Mission Statements Vs. Business Plans

By: Tony Deligio 25. September 2014

How do you define an expert? A person who has made all possible mistakes within a narrow field.


With that joke, business consultant Christian Majgaard began his keynote address to the SPE Thermoforming Conference in Schaumburg, Ill., using humor and his years of experience at Lego to walk a technology-inclined crowd through a much softer side of business: strategic planning and branding.


Majgaard, who parlayed years of experience at the global toy giant Lego into a successful consulting career, noted how often times new clients regale him with the story of their company via Powerpoint, often times including an aerial shot of the sprawling business among the slides, hoping to convey growth, and thereby, success.


“Is that growth what we could call true development or is it obesity,” Majgaard asked, noting that expansion is many times conflated with development. In his consulting business, Majgaard often works with companies that have attempted to develop a grand strategy on their own, with mixed results.


More than a mission statement
Deriding the “away day poetry meeting,” where management hole up for a half day in a hotel conference room to reinvent a struggling company, Majgaard discussed how some businesses utilize such time to develop a new mission statement. That statement becomes the “poetry” at the top of a pyramid with a base of “plans and budgets” and a middle consisting of a “success formula.”


“It is the stuff in the middle that's interesting,” Majgaard said. He then laid out the basic model for a “success formula” as a spectrum, running from right to left and consisting of “capability” on the far left, “original idea” in the middle, and then “market preference” on the far right.


“You need to put the idea in the middle and see yourself on the one side and then the customer on the other,” Majgaard explained, adding that success usually means that the original idea you develop is ultimately liked by your company and your customer, but just for different reasons.


When developing that “original idea”, Majgaard said it must answer three questions:


  • Who is the customer?
  • What are you trying to offer your customer?
  • How are you going to make it happen?


In this scenario, the second question becomes what is more commonly known as the value proposition, while the final query is the basis for a business model. Once that is established,  a company must determine whether the customer actually “likes” the new idea. In this instance, affection is often determined by three additional questions by the customer of your company.


  • Do I know and like you [branding]?
  • Are your covering special needs?
  • Can we reach each other [sales and marketing]


“It is as banal as that,” Majgaard said. “If you take any startup company, you can use those questions and see if it will be a success or not.”


Brands vs. Logos
Majgaard noted that he had walked the SPE Thermoforming Conference’s show hall prior to his presentation, commenting on impressive machines and detailed displays, but noting an omission by many exhibitors that is common among a great number of businesses.


“What we often miss is the explanation of in what way is this product an advantage to the customer,” Majgaard said. “This is a value proposition.” Once a value proposition is determined and conveyed to the market, a company can reinforce that differentiator via branding.


On his next slide, Majgaard pulled up an array of famous corporate logos, using these readily identified graphics to draw a distinction.


“Are these brands or logos,” Majgaard asked the audience, half rhetorically. “I think we should agree that we see here are logos, because that's the only thing we can see. Logos are painted names. So what are brands than? A brand equals an impression; a logo is an expression. A strong brand equals money, awareness, image, satisfaction, loyalty. A brand can build up loyalty even without comparisons. Brand is power, it makes people choose you again and again.”


As a company works to establish a brand, Majgaard said it must express how its products meetvcustomers needs. “If you can’t figure out those needs, the customer will tell you,” Majgaard said. “And if you're not covering their needs well, one day you will stand face to face with reality.”


Travel with someone who’s been there
Majgaard noted how in the early days of Lego, the founder, who was a woodworker, traveled to Germany to bring back an expert in plastics to the company’s production facility in Denmark, in the process acknowledging his own experience deficit. So too must companies seeking to enter a new area of business hire individuals with prior experience in that new arena.


“The rule is if you're moving from ‘A’ to  ‘B’, the team that does that should have more people on it who are from ‘B’ than ‘A’,” Majgaard said. “The team should have more people who've worked with that new area. If you’re in a completely new technology, please hire some people that have already worked with it.”


New to the world or new to you?
In that same vein, business leaders should be ready to accept that their original idea may not be that original. “If your idea is not new to world, go and see it,” Majgaard said, noting that the relevant scale of novel ideas is “new to the company”, “new to the industry” and, most rare, “new to world.”


“Vision is about, ‘What is our next big move?’ Once the management team agrees,  then figure out ‘Where do we go and see it?’ because in 99% of cases the new idea already on this earth.”


Majgaard finished with some basic truths about human psychology. “Every manager thinks they are a genius and every person says they're ready to change but they aren’t,” Majgaard said, adding that a company doesn’t need to reinvent and entire corporation. Better to start “in the corner first.” Once you do start, remember something else.


