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Friday, February 10, 2017

Pressure Under the Wings

Ok, full disclosure: I happen to be flying next week, so this post might be a little biased.

When us marketing folks go to work, we look at pictures of other people, diagrams and flow charts, and, if we're lucky, maybe of the gear that we sell. I happen to look at pictures of pressure gauges a lot.

Knowing that I'm flying, I gotta admit it's a relief to say I know our gentleman engineer, Terry, who designs our pressure gauges. I can't wait for the day I look out of the plane window and see our flat-sided gauge and bright orange rubber boot checking the tire, strut or brake pressures on a neighboring aircraft. Besides it being a matter of company pride, I know the people who build and calibrate our gauges and I know I'd be safe relying on their work.

I realized the other day that not everyone knows the difference between a high-quality pressure gauge and a regular $50 analog gauge, so I thought I'd share some of our internal gearhead knowledge with you!

DPG2000B Digital Pressure Gauge

To the left is a picture of one of our gauges. This one happens to be a DPG2000B, the one that a certain major airline manufacturer located in Washington state recommends on their drawings that maintenance techs use.

Toasted Marshmallow Gauge
To the right is a picture of what we call our toasted marshmallow gauge. Believe it or not, it's the same gauge as the DPG2000B above, only this one kind of got blown out of the back of a jet engine after it was accidentally left inside.

Aaaand it stayed perfectly calibrated. For all you non-techies out there, that means that it was accurate before it was super-heated, and it was just as accurate afterwards. More on cal stuff later, I promise I'm not just bragging.

Monday, February 6, 2017

OEM Manufacturing and Growth: A How-To

Like many of you, our customers often buy our products to install directly into new and often exciting OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) products. Many are SMBs, just as we are.

You see, we get very excited to see what our OEM customers are developing! They know their customers, and they know their products. Often these OEMs are solving problems that companies have been having for years. New sensor equipment now determines within millimeters the correct fill of a bottle of soda or water. A different company might be determining highly accurate pressures for creating exact pill density for the pharmaceutical industry. 

But how in the world does a company determine what problem to solve next?

In reality, many of us intuitively know how to embark on this process. The question becomes, how do we translate that intuition into a corporate structure?

The process is very nicely summed up in the article "Are you sure you want to innovate like a startup?" The piece was co-authored by Aldo de Jong and Harry Wilson from Claro Partners and Pascal Bouvier, fintech venture capital investor. http://bit.ly/Corp_v_startup

In a nutshell, the article discusses the difference between the way that startups innovate, and the way that corporations innovate. The former has begun to influence the latter, and the article outlines some pitfalls that may occur. Taking the article's advice verbatim may be easier for very large companies, since many of us can't afford to create entire research arms of our companies, but at the root of it all is this: Know. Your. Audience.

“One of the classic lean startup fables is Airbnb’s experiment to hire professional photographers to shoot each listing, resulting in a 2-3X increase in bookings - but where did this hypothesis come from? 
Back when Airbnb was all air mattresses and Obama-branded cereal, their co-founders traveled to New York City, met every single host, lived with them, and wrote their first reviews. Their ‘aha’ moment was seeing the mismatch of grainy photos compared to the real home; this insight gave life to what was, on paper, a mad experiment to run. As a human-centered designer, Brian Chesky lives this philosophy up to today (with guests on his couch every night). It’s this customer immersion that informs the lean experiments that have made Airbnb so different, and successful.”

Those of us in charge of gathering this knowledge and are doing this on-the-ground research for our own OEM development must find the balance point between knowledge and discovery. In other words, time is money, and the next time, Chesky may not have stayed with each and every host to determine his growth point.

Next steps, then, are clear.
Don't guess. 
Meet customers, talk to them, spend time at their facilities, and find out what is going on at the ground level. Find your own Aha! moment that good, clean research can provide.