Meet the Osceola Production SupervisorsThe shared stories of moving up from assembler to supervisor
Osceola, WI, is roughly one hour east of Polaris’ headquarters in Medina, MN, located just over the state line into Wisconsin, at the top of the bluff overlooking the St. Croix River.
This plant, one of Polaris’ first, specializes in powertrain manufacturing and employs more than 450 people. A unique story can be found here in the Osceola plant: all eight production supervisors started on the production line as an assembler. Some started here nearly 30 years ago, some more recent – but all share the same story of following a manufacturing career path at Polaris.
“I believe that the production supervisors have one of the toughest, but most rewarding, jobs in the company,” says Chris A., Osceola’s plant director. He explains that the team truly understands what it takes for the larger team to be successful – crediting the group’s success to their commitment to collaboration, communication, camaraderie, and mutual accountability. “The respect they have of one another has allowed this team to make a positive difference each and every day. Because every one of them has worked on the line at one point in their careers, they have a real understanding of how to positively engage the team and a thorough knowledge of the products we build.”
In celebrating National Manufacturing Month, we’re sharing their collective story:
Rusty J. (2 years)
Rusty J. has worked for Polaris for almost two years – and in that time, he’s moved up in his roles, going from an assembler to an applied materials handler in 90 days. Then he moved to a clutch lead, remaining there for a year before moving into his current role as a second shift production supervisor in Osceola’s materials and clutch assembly. “There are all levels of jobs here. There’s definitely opportunity for growth here at Polaris if you want to make manufacturing a career,” he says, mentioning that he moved to Osceola specifically for the job, something he does not regret.”
As a supervisor, he enjoys working with many different types of people and working as a team to put engines together. He realizes his story of moving up serves as an inspiration, and hopes it encourages others to do the same. “I put pride in everything I do, and I always give it my all,” he says. “I know there’s always room for continuous improvement, and that when the right opportunity comes along, you have to take it.”
Bradly E. (6 years)
Bradly E. spent two years on the Indian Motorcycle engine production line, then moved to serving as a flex pool floating operator, going where help was needed, before being promoted to a lead on the snow line late 2018. In 2019, he moved to the first shift back on IMC as a lead – but then volunteered to move to the second shift with a crew to help keep up with production demands. “We were a good crew,” he says. “We were a smaller crew, but we had a lot of experience.” From there, he bounced back to snow on second shift to end the year, then over to open the Slingshot line in 2020, and back again to snow late 2021 before moving into his current production supervisor role on the second shift. “You go where you are needed,” he says. “I’m always interested in learning new things. Moving up in my career was a personal goal, and I appreciate what leadership does to help people move up.”
He says that being in the role of a production supervisor allows him to work with more people, and says his experience on those same lines helps, “I really focus on showing appreciation for the people who work on the lines.” If he were to share advice to those interested in a manufacturing job, he’d keep it real he says, saying that you must put in the hours, that it requires attention to detail and the ability to follow exact directions, and to handle the physical work that being on the line requires. But, he says, there’s reward in knowing that most all of the powertrains for Polaris come through the Osceola facility.
April G. (6 years)
April G. started building engines on the motorcycle lines as an assembler. She then served in a flex role and covered all the lines, as needed, before moving on to a lead role on the ATV line. She was the first ever flex lead, and that meant learning multiple areas. “I learned every area of the plant as a lead,” she says. She found her next role as an Engineering process tech the most challenging, but that experience ultimately brought her to her current and longest position as a production supervisor.
Through that experience, she says that flexibility and attitude was everything. “You never know what will come out of a project or a new assignment,” she says, as she explains that each new model year has the potential to bring new equipment, new engineering to the assembly lines and that’s something she sees as exciting. “There are so many variables and there’s always new technology to learn and ways to continuously improve yourself and your skills.”
One of the things April is most proud of is Polaris’ commitment to safety. “My family and friends ride these vehicles and it’s important to me to know that safety is such an important factor on our manufacturing lines.”
Kody H. (8 years)
Kody H. moved to Osceola when his wife accepted a job in the area. He’d ridden Polaris snowmobiles and knew the brand represented quality – and adventure. “I knew it was a perfect fit for me,” he says. And, so, after seeing the job posting online, he applied and soon began as an upfit operator in Government & Defense, spending his first six months on the job on the smaller assembly lines with MRZR. Within a few months, he was moved to one of five specialty bays doing custom orders.
