Editorial


 

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Resolve to Develop and Protect Your IP...and Other New Years Resolutions

By: Brad Kuvin

Friday, January 01, 2010
 
A few years ago, one list of New Year’s resolutions for small business manufacturers (penned by the Manufacturing Extension Partnership) included these gems:

• Reexamine your marketing approach to identify pockets of growth, and assess your strengths and weaknesses related to these market segments;

• Invest in sales training and technology, to elevate your sales capabilities;

• Reassess what performance attributes you measure, and consider adding or deleting measures, such as inventory turns and on-time delivery performance; and

• Engage your employees, asking them for ideas on how to improve the company.

Considering the recent bottoming out of our industry (and signs of the beginning of a recovery, noted from multiple conversations at our industry’s recent tradeshow), I’ve added a few resolutions to the list as we wave so long to 2009 and welcome 2010, with cautious optimism for a better year. (And, I’d love to hear any resolutions you’ve come up with—please e-mail me at bkuvin@pma.org.)

First, engaging your employees seems to still warrant a top spot on the list. The downsizing of the U.S. manufacturing economy has wreaked havoc on employee morale and attitude. As evidence, consider a recent Gallup poll revealing that more than half (54 percent) of employees are “not engaged at work” and nearly one in five are “highly disengaged” and “disruptive to others.”

Experts say that the best way to engage your employees—i.e. turn them into conscientious, creative and innovative contributors to your company—is to invest in management training. This is because, finds the survey, that most employees who become disengaged and leave a company do so because of a poor relationship with their manager.

So, New Year’s Resolution One: Invest in training for your managers.

Second, it seems to me that the healthiest companies in the metalforming industry today are those that focus on developing intellectual property (IP)—patents on tooling features for example, or on engineering product-design enhancements—and which also know how to protect their IP. When Ford Motor Co. began, in mid-2009, to ask its parts suppliers to turn over their technology secrets to other suppliers in far-away places, it really was asking suppliers to stab themselves with a dagger. To quote one blogger on the subject: “Only those suppliers who refuse to cave into (Ford’s) demands like these will survive.”

So, New Year’s Resolution Two: Develop more intellectual property, and commit to protecting it.

Don’t wait for 2010 to be a good year for your company—go out and make it happen. And, please accept my sincere wishes for a happy and healthy New Year, on behalf of the staffs of MetalForming magazine and the Precision Metalforming Association.

 


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