Innovative Solutions ____ September 2005
In this issue
-- Feature Article: Are You Turning Away New Business?
-- On a Personal Note: Football
-- On the Lighter Side: One More Blonde...
-- Article Policy

Welcome to the September 2005 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. 920
Reading time approx. 4 minutes.

Feature Article: Are You Turning Away New Business?

I specialize in new product development and I am a firm believer in early supplier involvement. Therefore, I routinely work with suppliers to jointly develop new materials, components or systems. However, I’ve experienced a new problem the past couple of weeks. On two separate projects, I’m having notable problems with a lack of responsiveness from suppliers. These are major projects with the potential for significant production volume. So what’s the problem?

Do these potential suppliers not want to grow their business? Are they simply not interested in new customers and new applications? That doesn’t seem likely. Almost every business I know wants to grow. They often talk about their growth strategy. No, I don’t think it is a lack of desire to acquire new business that explains their poor responsiveness.
Do these potential suppliers not want to be involved during the development phase of a project? Do they not want input into the design? Do they not want to make sure the resulting new design is fully compatible with their materials and processes, taking advantage of their knowledge and experience? Would they rather wait until the design is finalized and then compete for the business based solely on price and delivery? Somehow it doesn’t seem likely that their lack of responsiveness is due to a lack of interest. In fact when I eventually do get a response from a supplier they seem very interested and very anxious to participate even though the timeliness of their participation leaves much to be desired.

I think the problem is two-fold. The first reason for a lack of involvement by potential suppliers is the fear that they will invest resources in a new project, only to loose the business based on price, with no consideration given to the fact that they helped with the development. Unfortunately this is not all that uncommon. Given the competitiveness of the market and the constant pressure to drive down costs, many materials and purchasing departments place little value on supplier participation during product development. That situation is unlikely to change anytime soon, if ever. So what is a supplier to do? I recommend that you charge a fee for your engineering services and product prototyping, but make sure that you provide quick service when you do that. I know a lot of companies expect to receive free engineering support and free product samples and prototypes, but I’m not one of them. I think it is unreasonable to expect a company to donate their valuable resources hoping to get a piece of the production pie. I wouldn’t do it and I don’t expect anyone else to either. And speaking of competing based on only price after the development is complete, many (almost all domestic suppliers) are scared of China. Given my current frustration with domestic suppliers, I thought I’d try to work with China. I did a Google search and easily found several companies specializing in the particular components I needed. So I filled out their web inquiry forms, expecting a prompt response. Guess what. Nothing. I’m still waiting for a response.

The second reason for a lack of involvement by potential suppliers, and I think the main reason, is too many suppliers don’t have anyone left in their organization to respond to new product development needs. Companies have truly gotten lean and mean. Unfortunately that also translates into lean and unresponsive. The business press gets excited and impressed when companies reduce their workforce. The bottom line is immediately improved, the “productivity” measurement increases impressively. But those are short term measurements. Those short measurements do not reflect the ability of a company to grow their business. If you have a company that can no longer respond to the needs of potential future customers with new incremental business, then you are in trouble.
Take a look around you. Have you gotten so lean that you can’t support the growth of your business? Are you turning away new business?

On a Personal Note: Football

It's starting to feel like fall here at the Utter home and Flying Otter Vineyard. We've had an unusually warm September thus far, but the unmistakable nip in the evening breeze is starting to be the norm. Around this house that can mean only one thing. GO BIG RED fever.

My wife and I are University of Nebraska Alumni (class of Dec '73 and May '75) and perennial football fans. Having gone to Nebraska in the glory days of national championships and the dynasties of Bob Devany and Tom Osborn, we have great memories. Sometimes we need them to support us through times such as the ones we currently find ourselves experiencing.

We've enjoyed game watch parties with other Big Red fans from the Southeast Michigan Huskers Alumni group the past two weekends. We gather to root for the team, share some food (often regional favorites from back home, like cabbage buns), and most importantly armchair quarterback and coach the game. We managed to pull off a 7-6 win against Pitt last week, surviving 2 missed field goal attempts in the last 7 seconds of the game. Whew!

Over the years the fortunes of the Husker football team have had some ups and downs, but we are always there to cheer them on. It's true; "There Is No Place Like Nebraska."

On the Lighter Side: One More Blonde...

A man was sitting in a cafeteria next to a blonde woman who was engrossed in her newspaper.
The bold headline read "12 Brazilian Soldiers Killed."
She shook her head at the sad news.
Then turning to the man she asked, "How many is a Brazilian?"

Article Policy
© 2005 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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