Doing it better Featured

7:00pm EDT January 31, 2007

The seven winners of the 2007 eVolution of Manufacturing award have dramatic stories of innovation within their respective fields. EBO Group Inc., Fomo Products, Graffiti Inc., Imalux, Nordson Corp., Novagard Solutions and the Superior Tool Co. work in a variety of markets, including mining, health care, tool cutting and even the manufacture of baseball caps. But all share a need to do things better by way of creativity and risk.

The following companies are being recognized for their drive toward innovation.

  • With markets for its mining-related products shrinking, EBO Group changed its product line and corporate processes. It developed new products for health care and solar energy technology, and implemented a new ERP system for greater employee communication. The reward was a 30 percent increase in revenue and impressive growth in the new segments.

  • Fomo Products, makers of spray foams, sealants and adhesives, found its market being commoditized. Its solution was a new product line which increased its existing markets and improved both margins and growth. Fomo then re-energized its corporate structure by partnering with clients to provide product education, easier customization, merchandising, marketing, and training.

  • Graffiti, which embroiders sports caps, combatted overseas competition by diversifying and modernizing. It created a new modular sewing method while focusing even more strongly on service to its specialty clients. And for its price-conscious customers, it supplemented Asian-supplied products with a line of caps not fully assembled. These caps can be embroidered more easily and precisely, providing fast service and the ability to cater to more personalized demands.

  • Imalux’s Russian optical technology needed to be fine-tuned to pass FDA regulations. The product line and documentation were both refashioned, and today, Imalux offers the only FDA-cleared optical coherence tomography product in medical endoscopes for imaging opaque tissue structures.

  • Nordson, makers of sealants, coatings and adhesives, is pursuing a vigorous commitment to lean and to quality. Its culture of relentless improvement also stresses being proactive, global and efficient. Productivity has increased 30 percent as the company has relearned and redefined itself.

  • Novagard Solutions, makers of foam sealants, needed to re-engineer its product to remain a low-cost producer. The resultant Foam Seal CE PVC product was not only more cost-effective but also of higher quality, increasing sales 25 percent.

  • The Superior Tool Co. used advances in nanotechnology applied to capacitors to create a battery that delivers enough torque to run a power tool, allowing it to go from making manual tools to cordless ones. That necessitated the development of new skill sets in marketing, design, manufacturing and quality. This advanced technology is being used now in its new products.

The three honorable mention winners — PartsSource, Vocational Guidance Services and All Pro Freight Systems Inc. — continue the theme of improvement and innovation leading to efficiency and growth.

PartsSource’s PartsFinder 2.0 and tools supplemented its hospital equipment supply business, saving its clients up to 60 percent. Vocational Guidance Services reconfigured clothing manufacturing equipment for disabled workers and increased workers’ efficiency above that of nondisabled workers. And All Pro Freight Systems Inc. redefined warehousing and logistics with outof-the-box solutions and creative pricing that allowed its customers to focus on their own core competencies.

Each of this year’s winners has created not just solutions but also triumphs. This is the spirit of evolution: to thrive and to transform industry. This year’s eVolution of Manufacturing winners have established a pace and a vision that sets them apart and delivers value to their clients and employees.

Congratulations to all.

STEPHEN J. GAGE is president of MAGNET, co-founding sponsor of the eVolution of Manufacturing Awards. Reach Gage at (216) 432-5300 or