“When you want to redevelop a company,” Majgaard said, “you cannot communicate enough,” adding that true communication entails both participants in a conversation understanding its contents in the same way.

Out of Chaos, Collaboration

By: Tony Deligio 24. September 2014

Like any good buzzword, “collaboration” has been used and abused enough that its literal definition has all but completely eroded away, leaving in its place a vague sense of what the word once meant


At SPI’s Fall Meeting in Chicago, Dan Sanker, founder and president of CaseStack, sought to reaffirm collaboration’s definition, acknowledging the importance of a word that has served as the operational basis of his company, which optimizes shipping of goods among manufacturers, OEMs, retailers and distributors.


Per the company’s website:


CaseStack combines an advanced transportation and warehousing system with proprietary, web-based software to enable customers to reap the benefits and economies of a sophisticated, global logistics system without all the infrastructure costs.


In plastics, he sees similar opportunities in another “sophisticated, global logistics system”, describing the sector in his speech as a “complex, dramatic, big industry with a lot of trading partners.”


“If you happen to be in a large, complex industry that seems chaotic at times,” Sanker noted, “that can be a huge opportunity.”


The consumer’s role
In a job that requires the day-to-day management of supply chains, Sanker has become acutely aware of the consumer’s ability to influence activity up and down the chain.


“The consumer is at the very bottom of the supply chain,” Sanker noted, “and when they they go shopping, that dictates everything that happens up the supply chain,” adding that companies up the chain that respond to consumers are the ones that succeed.


Success for Sanker, in part, has meant collaborating with the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart. He discussed how the 1300-plus consumer product companies that surround Wal-Mart create a new kind of business cluster, rife with the chaos that can lead to opportunity, describing a “collaborative ecosystem” that is ultimately consumer driven.


True collaboration
Sanker broke down true collaboration into four steps:


  • Networking (share information)
  • Coordination (take action)
  • Cooperation (share resources)
  • Collaboration (shared risks/rewards)


In his business, which involves linking various parties with common interests (albeit at times competing goals), Sanker noted that true collaboration has been key, explaining the power of groups with a simple equation.


In a group with 2 participants there is 1 collaborative opportunity, while in a group with 12 participants, there are 4083 collaborative opportunities. How large of a collaborative network could you build? 

CaseStack's Illinois Consolidation Center

Big Area Additive Manufacturing Stars at IMTS

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 23. September 2014

At this year’s IMTS show in Chicago earlier this month, Cincinnati Inc., launched its prototype Big Area Additive Manufacturing Machine (BAAM), which resulted from the formation of the company’s partnership earlier this year with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to develop a large-scale additive manufacturing system. One that would be capable of printing polymer components up to 10 times larger than what is currently producible, and at speeds 200-500 times faster than existing machines.


The partnership’s aim is to introduce significant new capabilities to the U.S. machine tool sector which supplies manufacturing technology to automotive, aerospace, appliance, and robotic industries. The prototype machine uses the chassis and drives of Cincinnati Inc.’s gantry-style laser cutting systems at the base, and incorporates a high-speed cutting tool, pellet feed mechanism, and control software.


Cincinnati Inc.’s market development manager Rick Neff explained to me how the company participated with Local Motors, Sabic, and ORNL to take on the challenge to 3D print a car during the IMTS trade show. “We started printing on Sunday morning at 7 am. We printed the main structure of the car including the frame, seats, cockpit, hood and tail in one 1000-lb piece by 6 am on Tuesday. We then took the rough part to a Thermwood Router where the surfaces that needed to be accurately machined smooth were routed smooth.”

On Wednesday through Saturday morning, the Local Motors crew attached a drive train, suspension, steering wheel, instruments, brakes and some trim to complete the car. The car, named Strati (Italian for layers), uses a drive train from Renault that is employed in the European Twizy City Car. “Right on schedule at 9 am Saturday, we fired up the Strati and drove it out of the show…the reaction from the crowd and the press was overwhelming,” says Neff.


Here is some key information Neff provided about BAAM:


• The machine extrudes hot thermoplastic to build parts layer-by-layer, similar to an FDM machine.

• BAAM’s extrusion rates are very high—in the neighborhood of 35 lb/hr, which is reportedly hundreds of times faster than typical rapid prototyping 3D printers.

• The material for Strati is ABS with carbon fiber reinforcement formulated right into the plastic. Carbon fiber reinforced ABS is readily available for about $7/lb.

• The layer thickness is 0.160”.

• The build envelope on the prototype BAAM is 2m x 4m x 0.87m.

