Stroll the aisles of next month's International Manufacturing Technology at Chicago's McCormick Place and you'll find hundreds--maybe thousands--of examples of engineering innovation. The creativity behind those new products is a major reason for the spectacular success of the U.S. manufacturing sector in the last few years. But, there's another reason, too: It's trust.
Successful manufacturing companies know their customers depend on them for
innovation, quality, and on-time delivery. And they, in turn, depend on their own suppliers for the same. They trust that each will do his part and do it well.
As working journalists, we get to see that trust every day as we talk to and visit companies to find out about the new technology they are developing. On one recent trip, we visited fluid-power-components supplier Swagelok in Cleveland. Talk with that company's executives, and you get a good sense of the pride and commitment that leads to trust. The company talks and acts like its biggest asset, aside from its technology, is the trust customers place in it. "We take that trust very seriously," says engineer and Vice President Colin Ingram. So do Swagelok's customers. One major customer recently accepted Swagelok's seemingly radical recommendation to use tubing instead of familiar, traditional pipe in a particular application, then wrote a paper explaining why and the benefits they accrued.
You'll find another example of trust at Great Lakes Industry, Jackson, MI. The power-transmission-components supplier is implementing new machine-tool software from MDSI, Inc., Ann Arbor, to improve performance and flexibility on the factory floor. Great Lakes actually began using the software, called OpenCNC, a few years ago as a pilot program, before it was a proven product. Based on experience, Great Lakes trusted the founders of MDSI, and the trust paid off. The company has been able to replace large and unwieldy machine-control equipment with PCs and software. At an impromptu meeting with Great Lakes Vice President/General Manager Don Werner and engineer Rick Stafford, someone asked if they had any doubts about the software or what it could do for them. The answer: no.
You've probably got a few stories of your own like those. They're all testimony to the fact that belief in your own technology and that of your most important suppliers is one of the most critical aspects of success.