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Innovative Solutions __________May 2006
In this issue
-- Feature Article: Should You Optimize Or Innovate?
-- On a Personal Note:
-- On the Lighter Side:
-- Article Policy

Welcome to the May 2006 edition of Innovative Solutions, the monthly newsletter from Innovative Thermal Solutions. If you find this information interesting or useful, please share it with your friends and colleagues.

Word count approx. 1164
Reading time approx. 4-5 minutes.

Feature Article: Should You Optimize Or Innovate?

Optimize or innovate is often a tough question for companies to answer. Is it better to continue development and optimization of existing products, or is it better to develop a new and innovative product? In my experience, few companies track the natural evolution of their products. Therefore they are often caught sleeping when a new, disruptive technology comes along. Research has clearly demonstrated that most companies that are leaders in a particular product loose that lead when a new generation is introduced. Depending upon how dependant the company is on that particular product, they may even go out of business. How is it that a company that typically captured a market with a new and innovative product loses their lead when new innovation comes along?

There are two primary driving forces. Both are clearly demonstrated by the typical “S” curve of a product life cycle.

The first problem is that most companies simply don’t know where their products falls on the life cycle curve. There are numerous metrics that can be evaluated to determine the maturity of a product. These metrics include product performance, innovation/patents, profitability, and cost, to name a few. Gathering and analyzing the required data can be time consuming. But not investing the time and effort in doing the analysis can prove fatal to your company.

The second problem is managing expectations and profitability through a disruptive product change. As shown in the “S” curve plot above, new products seldom start with an overall customer value greater than the existing, optimized product. It is hard for a company to justify the resources and capital required to develop and produce a new product that is typically less profitable than the product it is replacing. However, when a new, innovative product is introduced to the market it will typically bypass the existing product in a relatively short time. This is the main reason that disruptive technologies usually lead to new companies taking the market leadership position. The companies with existing product are fully vested in that product and unable to project into the future, often with very undesirable long term effects.

“S” curve analysis is part of product life cycle management which in turn is a component of “Lean Product Development”. Make sure you understand your product’s life cycle. Your business may depend on it.

On a Personal Note:
This week I’m preparing to say goodbye to one of my toys. I’m selling my ’71 GTO. When I was in high school I fell in love with the 1969 GTO Judge. I promised myself that someday I would have one. Well a few years ago I got the itch to get that GTO. Unfortunately, the “Judge” models are quite scarce and therefore quite expensive. So, I bought this really nice, clean ’71 on an “interim” basis. At first I tinkered with it some, but last year I didn’t even get it out of the garage for a drive. So, with some reluctance it’s back on auction at ebay. Maybe someday I’ll get that “Judge”.

On the Lighter Side:
And speaking of working on old cars, it pays to have a well equipped shop.

DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, splattering it against that freshly painted part you were drying.

WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprint whorls and hard-earned guitar calluses in about the time it takes you to say, "Ouch...."

ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age.

PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads.

HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

VISE-GRIPS: Used to round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

OXYACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your shop on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub you want the bearing race out of.

HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes, trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

EIGHT-FOOT LONG DOUGLAS FIR 2X4: Used for levering an automobile upward off a hydraulic jack handle.

TWEEZERS: A tool for removing wood splinters.

PHONE: Tool for calling your neighbor to see if he has another hydraulic floor jack.

SNAP-ON GASKET SCRAPER: Theoretically useful as a sandwich tool for spreading mayonnaise.

E-Z OUT BOLT AND STUD EXTRACTOR: A tool ten times harder than any known drill bit that snaps off in bolt holes you couldn't use anyway.

TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the tensile strength on everything you forgot to disconnect.

CRAFTSMAN 1/2 x 16-INCH SCREWDRIVER: A large pry bar that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end opposite the handle.

TROUBLE LIGHT: The home mechanic's own tanning booth. Sometimes called a drop light, it is a good source of vitamin D, "the sunshine vitamin," which is not otherwise found under cars at night. Health benefits aside, it's main purpose is to consume 40- watt light bulbs at about the same rate that 105-mm howitzer shells might be used during, say, the first few hours of the Battle of the Bulge. More often dark than light, its name is somewhat misleading.

PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the lids of old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splash oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

AIR COMPRESSOR: A machine that takes energy produced in a coal-burning power plant 200 miles away and transforms it into compressed air that travels by hose to a Chicago Pneumatic impact wrench that grips rusty bolts last over tightened 50 years ago by someone at Ford, and neatly rounds off their heads.

PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 cent part.

HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts not far from the object we are trying to hit.

MECHANIC'S KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts.

Article Policy
© 2006 Innovative Thermal Solutions. All Rights Reserved. You are free to use material from the Innovative Solutions newsletter in whole or in part, as long as you include complete attribution, including live web site link. Please also notify me where the material will appear.

The attribution should read: "By Bob Utter of Innovative Thermal Solutions. Please visit Bob's web site at for additional articles and resources on engineering services and new product development." (Make sure the link is live if placed in an eZine or in a web site.)

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