• The extruder can use quite a variety of thermoplastics and fiber reinforced thermoplastics. Neff says they have used ABS, PPS, PEKK, and PEI. Carbon fiber and glass fiber reinforcements have been used to improve strength and thermal stability of the parts.


Although a production version of BAAM is not yet ready for delivery, Neff confirms that the company is considering selling a very few alpha level machines to laboratories or companies who would like to do some basic research on the technology right now. He says, they are also willing to take orders for beta level and production machines that will be available in 2015 for customers who want to be the first in their industry to be using BAAM. 

Bayer To Quit Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 18. September 2014

Bayer AG has announced that it plans to focus entirely on its Life Science businesses—HealthCare and CropScience—and intends to float MaterialScience on the stock market by 2016 at latest as a separate company. The BMS business, with North American headquarters in Pittsburgh, is comprised of polyurethane, TPUs, PC, inorganic chemicals and coatings & adhesives.


Bayer CEO Dr. Marijn Dekkers says the company intends to create two top global corporations: Bayer as a world-class innovation company in the Life Science businesses, and MaterialScience as a leading player in polymers. Subsequent to the intended spin-off, MaterialScience will be Europe’s fourth largest chemical company; it had global sales in 2013 of more than $14.2 billion (pro forma figure). The new company will have a new name and a separate identity and be headquartered in Leverkusen, Germany. Employment levels are expected to remain stable over the next few years. It is planned that the new company will have a global workforce of about 16,800, including 6500 in Germany.


Dekkers noted that the company firmly believes that MaterialScience will use its separate status to deploy its existing strength even more rapidly, effectively and flexibly in the global competitive arena. A strategy and corporate culture aligned to technological and cost leadership, coupled with the ability to make its own investment and portfolio decisions, would give MaterialScience the best development prospects in a highly competitive market. That, according to Dekkers, includes direct capital market access so that that it would not have to compete with the Life Science businesses for investment funding in the future.


It is possible that a similar action might be taken by DuPont, according to a Sept. 17 Forbes article. Activist investor Nelson Peltz sent a note to DuPont’s board this past Tuesday, which said Peltz’s hedge fund, Trian Partners, is urging the company to break itself up. According to Forbes, Trian is one of DuPont’s largest shareholders and discussions have been underway for the past year as Trian feels that it can “no longer be silent as DuPont continues to struggle to execute” what Trian believes is a flawed business plan.


Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.


Thermoplastic Composites Prominent At SPE's ACCE

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 17. September 2014

Last week in Novi, Mich., I attended SPE’s Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) and was impressed by the daily panel discussions, including one on lightweighting and the multi-material car. Moderated by president and CEO Jay Baron of the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), it featured panelists from Ford, GM, Magna, Gurit Automotive, and EDAG Engineering AG.

            Among the highlights of the discussion:

• Lightweighting in automotive is an enabling tool to deliver fuel economy and performance, and not something consumers care about.

• The greatest advantage of plastic composites currently is also their greatest disadvantage: that they are so infinitely tailorable.

• The composites industry would do well to take cues from the steel industry which has aligned itself with the automotive industry and identified the development of new materials.

• The steel industry seems to reinvent itself every 10 years and the third generation steel grades allow for making low-cost parts with tenfold the strength of previous generations. As such, we can expect a rather stable presence of low-cost, high-performance steel in automotive, even in the most composite-intensive vehicles.

• Ford’s new aluminum-intensive F-150 truck will demonstrate a significant step in weight reduction, but this can be achieved by other materials.

• There is great potential for carbon fiber reinforced plastics as new materials are developed, the cost is dropped, and parts are designed for these materials.

• By the same token, we are not likely to see high-volume, composite-intensive vehicles on the road for a while.

Also impressive was the broad range of presentations on developments in both thermoset and thermoplastic composites. A “star” emerging in the thermoplastics composites arena is long fiber thermoplastics (LFT). Advances with LFT were discussed by suppliers of materials like Invista and DuPont, suppliers of glass fiber reinforcements Owens-Corning and PPG, carbon fiber supplier Zoltec, as well injection molding machine maker Arburg, and the Fraunhofer Institute. In the exhibit hall, compounder PlastiComp, which specializes in LFT, showcased a semitruck fender liner made of LFT-PP, which outperformed a failed short glass fiber part and replaced metal, resulting in mass reduction and increased durability (see photo).

Stay tuned for an upcoming article in PT on these and other interesting developments in thermoplastic composites. These include  advances in thermoplastics reinforced with carbon nanotubes (CNTs), high-impact nylons reinforced with a new nanoadditive that are promising for use with FDM additive manufacturing technology, and new generation boron nitride nanotube continuous fibers that show potential to surpass in mechanical properties CNTs and possibly graphite fibers.


Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.



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