Nicholas Maschari

Tuesday, 31 August 2004 07:17

Sparking change

Efficiency, performance, control and communication -- these were the things The Lincoln Electric Co. wanted to integrate and build into a new arc welder design.

"The Power Wave AC/DC 1000 is a high deposition, inverter-based welder. The need for a welder such as this came from the need to expand the natural gas pipeline in the world," says George Blankenship, vice president of engineering and quality assurance at Lincoln Electric. "Lincoln Electric was approached by Europipe to build and improve the process of welding for the natural gas pipelines in order to meet demand."

The renewed interest in submerged arc welding created the opportunity for Lincoln Electric to manufacture a welder that went beyond the industry's standards.

"Submerged arc welding had been viewed as an old technique, and now we are seeing a renewed interest and things pushing forward," says Blankenship.

The unit that the company manufactured is more efficient than previous models. The Power Wave 1000 has significantly less current draw, which means lower electricity consumption. It also has better arc performance, resulting in fewer weld defects, less rework and better weld appearances.

Lincoln's new welder offers full control over previously uncontrollable parameters, and is now capable of digital communication. This capacity to link between system components, as well as new plant automation and Internet-capable monitoring capabilities, makes the Power Wave 1000 a one-of-a-kind innovation.

"As far as we know, it's the only welder of its kind in the world," says Blankenship, who adds that that the technology used to create the new welder will be applied to many other Lincoln Electric manufacturing processes.

Demand for the new welding system has been strong, and production through June 2004 was pre-sold. The annual impact on Lincoln sales from these systems alone is anticipated to be $8 million to $10 million each year. And because the system carries with it an increased demand for other Lincoln products, there is an ancillary impact of up to an additional $5 million a year in revenue.

With the new demand for submerged arc welding, Blankenship sees Lincoln as a key provider and notes the potential impacts on the industry.

"It will impact several industries, such as offshore and hard surfacing," he says. "There will be significant productivity gains, which will allow customers to cut back on waste and reduce labor cost. By rebuilding production equipment, the process goes faster, and significant cash flow gains are made." How to reach: The Lincoln Electric Co., (216) 481-8100

Tuesday, 22 June 2004 13:27

Sewing up the competition

Successfully merging three competitive brands can be a tricky proposition, unless you're Bengt Gerborg.

Under president and CEO Gerborg, VSM Sewing Inc. has grown by leaps and bounds, and revenue has steadily rise in recent years -- sales of sewing machines and accessories grown for 18 consecutive years. For 19 years, Gerborg's innovative thinking and strong belief in marketing and branding has transformed VSM into a worldwide leader in the sewing machine industry.

VSM Sewing began as Husqvarna Sewing Machines in 1872, evolving into VSM. It acquired White Sewing Machine Co., and in 2000, acquired the German brand Pfaff Sewing Machines. As part of his strategy, Gerborg maintains three distinct identities for each brand by operating separate marketing departments for each, creating positive in-house rivalries while sharing best practices among departments.

Merging three strong competitive brands has only enhanced the position of VSM Sewing, says Gerborg. With the brands all under one roof, VSM has combined back office functions to create a streamlined and efficient organization, which has helped control costs. He created strategic alliances, most recently with JoAnn Stores Inc., where VSM has set up shops, bolstering sales.

Another Gerborg initiative is called "edutainment." Created with the idea that sewing can be both educational and entertaining, he has pursued the concept with vigor. VSM now offers seminars on sewing and has a hand in the production of television shows on PBS that promote the craft.How to reach: VSM Sewing Inc., (440) 808-6550 or www.husqvarnaviking.com

Tuesday, 22 June 2004 13:14

Mobile medicine

Randy Skiles sees medical technology moving at a rapid pace, and he's done something about it -- he's making the technology itself mobile.

Skiles' company, Shared P.E.T. Imaging, is a medical imaging service that sits on wheels and goes wherever it is needed. SPI, founded in September 1999, was Skiles' response to the changing world of medicine and the technology needed to support the changes.

PET (positron emission tomography) imaging is used for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, says Skiles. Because functional abnormalities occur in the body before structural damage can be seen, PET imaging is useful in early detection.

