Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Profile / Jerry Keimig:
A plant manager whose roots run deep

Jerry Keimig:
A plant manager whose roots run deep

3M Co.’s Rochester plant is a long stretch from the farm of Jerry Keimig’s youth. Yet this farm boy turned manufacturing plant manager finds fertile ground in the industrial flatlands of Mt. Read Boulevard, where his field these days is strictly high-tech: The Rochester facility makes graphic arts, X-ray and polyester printing-plate films.
Farm metaphors keep cropping up, though.
“He’s got more horsepower between his ears than most people I’ve met,” says Daniel Davis, a colleague from Keimig’s early years at 3M.
That horsepower has driven Keimig up the ranks at 3M over the past 21 years, from shift worker at a South Dakota plant to production manager for two of the firm’s top product lines to plant manager here in Rochester.
Headquartered in St. Paul, 3M is a rambling conglomerate with operations in 38 states and nearly 60 countries. Post-it notes and Scotch brand tape are among the firm’s high-profile products; the information, imaging and electronic sector–of which the Rochester plant is a part–accounts for nearly one-third of total company sales and some 13 percent of net income.
In 1994, sales rose 2.5 percent to $4.6 billion for the information, imaging and electronic sector, up from $4.5 billion the previous year. Profits climbed 7.6 percent to $292 million from $271 million in 1993.
Keimig is tight-lipped about sales and profitability of the local operation, which is part of the sector’s printing and publishing division. The plant lost a major customer last year, he notes, but is recovering from that blow. This year’s strategic outlook is solid in terms of sales and volume, he adds.
Along with its manufacturing operation, the Rochester plant includes research facilities for silver haloid technologies. A $10 million expansion of the 300,000-square-foot plant, set to be fully operational by early 1996, will house new technology to sharpen the plant’s competitive edge, Keimig says.
Since stepping into the top spot nearly four years ago, Keimig has led his 400 workers through the throes of changing technology, which brings ever-shorter life cycles for products in an intensely competitive market. And, like leaders of other Rochester firms, Keimig must deal with the sometimes painful process of streamlining: In November, 60 contract workers were cut from the plant’s work force.
A stocky man with dark, piercing eyes, Keimig initially strikes an intimidating pose. His deep, rasping voice accentuates that impression. Judy Keimig, his wife, tells how years ago he had to speak in falsetto to their young niece, who cried in fear when she heard his normal voice.
Yet intimidation is the antithesis of Keimig’s management style.
Before Keimig arrived on the scene, for example, managers had a separate parking lot from other plant employees. Now, one lot fits all.
He greets each employee by name on his frequent rounds through the plant. Indeed, Keimig views one-on-one communication as a critical part of his job.
“You’ve really got to listen to your people,” he says. “No idea is dumb, because you never know where that quantum leap in being competitive is going to come from.”
With one of the plant’s largest rivals–Eastman Kodak Co.–only a few miles away, competition is never far from Keimig’s mind.
“A short product life cycle will drive a lot of change very quickly in an organization, because you have to bring in new equipment, new methods, and you’re required to do a lot of training very quickly,” he says.
“We have to change very rapidly. In order to do that, people have to know, have to understand and have to link with the business objectives and common goals. The only way you can accomplish that is to help them understand the business and communicate as much information as possible.”
Sharing information was a part of Keimig’s management philosophy even in his earliest days as a 3M supervisor.
