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Brad Kuvin Brad Kuvin
Editorial Director

Become Meaningfully Unique

June 1, 2014

Back in 2011, Bob Clay, CEO of metalformer Pridgeon & Clay and Chairman of the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA), tasked the association with becoming “an essential partner” to member companies. Thus, PMA would develop products and services perceived as absolutely necessary, and be perceived as virtually indispensable.

I’ve recently revisited this notion, in the afterglow of PMA’s Automotive Parts Suppliers Conference (APSC) held last month in Novi, MI. There, the subject of “innovation engineering” took center stage when I had the honor of introducing to attendees Keith Helfrich, senior program manager, growth services, for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. Helfrich’s 1-hr. talk at the APSC went over big with a packed house straining to absorb as much information as they could on how to make continuous innovation—rather than spontaneous innovation—a reality in their operations.

What’s the relationship of Helfrich’s notion of continuous innovation to Clay’s vision of being an essential partner to customers? Consider this parallel thought:

“If you’re not meaningfully unique, you better be cheap.”

That’s what Doug Hall, founder and CEO of the Innovation Engineering Institute, said in a report he presented to the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., late last year.

For his part, here’s how Helfrich summarizes his view of innovation and growth at manufacturing companies:

“Every senior leader at every company I meet tells me they’re searching for help when it comes to a growth process. They want the growth side of the business to run more like the manufacturing side: efficient, goal-driven, metric-based. Usually they describe the growth side as a ‘crap shoot.’”

Among the growth strategies Helfrich presented to APSC attendees is one centered on innovating to enhance speed to market. He also emphasizes customer cultivation.

(Note—taking this strategy one step further, in an article in this issue on online marketing by’s Frank Russo, is the notion of turning customers into brand advocates. That article begins on page 34.)

June is National Safety Month

I would be remiss if I failed to aim the spotlight of this column on National Safety Month, recognized every June as a to remind us all to engage, with emphasis, on all things safety-related. The National Safety Council (NSC) even goes so far as to provide weekly topics on which to focus:

• Week One—prevent prescription-drug abuse

• Week Two—stop slips, trips and falls

• Week Three—be aware of your surroundings

• Week Four—put an end to distracted driving

• Bonus Week—summer safety.

Download an array of support materials to help plan your company’s National Safety Month activities at the NSC website, As the NSC says:

“A little effort today has the potential to prevent tragedy tomorrow.”
Industry-Related Terms: Center, Run
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms

Technologies: Management, Safety


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