The mobile nature of SPI makes PET technology accessible to hospitals that may not be able to afford their own equipment. The vehicle that the imaging equipment travels in always carries two clinicians as well, to ensure quality patient care and a safe and efficient workplace. SPI prides itself on providing service to children's hospitals, since they are often underserved by high-tech providers.

Skiles' passion for the medical industry and his understanding of technology keep him and SPI current with the latest medical research. Knowledge of developing pharmaceutical advances also drives the business. The company is involved in the continuing education of physicians, as well as informing patients and the surrounding communities about the uses of nuclear medicine and its benefits.

The future of SPI includes growth and expansion, with the possibility of adding fixed sites and adding to the fleet of mobile units.

How to reach: Shared P.E.T. Imaging, (330) 491-0480, www.sharedpet.com

Thursday, 21 October 2004 07:31

Driving the bottom line

Educating your employee base is never an easy process. And when the base in question is your sales team, the stakes are even higher.

But Tim Gregory, president and CEO of consulting firm BakerER, says targeting the sales side of the business isn't always a matter of ensuring you have the best and brightest salespeople who are adept at closing a prospect. Sometimes, the education process requires a more holistic look.

"People don't always realize that the salespeople aren't as bad as they think they are," Gregory says. "And that a lot of times, a sales problem is actually a strategy problem."

That's what happened at VoCare Services Inc., where the managed care and employee benefits company's sales staff wasn't performing as well as the management team expected. Company president Joe Cannelongo opted to take a different approach to the problem -- rather than hire a sales consultant to teach VoCare's team how to better its sales and illustrate the model one step at a time, Cannelongo hired Gregory and his staff to try something outside the norm.

BakerER assumed total control of VoCare's sales functions, learning how the company offered its value proposition to clients. It then assembled its own team to tear down and remake the sales process from scratch.

"In the solution sector (where BakerER prefers to operate), there is a known problem with an unknown solution," Gregory says. "The consulting sector contains an unknown problem with an unknown solution. Growth, by its nature, is an unknown problem."

Gregory's staff handled every step of VoCare's process, from lead development to the actual selling. The team then assisted VoCare in the transition of handing the process back over to the company. It also helped hire and train employees to maintain the model and its effectiveness.

BakerER's process began with its staff talking to a variety of customers, prospects and other key industry players to better understand the customer experience in the industry. Tying in other objective research, BakerER articulated a focus and course of action for VoCare.

It developed a sales engine with targeting, profiling, telemarketing, sales dialog, marketing communications and mail nurture specialty personnel to attack the markets Cannelongo desired. Gregory's staff crafted the messages and saw to their implementation.

The results were impressive.

VoCare's sales grew almost 50 percent in one year, and net income profitability was nearly three times more than the cost of hiring BakerER. VoCare grew in several categories versus its competitors, and put together a new portfolio of market communications. The company also saw the growth of a new sales culture.

"Since November 2003, our company has been achieving record top-line results as a direct result of the Sales Engine experience and expertise of the BakerER team," says Cannelongo.

While VoCare's experience produced excellent results, Gregory warns that the Sales Engine process doesn't always go off without a hitch.

"The problem most companies face and the biggest problem we face in applying the Sales Engine process is that these companies forget the biggest issues," he says. "Who do I serve better than anyone else? What value do I provide? How do I deliver it? And how do I communicate it? People often mistake motion for action, and that's a big problem."

As in VoCare's case, it's important to measure any sales improvement program's success the same way you measure your sales team's success -- by the bottom line. Says Gregory, "We operate this like a sales formula. We look at the metrics." How to reach: BakerER, (877) 442-7011 or www.BakerER.com; VoCare Services, (216) 514-1221 or www.advocare-inc.com

Tuesday, 07 September 2004 06:36

Balancing act

Whether your office is mainstream and hip or traditional and conventional, finding a balance between aesthetics and function is critical.

"Today's office design is less trend-driven; the environments people want are conducive to conducting business," says Ron Reed, a principal at Westlake Reed Leskosky, a full-service design and management firm. "People don't want the superfluous, opulent or excessive look for an office space."

Reed says that if there is any noticeable creative trend right now, it's contemporary.