“He’s always been straight up, direct and open,” says Davis, a product development specialist at 3M’s research and development center in St. Paul, who has known Keimig since the late 1970s.
“You know exactly what he’s thinking and why he’s thinking it. He’s just taken that skill from four people to a plant of several hundred.”
The eldest of five children, Keimig grew up in Estelline, S.D., a small farming community on the banks of the Big Sioux River. Though bucolic, the area struggled through periods of drought and economic hardship. That experience convinced Keimig at an early age that his future lay beyond the region’s furrowed fields.
In high school, he worked nights and weekends at Karlsbeck Manufacturing, a maker of farm and livestock equipment. Certified as a welder and blacksmith soon after high school, Keimig stayed on at Karlsbeck, taking a two-year break in 1969 to study engineering at South Dakota State University in Brookings.
In the early 1970s, Karlsbeck began downsizing. Sensing that the end was near, Keimig landed a job at 3M’s Brookings plant in 1974. His timing was right: Karlsbeck folded six months later.
Keimig’s entry-level job at the plant, which manufactured surgical products, was in production.
“But I wasn’t interested in production work and shift work the rest of my life,” he says. “The only way to get out of that was to finish my education.”
3M picked up the tab for Keimig’s part-time studies at South Dakota State, and in 1982 he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. That channeled him into process and industrial engineering jobs at the plant.
In the early 1980s, Keimig got his first up-close look at the total business cycle. As technical project supervisor for a new transthermal drug device, Keimig had hands-on experience with scale-up, production and marketing of the new product.
By now Keimig was ready to move beyond the Brookings operation. In 1984, he was promoted to department manager and transferred to 3M’s Hinsdale, Ill., plant on the outskirts of Chicago.
This was the first of many moves over the next decade.
“I never dreamt that we’d be leaving South Dakota,” says Judy Keimig, who met her husband in high school. “But he has a drive for success. He’s worked very hard to get where he is. He gives it 100 percent.”
Keimig usually leaves for work by 4:30 a.m., and rarely misses a Saturday or Sunday, she adds.
That commitment paid off. In 1988, Keimig was promoted to product manager of 3M’s videotape technologies, and the family moved to Hutchinson, Minn. Two years later, he transferred to another plant in Hutchinson and became product manager for the line of Scotch brand tape.
Keimig’s experience managing two of 3M’s top five product lines laid the foundation for his next move.
In 1991, Keimig was tapped to lead the Rochester operation as plant manager. And though assignments usually last three to five years, Keimig is not yet looking for a change.
“I’m at a point where I’d be considered for other opportunities,” he says. “But I’ve got enough challenges right now that I would choose to–if I were given the choice–to stay here another year or two.”
For now, the Keimigs live in Webster with their son John, 17, and daughter Jill, 23. When not occupied with 3M duties, Keimig crafts furniture, bowls and other objects in his garage cum woodworking shop.
Though not particularly eager to leave Rochester, Keimig says he’ll enjoy the chance to move again, to explore new territories. He tells the story of his grandfather, a German immigrant, who came to America by sailboat, crossed the country by horse-drawn wagon, converted a Model T to a truck, farmed with a tractor and bought a motorboat after he retired.
“About a year before he died–and I’ll never forget this–he told me this whole story, and he said: “I’ve seen a lot of change in transportation, and yesterday, I saw a man walk on the moon and come back to earth. Just imagine what you’re going to see.”’
Keimig adds: “He opened up the possibilities–just imagine.”

