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Distributor's Link Magazine Summer 2019 / Vol 42 No3


50 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK GLOBALFASTENERNEWS.COM by JOHN WOLZ EDITOR BLUE: ‘RUST BELT’ COMPANIES CAN TRANSFORM TO ‘HIGH TECH’ Fastener Fair USA keynoter: The old Rust Belt company culture was “by default,” Blue observed. The High Tech company’s culture is “by design.” Can “Rust Belt’ companies increase profits, enter new markets and repel offshore competition? Fastener Fair USA keynote speaker Steve Blue declares: “Yes.” Blue, CEO of Miller Ingenuity, which invents, engineers and manufactures safety and productivity solutions for railroad operators, said his company doesn’t wait for customer demands but seeks to develop safety ideas. “We develop ideas first,” Miller said in reference to Miller’s hundreds of patents. To transform from Rust Belt to High Tech, your entire company needs to “transform, ignite, innovate and disrupt.” The old Rust Belt company culture was “by default,” Blue observed. The High Tech company’s culture is “by design.” The High Tech industry gives priority to creativity, commitment and teamwork. Blue cited Cirque du Soleil as a company that may look like it is repeating performances day-after-day. “These guys come to work ‘on the edge’ every day intending to do better than yesterday,” Blue said. The traditional manufacturer may look at Cirque du Soleil and respond by saying the company can’t have such performance fun: “This is manufacturing,” one could declare. “We can’t have fun?” Blue asked. “Whose fault is that?” ¤ If you have a board, you need to get board members involved. The transformation process will cost money and reduce profits initially. To convince your board, your message must be “clear, concise and compelling,” Blue advised. “Boards don’t like bad news” of lower profits later. ¤ One step in the transition is to create a team BUSINESS FOCUS ARTICLE atmosphere. “The organization stacks the deck against the team when you are paid at individual rates,” Blue pointed out. He instituted team incentives. ¤ If you want new teams to innovate, be ready to “back that up with action.” He designated 20% of work time for employees to be thinking of innovation. ¤ Creativity can involve every employee. At Miller Ingenuity it involves a dedicated space – the “Creation Station” – to use as a think tank. “Our employees get together on their own initiative,” Blue added. ¤ Especially smaller companies should go after “niche marketing.” Look for what nobody else is not doing but is needed. Where are there weaknesses in their patents? “Flag opportunities.” ¤ A new company culture includes many changes. Blue cited traditional “factory language” as an example of traditions which needed to change at Miller Ingenuity. Blue announced to his plant that employees must “have respect for each other” and that respect is “rooted in our language.” He announced changes in vocabulary. He had to fire one person with 90-minutes of the new language policy and five on the first day. The firings made a statement, Blue said. “You have to get rid of people who don’t want to go with the program.” ¤ Show what you’ve made. Miller Ingenuity developed a video quoting customers being asked on camera. “That is a whole lot better for them (customers) to tell than one of my group telling you.” ¤ “Success is the worst thing that can happen to somebody,” Blue declared. Look at successful Dow companies from a decade ago. Those with traditional products are now down. Your company needs to realize that innovation is vital. “This is really going to happen to us.” GLOBALFASTENERNEWS.COM


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