"Design is driven by interaction that takes place in an office, and trying to downplay the differences between cubicle-style work stations and executive row," says Reed.

Office design is becoming less exclusionary and less hierarchical, allowing the flow of ideas between top executives and other staff members to move more naturally.

Reed says a workplace needs to reflect the idea that a company values its employees' ideas, and a democratic interior reinforces that point.

"Ultimately, you design a space conducive to that business group," he says.

Visually, the principals at Westlake Reed Leskosky like to create office spaces with access to a lot of natural light and windows, with the idea that views and lighting are appealing to the people who work there. Successful office designs also have a good balance between artificial and natural light.

With so much work being done on computers these days, there is great emphasis placed on keeping glare off of screens. Employees must be visually comfortable if you expect them to be productive and happy.

Another key design element is acoustic privacy.

"With the amount of teamwork and teaming that businesses do, it's important to have spaces that allow for good sound and speaking areas," says Reed.

Successful designs include the use of sound-dampening techniques and built-in dead space in hallways and corridors that allows for employee interaction. Whether it is conference space or coffee space, open areas are important if a company wants to promote the free flow of ideas, says Reed.

Many employers don't consider wire management when designing their offices, but how your cords and wires are housed can make a big difference in your design. Designers have the challenge of finding a pragmatic way to conceal all the wires in an office and, at the same time, create a visually pleasing space.

"If a person's workplace is convenient to them, it won't matter as much if it's not visually exciting," Reed says. "They want comfort first."

And as with any business expense, in design, money matters. A lot.

"Everything in office design is bottom-line driven right now," says Reed. "Five or six years ago, we had the dot-com boom. The office trend was hip and lofty and nonconventional.

"After the dot-com bust, that whole look became very dated, and the image was tainted. The alternative look is expensive to do properly."

Reed says an office space, designed to be trendy or traditional, can cost from $30 a square foot to $200, depending on your budget and what you want. But it's the subsequent maintenance of a trendy design that will cost you, he says. When it comes to trendy offices, people only want to see a certain design last a year or two, and then you'll have to remodel again to update it, disrupting your office.

Trying to cheaply redesign your office? Reed suggests that a new coat of paint is the best option from a cost and maintenance standpoint. Painting is an inexpensive way to create subtle or drastic changes to any environment.

How to reach:
Westlake Reed Leskosky Architects, (216) 522-1350

Tuesday, 31 August 2004 07:16

True colors

As with many innovative developments, the birth of Krylon Fusion was born of necessity. It was becoming more and more evident to those in the Diversified Brands Division of The Sherwin-Williams Co. that there was a need for a spray paint that would easily bond to plastics and plastic surfaces.

Introduced in November 2002, Krylon Fusion changed the paint industry. The new spray paint offered consumers a paint product that did not previously exist in the market. Before the creation of the product, consumers were unable to change the color of plastic items.

Once their products became worn, weathered or faded, they had little choice but to throw them out and purchase new ones. The idea of a spray paint that would adhere to the plastic was not yet conceptualized.

Because so many of today's products are made of plastic, when they were formerly made of wood and other materials, the importance of this innovation is huge, and the need even greater.

The impact of such a product on the spray paint market has been great. When Krylon Fusion was released, there was no real competition for a paint that bonded well to plastics. One of the product's unique qualities is that it requires no sanding or priming before use, a process that other spray-on paints required.

Today, less than two years later, the innovation has redefined the spray paint market and helped paint retailers grow overall paint sales without destroying other product categories. And with no clear alternative product on the market, Krylon's customers kept coming back.

Since its release, Krylon Fusion has directly impacted sales of products, in all categories in retail paint departments nationwide, with increases of between 10 percent and 15 percent.

Despite production costs that are higher than those for other types of paint, Krylon Fusion has increased margins for the brand overall and increased sales margins in the retail markets, in part because the cans cost roughly $1.50 more than the products the company previously sold.

All of this has pumped new life into the paint market and into Sherwin-Williams. In 2001, the year before the product was introduce, 59 billion pounds of plastic resins were used in U.S. manufacturing. By 2003, that number had skyrocketed to 107 billion pounds.