He spent the next six months as an operator, then three years as a re-work technician for PL870 and then the start of PL860 when the lines split. In 2019, he moved to a group lead for a few years – starting out as a flex lead, going wherever he was needed. “During that time, I was a lead on every line at one point or another,” he says, explaining that he was then assigned to the startup of G4, where he stayed until he was promoted to his current role as a production supervisor in June of this year.
It was there he was given the opportunity to help set up the PL870, PL860, and PL830 lines on a special project, of which he is proud. “I am doing something I love,” he says, “I am working on a production line that makes the vehicles I love to ride.” One of the neatest aspects of the job, he says, is getting to see the vehicles start as ideas on paper, then seeing the raw parts come in and then finally see the end result. “Even as an operator on an assembly line, we get to work with the engineers and that’s really neat.”
Adam A. (9 years)
Adam A. started at Polaris in upfit on military production, moving into a material handler role for 5 years, then to a group lead position. “Here, there’s opportunity for everyone,” he says. “And everyone gets a chance.” He remembers riding his family’s Polaris snowmobile when he was young – a 1996 600 Triple XLT Special. “With purple and pink stripes,” he adds, with a smile.
Today, he is knowledgeable of not only the production lines and the engines, but of many elements within the plant, from kitting to plant features such as specific types of flooring. “Polaris is a great company,” he says – and shares a story that makes working for Polaris even more significant.
Adam remembers how much his dad loved the Indian Motorcycle brand and recalls how they’d find ‘cornfield bikes’ together. That term, he explains, means that he and his dad would spot abandoned motorcycles in a cornfield or leaning against an old barn, and his dad would ask the farmer if they could buy them; the farmer would usually say yes. Adam’s father would take them and resurrect them by fixing engines, repairing seats, electrical work, polishing them up like new. “He passed that down to me,” he says, of the love of building an engine.
Heather S. (11 years)
“I’ve done every job there is here,” Heather S. laughs, reminiscing of getting her start in the paint department, quickly moving up as a team lead, then to a group lead – from the engineering department to where she is now in the plant. “You succeed because of your experience and work ethic and getting things done, she says.
Heather and her family moved to the area for the job opportunity, and she says she’s never looked back, crediting her longevity at Polaris is due to the people she works alongside and the is a big fan of the products too.
She knows that the fact that she and her fellow production supervisors stared in assembly is rare but says she’s not all that surprised due to the positive, encouraging atmosphere within the company. “We’re like a family here,” she says.
And, speaking of family, Heather’s husband is a central planner at Polaris and her son also works in production.
Shane H. (28 years)
Shane H. started in 1992 and two years later was promoted as a group leader. He was first in seats, then moved to the weld shop in Spirit Lake, Iowa, for a bit before returning to the Osceola plant in 2010 to head up the materials group; then it was onto to the clutch department, the engine line and now into the production supervisor role.
“We develop a lot of people from the inside,” he says, explaining that while he’s taken on various manufacturing roles, he’s moved up along the way during his nearly three decades at Polaris – during which he steadfastly contributed to his 401k savings, taking advantage of the company match. He says that the stock options and 401k are not only smart ways to help build savings but serve as reassurance that his family will be taken care of should something ever happen to him. “It’s a really good company, and the benefits are too.”
Steve M. (29 years)
Steve M. started in Osceola in 1993 and 29 years later, as a production supervisor, he’s worked every line and helped support both plants at the Osceola location – each of the seven other production supervisors have worked for him when they first started in assembly. “I’m blessed to work with this team, to manage through tough times together and to do what it takes to get the job done. We work together to deliver the best products to the customer.”
He’s also taken on special projects throughout his years at Polaris, moving teams from one manufacturing plant to another when production demand was high or special projects needing additional support. “We’ve traveled to Wyoming, Spirit Lake and Roseau,” he says. “Wherever we’re needed, we go.”
Through the years he’s proud to serve as a mentor and support the team, as people move from assembly to grow in other new roles. “People go out of their way to help each other succeed here, you can just see the team building as it happens,” he says. “We promote from within because there’s a real respect for the work everyone does here.”
Almost three decades later, he says he still finds it rewarding to come to work. “I have a passion and pride for the product, for what we build, it is the heartbeat of the vehicles,” he says. “That passion is what brings longevity, doing what personally drives you internally is rewarding in all aspects of life.”