[Rochester Business Journal Profile, 4/14/95

x

Check Also

Loyalty programs – what you should know about compliance with the CPPA (access required)

From the straightforward “buy 9 smoothies, get 1 free,” to sophisticated frequent flyer programs, loyalty programs are a staple in ...

PathStone’s Skyview Park Apartments a model for big-box adaptive reuse (access required)

When Amy Casciani looked at the shuttered remnants of retail vitality on the former Irondequoit Mall complex a few years ...

Are cover letters really necessary? Hiring professionals have differing opinions (access required)

“I’m a hiring manager at a local company looking to fill several positions. I’ve noticed that about two-thirds of our ...

Investment acumen or inside information? (access required)

If you had known, in early 2020, that you might be working from home during a multi-year, global pandemic, would ...

Opining on Dick Vitale’s courage, more Bills nicknames, stadium names

By the time he finished delivering a motivational speech that would have made Knute Rockne proud, Dick Vitale looked like ...

The importance of female mentorship, leadership, and innovation in banking (access required)

In my 10 years at Tompkins and 35 cumulative years in the banking field, I’ve witnessed the industry undergo several ...

How not to set policy to reduce the price of gasoline (access required)

High gas prices in the U.S. cause a lot of pain for Americans every time they take their vehicles to ...

Highland Hospital Gala (access required)

This year’s casino-themed Highland Hospital Gala raised its second highest amount ever, with more than $650,000 gross net income thanks ...

Inflation: How did we get here and what can be done about it? (access required)

If you’re in your 50s - o.k. early 50s - you probably remember a time when a gallon of gas ...

Reflections on pediatrics, the pandemic, and the Golden Circle (access required)

Imagine this: Your business has been open for only five months and is doing really well. Revenue is higher than ...

Will 2022 be the year of the vacation home? (access required)

With some COVID-19 restrictions relaxing and others already lifted, the smell of tourism is in the air. Demand for leisure ...

Transition services valuable for aging population (access required)

What do you need to stay safe in your family home, even if your home is getting to be too ...

Elder transition planning: Family mediation for older adults & their loved ones (access required)

The journey of aging is rarely a smooth one. As older adults and their families face emotional, financial and health ...

Senior living communities consider how to be more diverse, inclusive, accessible (access required)

The nation’s senior population is the largest and most diverse in history, according to the most recent census data from ...

Why is inflation so scary for my retirement plan? (access required)

Over the past decade, investors experienced a best-case scenario of relatively low inflation and strong investment returns from both stocks ...

A thoroughbred racehorse whose impact was not lost on us

It seemed like a good deal at the time – a rattletrap Ford van with more than 100,000 miles on ...

Ensuring your financial plan can withstand negative conditions  (access required)

Financial plans differ based on individuals’ incomes, future goals, age and tolerance for risk, but often unconsidered in those plans ...

Boomerang employees: tips on how to welcome team members home (access required)

Every manager at every level has experienced it — that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach when one ...

Spring cleaning: Considering program sustainability (access required)

There has never been a better time to consider the sustainability of your program activities and take action to address ...

Financial advisors can guide through tough times (access required)

With the country facing rising inflation and interest rates, as well as the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and the war in ...

Are you discriminating against employees with caregiving responsibilities? (access required)

As the world enters year three of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has issued a warning ...

Rochester accelerates its pace to become top tech hub in America (access required)

Rochester is on its way to becoming a national hub for technology innovation. Experts predict that it has the highest ...

A simple game for investors: How would you play? (access required)

Some years ago, financial author and advisor, Bill Schultheis, devised a simple game to illustrate the difficulty faced by investors ...

You need to improve your technology, but where do you start? (access required)

Technology is advancing at warp speed and certainly some innovations could benefit you and your company, but it’s easy to ...

Innovation advancements on display as Rochester continues to grow its technology ecosystem (access required)

From LIDROTEC, a company with patent-pending wafer dicing laser machines for the semiconductor industry to Stratio, which provides artificial intelligence ...

Milo the Dog has had a golden impact on Red Wings baseball, community

They had trained together five days a week for nearly six months in the backyard solitude of Josh Snyder’s rural ...

M&A middle-market activity: What businesses need to know (access required)

 Understanding the ins and outs, trends and activities going on in M&A markets can help businesses make informed decisions including ...

5 things to consider before deciding to work for yourself (access required)

When people ask me what I do, now that I’m out of television, I simply say, “I have my own ...

M&A lawyers keep busy despite pandemic barriers (access required)

2021 was a record-breaking year globally and nationally for mergers (combining two separate businesses into one new legal entity) and ...

Ending violent crime requires building trust between police, community (access required)

Rochester has recently been the recipient of many state, federal and private investments that create a true path for transformational ...

Former UR assistant Jay Wright continues working his hoops magic

Mike Neer likes to joke that he doesn’t get enough credit for helping Jay Wright become the best-dressed coach in ...