The success has also led to the creation of a new paint category -- plastic -- to accompany metal, general purpose and special purpose How to reach: The Sherwin-Williams Co., (216) 566-2000 or www.krylon.com

Tuesday, 31 August 2004 07:11

Wireless wonder

Wireless technology development has helped businesses shed their cords and become completely mobile. And with that technology has come the need for practical applications and software that make them more than just expensive toys.

That's where Mirifex Systems comes in.

The Strongsville-based business and technology consulting firm is on the forefront of BlackBerry wireless software production and design. Last year, Flight Options, a Cleveland-based fractional jet ownership company, approached Mirifex and asked it to develop an application for use with wireless devices that would streamline tasks such as fueling, maintenance and scheduling for its planes.

"Flight Options was outstripping the processes that worked for them when they were little," says Mirifex president and CEO Bill Nemeth.

So Nemeth and his team designed a prototype and introduced it to Flight Options. The Wireless Operations Gateway (WOG) was an instant success.

"We knew it was going to be an almost epidemic-type spreading," of the product within the company, says Nemeth. And so it was.

WOG had an immediate impact on Flight Options' productivity. It reduced call load, leading to a savings of 17 percent on Flight Options' phone bill. It allowed pilots to receive their flight itineraries at the touch of a button. And it streamlined and made more accessible everything from fuel and maintenance to flight times.

Today, WOG is in its sixth version. Pilots, ground crews and other Flight Options employees regularly approach Mirifex with new needs for their BlackBerry devices, and Mirifex can deliver a new application in less than a week. Newly updated versions of the applications are sent out to the devices from a central location, updating all of them in real time.

For Mirifex, the impact of the application's success has been tremendous.

"It has led to 10 to 20 new clients, and we are getting known around the (wireless) carriers like Verizon and others," says Nemeth. "It's helped move our name and product, but also has been putting us in front of businesspeople.

"The technology can transcend different business practices, and we have been seeing it being used in transportation logistics, distribution and even banking. We've made them (companies) more productive and have helped them greatly improve customer service." How to reach: Mirifex, (440) 891-1210 or www.mirifex.com

Tuesday, 31 August 2004 06:38

Sparking change

Efficiency, performance, control and communication -- these were the things The Lincoln Electric Co. wanted to integrate and build into a new arc welder design.

"The Power Wave AC/DC 1000 is a high deposition, inverter-based welder. The need for a welder such as this came from the need to expand the natural gas pipeline in the world," says George Blankenship, vice president of engineering and quality assurance at Lincoln Electric. "Lincoln Electric was approached by Europipe to build and improve the process of welding for the natural gas pipelines in order to meet demand."

The renewed interest in submerged arc welding created the opportunity for Lincoln Electric to manufacture a welder that went beyond the industry's standards.

"Submerged arc welding had been viewed as an old technique, and now we are seeing a renewed interest and things pushing forward," says Blankenship.

The unit that the company manufactured is more efficient than previous models. The Power Wave 1000 has significantly less current draw, which means lower electricity consumption. It also has better arc performance, resulting in fewer weld defects, less rework and better weld appearances.

Lincoln's new welder offers full control over previously uncontrollable parameters, and is now capable of digital communication. This capacity to link between system components, as well as new plant automation and Internet-capable monitoring capabilities, makes the Power Wave 1000 a one-of-a-kind innovation.

"As far as we know, it's the only welder of its kind in the world," says Blankenship, who adds that that the technology used to create the new welder will be applied to many other Lincoln Electric manufacturing processes.

Demand for the new welding system has been strong, and production through June 2004 was pre-sold. The annual impact on Lincoln sales from these systems alone is anticipated to be $8 million to $10 million each year. And because the system carries with it an increased demand for other Lincoln products, there is an ancillary impact of up to an additional $5 million a year in revenue.

With the new demand for submerged arc welding, Blankenship sees Lincoln as a key provider and notes the potential impacts on the industry.

"It will impact several industries, such as offshore and hard surfacing," he says. "There will be significant productivity gains, which will allow customers to cut back on waste and reduce labor cost. By rebuilding production equipment, the process goes faster, and significant cash flow gains are made." How to reach: The Lincoln Electric Co., (216) 481-8100

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