Four Thoughts on Manufacturing Leadership: Guiding a Product to Market

2011 was a big year for Integra Enclosures. We rolled out one of our most important products yet, the Genesis Line 24x24x10—the largest enclosure of its kind and specs to hit the U.S. market. A product rollout like this is a monumental endeavor, which began more than four years ago. I was recently asked, “what would you have changed or kept the same about the process of guiding this product to market?” In response, here are four thoughts:

  • Let your customers be your focus group. We spend a lot of time going and talking to Integra customers where they are and seeing how they’re using enclosures to protect equipment. They were the ones who let us know that a 24x24x10 enclosure was needed in the marketplace, and their insights on the features and specs of this product were directly integrated into the design that we gave the Genesis Line. Even throughout the design phase, we constantly showed the product to customers and tweaked revision upon revision, relying on their feedback to be sure we ended up with the best enclosure. There’s hardly a better focus group than your customer—the people who are using your product day-in and day-out.
  • Design engineers are invaluable. Truth told, we began this process largely without the aid of design engineers, but as we dove deeper into the process of making the Genesis Line 24x24x10, we quickly realized how vital their insights are to the process of creating a new product such as this. You might ask, “Weren’t you essentially creating another enclosure, just scaled up from the models you’re already producing?” Yes, we were adding another line, but this endeavor was similar to the challenges a car company faces when implementing a line of trucks. Yes, they’re both vehicles, but cars and trucks demand totally different features, design considerations and manufacturing processes. Design engineers have the expertise to anticipate every need that implementing a new product line will demand.
  • Pick a project champion. This leadership lesson is one you’ve heard before. As an organization leader, you need to be free to respond to all aspects of the business. So when launching a new product line, pick a trusted product champion from your team who will own every aspect of the process. At the same time, don’t be afraid to add your own flavor to the product. Be involved in the process enough to add your input and the input you hear from your customers, and let the design engineers have latitude to produce the best product possible.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Step Forward. If there’s one thing we might have done differently in introducing the Genesis 24x24x10, it would have been to do it sooner. As manufacturing leaders, it’s too easy to let other initiatives and products crowd what you know will be an important advance for your company. We knew a long time ago that that the Genesis 24x24x10 would fill a need in big way for our current customers and potential customers. But it took time to launch the project in earnest. In the future, Integra is going to be quicker to launch new product lines in response to what our customers want. Yes, it’s a big endeavor, but it’s the key to pushing forward in a fast-changing market.

 

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