Innovative technology, new products, and aggressive management will ensure
a good future for EG&G, according to John Kucharski.
Design News: What future do you see for companies like EG&G that were part of the defense industrial base for so long?
Kucharski: The next 50 years are going to be even brighter for EG&G than our first 50. As you know, EG&G was incorporated in 1947 by Harold Edgerton and his partners--Ken Germeshausen and Herb Grier--by applying technology invented in an MIT Laboratory. Today, we use basically the same technology in a product line we sell around the globe--flashtubes. In essence, we have successfully shifted EG&G's strategic focus away from strictly defense-centered operations and toward higher-growth, higher-return commercial sectors. But the founders' legacy is still prevalent at EG&G today; find a problem, invent a technology, fix the problem--fundamentally we're still an engineering company.
Q: How important are offshore sales to EG&G, and will they become still more important?
A: We see tremendous sales potential overseas, particularly for our x-ray security technology, Linescan and Z-Scan. Two-thirds of the world's airports use our technology to inspect luggage. We recently acquired technology that allows for the inspection of cargo containers as large as trucks. Many of our medical diagnostics products also have huge potential overseas, where they can help deliver needed medical advances to underserved populations.
Q: What role do you see for the American design engineer in EG&G's future?
A: Although EG&G will take advantage of global engineering and production opportunities when appropriate, the U.S. will continue to be our largest market and our leading source of new ideas for the foreseeable future. We've projected that by 1999 nearly 60% of our sales will come from new products. As the world's largest pool of engineering talent, the U.S. will play a major role in making that projection come true. While our overseas production facilities have grown substantially, about 50% of our activities are, and will continue to be, based in the U.S. We will always aggressively take advantage of opportunities, wherever they exist.
Q: Work on amorphous silicon reportedly is the largest program underway at EG&G. Why?
A: We think amorphous silicon will be a technology platform for the next 20 years. With amorphous silicon, EG&G is creating the next generation of imaging technology: glass panels the size of a pizza box with a layer of complex semiconductor sensors. There's no film to develop, the results are in real time, and there's only a fraction of the radiation and medical waste generated by today's x-rays. And because of its portability, there are outstanding opportunities for industrial applications as well. We expect non-medical applications to make up more than 15% of the amorphous silicon market.
Q: How big are medical devices as a business for EG&G, and how important can they become?
A: Medical diagnostic instruments contributed more than $100 million in sales to our instruments business segment last year. Of course, components manufactured by other divisions also address the medical market. For example, a micromachined pressure sensor from our IC Sensors unit is now being used in IV lines to measure blood pressure during surgery. As I've mentioned, very soon we'll have large-scale amorphous silicon detector panels that will allow real-time, low-dosage digital x-ray imaging. We expect steady growth in that market as the world's population demands medical services at sensible costs.
Q: How does a big company like EG&G create and sustain a culture of innovation?
A: It all goes back to Harold Edgerton, our founder. He was a creative, curious individual, and he encouraged the same from everybody who worked with him. At EG&G you can still talk about problems, and you can still talk about finding interesting, technology-based solutions to those problems. If you look around, I would say that a majority of our senior executives has at least a bachelor's degree, not in physics, not in math, but in engineering. The rest of the senior executives have a great appreciation for the value of the engineering discipline. That makes EG&G a very practical and very innovative place to work.