In the first of a series of guest articles exclusively published in Lift & Hoist International LHI, Tad Dunville, regional sales manager at Pintsch Bubenzer USA LLC, advises high-end manufacturers looking to diversify and apply a product to a new marketplace.
Many components in the industrial world can be applied to a myriad of different, larger products and applications. Take a load cell, for example: it can be rigged between a hook and a load to measure its weight; turn it 90 degrees and it can record the force of a towing operation.
Diversifying often requires a company’s engineers to enhance existing products; they must constantly find ways to add nuts and bolts to open doors to new worlds. On the other hand, there are manufacturers who already command respect as pioneers and thought leaders in an ultra-specialized marketplace, but they’re looking to apply something in an arguably less demanding field. And that’s really the crux of this article.
Say, a company has made spacesuits for NASA for a generation. Their gloves, for example, are so advanced, that astronauts maintain incredible dexterity when working outside at a space station, even more so than a gardener trying to plug in his lawn mower with hand protection from the local hardware store. The body suits and boots are equally impressive—light, strong, and durable.
The same firm initiates a business plan to penetrate the winter sports market and then domestic clothing for extreme weathers. Consider that the temperature on the moon can vary from nearly 400 to minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and the business has kept astronauts protected for decades, it should be an easy transition. And true there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the idea to diversify. But it’ll still take time and incredible patience before they rocket to success.
Pintsch Bubenzer reputably made high performance disc and drum brakes for port cranes and other severe duty applications, as well as complementary goods, like emergency brakes and storm brakes. We were well known in a sector that consumes high duty cycle container handling equipment (the highest in class usually) since way before my time. Our brakes were performing more efficiently than alternative solutions and the cranes on which they were installed were lifting to close their capacity and near maximum speed, often in 24/7 operation. The company successfully marketed the Pintsch Bubenzer braking concept to the industrial crane and windmill sectors, but it didn’t happen by itself and it took great skill.
The first obstacle a diversifying manufacturer or provider will have to overcome is a purchasing decision maker’s concept of price and value. The mentality is like the astronaut equipment guys might experience; no hikers, skiers, or outdoorsmen Google the brand because they assume it will be prohibitively expensive. Sure, the vendor covets the higher end of the market—they make spacesuits, damn it—but they remain competitively priced. Success in the sector will be based on charging a fair amount for a superior product and capturing a chunk of market share.
Turning a market’s head is often down to the strength of a supplier’s claim to fame. For us, it was a case of demonstrating why so many tenders specified Pintsch Bubenzer brakes on their new fleet of container cranes. This wasn’t a sector hoodwinked by marketing; it was one whose engineers had learnt that the equipment is worth having confidence in. That’s the message to get across to the new market a manufacturer pitches to.
In other words, don’t sell it—communicate it.
In industry, it’s worth stressing the importance of getting purchasing agents and engineers on the same page. Those with buying authority tend to look at price and delivery time, while engineers and operations people might see performance and durability as being more important. There’s no good reason why these two sides have to be alienated from each other and once they’re reconciled it greatly assists the manufacturer or provider that can keep both parties happy. End users should be encouraged to make minimum specifications about the life of equipment in terms of time and cycles. They should be asking for failure rate metrics and required uptime.
Uptime, by the way, shouldn’t be considered as the other end of the scale to breakdown and maintenance. When we are in dialog with windmill professionals we’ve often encountered this mentality but what happens when the decibel level of a yaw brake (the yaw system is responsible for the orientation of the wind turbine rotor towards the wind) is so great that it has to be shut down at night? That’s not a failure or maintenance issue, yet downtime is being endured, at great cost and loss of productivity. In our world, this meant that we had to play on the quietness of our brakes—another USP.