John Crum’s Seaman Corp. is built for speed and longevity

John Crum’s appointment to president and COO of Seaman Corp. in January brought a philosophical and physical change to the company.

The manufacturer of highly engineered fabric products for niche markets such as trucks, military and roofing, is systematically addressing critical issues to shore up its strength — commodification, global competition, decreased military spending and an aging manufacturing workforce.

What cuts across the boundaries of those issues is a common approach.

“My philosophy is that inside of Seaman Corp., or any business, you need to increase the velocity,” Crum says. “So, we have to increase our velocity in decision-making, we need to increase our velocity in the speed to market — when we have an opportunity, how quickly do we meet that need?

“We need to increase our velocity in following up and seeing if that product actually solved the customer’s problem. And if it doesn’t, then we’ve got to do generation II.”

Seaman’s has invested $40 million in the past decade to update its manufacturing equipment and another $5 million to improve the office structure at its Wooster headquarters. The latter is providing the material framework for a much larger mental shift in how the company approaches the market and wins business through organic growth.

It can take some companies a year to make adjustments to the first iteration of a product and introduce those improvements in its second generation. But Crum says Seaman Corp. needs to act faster.

“Quite frankly, if we need to get to generation II, I want to know within the first 30 days if that product met the need of the market,” he says.

“That’s really how we’re going win the business.”

Fieldwork

Speed is essential to get to the crux of a problem a product is experiencing so that it can be solved — as the saying goes — before it is too late.
To gain that speed, Crum has begun shifting the culture, redefining the responsibilities of some of the technical positions in order to get to the heart of a product’s problems quickly.