Four ways to prepare your business for the future of digital payments (access required)

Digital transformation continues to sweep the country — especially as more companies and their customers embrace digital payment technologies.Here are ...

Managing Our Manufacturing Plants in 2022 (access required)

There have been dramatic shifts in both the needs and the realities of manufacturing the United States over the past ...

“Rounding Errors” Can Add Up Quickly (access required)

It’s time to talk about time. For many employees, their lunch break is a time when they can step away ...

Just In Time production method becoming obsolete with supply chain issues (access required)

Just In Time (JIT) is a production method pioneered in the 1930s by Toyota Motor Corporation as a means to ...

Rochester firms embrace 3D printing for multiple purposes (access required)

Firms are using 3D printing to create unique tools, parts and other objects right here in Rochester, allowing for new ...

From mentee to mentor: the benefits mentorship provides for women in business (access required)

March marks Women’s History Month. It is a time to honor the strong, brave women who have broken down barriers, ...

Working across the ages: multigenerational teams offer multiple benefits (access required)

Quick: How long is the average career? If you guessed 40 years, you would’ve been right a few years ago. ...

Energy, dedication drive entrepreneurs at any age (access required)

Younger women who grew up with technology and worked in the gig economy may be more comfortable with the pace ...

Opining on Brandon Beane, SU hoops, a poor investment, baseball’s return

If you pressed me to rank the most indispensable Buffalo Bills of this glorious era, I’d go with quarterback Josh ...

Topics that don’t focus on COVID-19 for nonprofit leaders (access required)

For obvious reasons, COVID-19-19 and the many elements of disruption it has caused continue to dominate conversation at organizations of ...

March worldwide water, climate events are close to home (access required)

March marks two worldwide awareness events for the environment: World Water Day and Earth Hour. In Rochester, New York, these ...

Revisiting Art Schlichter’s sad tale of gambling addiction

Monday’s seismic news that Atlanta Falcons star receiver Calvin Ridley had been suspended for the 2022 season for betting on ...

Mentoring is an art passed from one generation to the next (access required)

Ahhh, what to say about the important art of mentoring? It is certainly an art and, in preparation for this ...

Protect intellectual property from the start (access required)

When it comes to intellectual property (IP), the old English idiom “penny wise and pound foolish” never goes out of ...

A loving team helped Chris Lillis ascend to Winter Olympic gold

Bernie Lillis points with pride to a framed photograph on the mantelpiece above the fireplace of his Fairport home. There ...

Three takeaways from Super Bowl ads to apply to marketing (access required)

Super Bowl ads deliver on a few recurring themes every year, and this year was no different. Whether it’s nostalgia ...

I Bonds: A rare bright spot for the income investor (access required)

Investors have a natural affinity for income-producing investments. A steady stream of investment income is comforting even if it is ...

What AG report on ‘credential stuffing’ hacks mean for your business (access required)

In January, New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report summarizing the findings of a broad investigation into so-called ...

Data privacy and security concerns with rise of online betting, gaming (access required)

As of January 8, 2022, New York State joined the ranks of more than a dozen states that have legalized ...

Potential headwinds are coming — what this means for your business (access required)

An abundance of liquidity and market exuberance in the world’s recovery from COVID-19 have made this a promising time for ...

Rochester’s Roland Williams hoping his Rams do it again

Eric Weddle is one of those feel-good stories that Rochester tight-end-turned-broadcaster Roland Williams has followed closely in recent weeks. Late ...

Two UR student-led ventures take top honors at statewide intercollegiate entrepreneurship competition  (access required)

The New York Business Plan Competition announced its 2022 Grand Prize winner, along with special prize winners at Venture NY, ...

Bello: Investment in tech, people, parks key for county future (access required)

Creating a vibrant and equitable Monroe County as a great place to live, work and raise a family can be ...

Evans’ budget prioritizes public safety, neighborhoods, economy (access required)

 The proposed city of Rochester budget includes a 9.6 percent increase in spending — with public safety, neighborhoods and economic ...