Managing thermal spray innovation

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Managers at thermal spray coatings facilities usually have their plates full with the day to day operations and meeting the profitability demands placed by superiors. Some times this task of thermal spray management can get to be quite hectic dealing with suppliers of thermal spray consumables, dealing with customers who are always demanding more and more every day and above all dealing with employees who can sometimes turn out to be more vicious than the aforementioned two. To add to this problem comes quality issues, accounts receivables issues and so on.

But what is the hardest part of thermal spray coatings management? In my opinion, it is the management of thermal spray innovation. Innovation is the sure fire way in which you can stay ahead of your competition. Simply competing on price and delivery of thermal spray coatings services is a thing of the past. Everyone nowadays is willing to cut down their profit margins and some salesmen will even promise the unthinkable just to get in the door and snatch away the job that you have been plasma coating for years. They may find that they shot themselves in the foot months later, but in the mean time you have lost revenue from that thermal spray customer account and that is no fun.

Innovation on the other hand, can put you in a category all by yourself, far away from lousy competitors. And innovation in thermal spray coatings does not need to be relegated just to coming up with better parameters. Innovation can be in any area all the way from receiving to shipping and everything in between including new coatings development. But the issue of managing innovation deals not with innovation itself, but rather how you would handle the innovation and how you would motivate the regular employees to innovate every single day.

One cannot simply tell the employees, “Well you are getting paid everyday anyway and so any innovation you do is part of your job.” This may sound fine in theory, but in practice, no one will innovate for those terms. Then again, you cannot throw money every time someone comes up with an innovation. Complex calculations of how much money is saved for the company by a specific innovation or how much new business can be generated by a new idea sometimes create fierce emotional distress on the part of those that got less money than what they thought their idea was worth. I remember once when I was very young, I came up with something that I thought was worth three thousand dollars, but ended up with one hundred and forty seven; some motivation that was for me to come up with the next idea!

Creating, nurturing and maintaining an environment where new ideas are constantly being brought up by employees is the biggest challenge to any manager anywhere including those in the thermal spray industry. There is really no one time tested method that will suit every organization; and there is no one method of compensation and reward that will fit for every single company. Knowing your employees, what motivates them, what gets their juices flowing and what will keep them coming up with new ideas all the time is the most important task of any manager and arguably the hardest!

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8 comments:

cmkay said...

And who is/ are the authors

Raj K said...

My name is Raj the author of this article. Hope you enjoyed it. I have not been very particular about touting the author's name, because just like the discovery is more important than the discoverer, the content is more important I would think than the writer. Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed the post. Thank you.

cmkay said...

Raj,

Thanks for the information. Where are you located? Are you familiar with the Thermal Spray Society which is part of ASM International?

Charlie Kay
ASB Industries

Raj K said...

Hi Charlie: I am located in Connecticut, USA. Yes, I am familiar with the Thermal Spray Society and it does good work. Thank you for your visit.

cmkay said...

Raj,

Let me know if you would be interested in getting involved with the Thermal Spray Society.

On another note, what is your company? You seem very knowledgeable in thermal spray coatings and just curious. This blogging and twitter stuff is very new to me although I am a Blackberry person!

Thanks,
Charlie Kay

Raj K said...

Hi Charlie: I do keep up with the workings of the thermal spray society. As far as my career, I left the thermal spray industry long time ago and I currently run my own company dealing with components with advanced thin films. However, I feel that I can share my knowledge of thermal spray coatings with fellow engineers and hence this blog. May be some day , I might want to revisit my attachments with the thermal spray world as a rep or something for some outfit based in the midewest or something like that, but that is up in the air!

Thank you so much for your kind visits here.

dripo said...

I enjoyed reading your blog. Well done.

dripo said...

I enjoyed reading your blog, excellent work. Thank you for sharing your experiences.