The secret to being more successful five years from now than you are today? Accepting that your company will not, and cannot, be the same.
And the beauty of additive manufacturing, Miller says, is that the opportunity for reinvention only accelerates over time. “Before, you would set up a plant to make one thing, or a few things. You maybe served one or two markets,” he says, noting that the costly, highly customized production lines pigeonholed that facility more or less permanently. “3D printing is entirely agnostic in terms of markets. The metal printer, the plastic printer, the ceramic printer – whatever – it doesn’t care what it’s making. All of a sudden, you can move with whatever the market trends are. You can diversify and serve so many markets that you’re not hit hard by downturns.”
Taking the Road Less Traveled
Reinvention doesn’t necessarily require pioneering a new technology or application as Pictographics and Jones Packaging have done. Sometimes, all it takes is a fresh look at a market that has been there all along.
Dolf Kahle, second-generation owner and CEO of Visual Marking Systems (VMS) in Twinsburg, Ohio, has always considered his core business to be industrial OEM product identification, though he and his management team keep an eye out for growth opportunities. Fleet marking and vehicle graphics became a key secondary market for the company in the 1990s. In 2002, an acquisition brought the company into public transportation graphics; it also dabbles in P-O-P, though it’s a market Kahle has mostly avoided due to stiff competition and pressure on pricing.
With the digital side of his business growing steadily, Kahle considered other inkjet applications that could be fruitful. “OEM is a very slow growth market,” he says. “If you can grow five to seven percent, you’re doing pretty well. Transportation is a nice little niche business, but it involves a lot of transit authorities, bids, long sales cycles, and they beat you up on price. Fleet was growing, but we wanted more.”
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