the specific actions we took included:

  • Replacing rooftop unit (RTUs) of our heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system with more energy-efficient ones to reduce electricity usage
  • Replacing vintage surface mount technology (SMT) line equipment with more energy-efficient equipment to reduce electricity usage and increase output.
  • Replacing exhaust fans with variable frequency drives (VFD) on HVAC applications (fans and centrifugal pumps) to reduce electricity usage
  • Reducing air leaks to reduce compressor run time and reduce electricity usage
  • Reducing heating and cooling due to dock leveler seals, ultimately decreasing electricity usage

Benchmark Minnesota—Expertise and Dedication

Benchmark Minnesota's team blends deep expertise across industries with critical capabilities to consistently delight our customers. Our dedication extends beyond professional services, reaching the community through meaningful contributions and ongoing support. We are a close-knit community, serving our customers and supporting each other with unwavering commitment. This culture ensures our people stay with us for the long haul.

We invite you to learn more about Benchmark’s Minnesota facilities and to explore our global network of engineering and manufacturing locations. 


Manufacturing Design & Engineering

about the author

Bruce Wessels

Bruce Wessels is the General Manager of Benchmark Rochester and Benchmark Winona facilities in Minnesota where he is responsible for site operations leveraging Benchmark’s on-site design engineering team while managing operational excellence, quality, and optimized global supply chain solutions to deliver world-class design and manufacturing services. These services support dozens of customers across the Complex Industrial, Medical, Commercial Aerospace, Defense, and Advanced Computing and Communications industries.

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