Network: April 1990
John Copeland's problem, published in our January Network, must have seemed simple: many readers wrote in with similar solutions. Copeland's company manufactures an industrial burner that, he says, reduces fuel use by 40%. He has customers in several markets, but asphalt plant owners are unconvinced; they want to see results from another asphalt plant first (Cracking a Market, January, [Article link]). The answers:
Several years ago the manufacturer of Equitrack, a new surface material for horse-racing tracks, faced a similar problem. It had received tremendous response from training centers using the surface, but established tracks were reluctant to try it without a test case. Equitrack made a deal with Remington Park, a new racetrack under construction, offering reduced cost and deferred payment. Remington Park provided it with the test case it needed, and an inroad to the market. Since then other tracks have installed Equitrack.
By waiving profits, and perhaps devising a creative financing plan, Mr. Copeland might persuade an asphalt plant to take a chance. Loss of profit could be made up over the long term by growth in the new market.
Daniel P. Kelliher
Spring City Electric Inc.
Mr. Copeland should set up a deal whereby the asphalt company would not have to pay for the furnace unless it meets his guarantee of 40% fuel reduction.
Dana S. Myers
S. D. Myers
Mr. Copeland might install the burner for free and recoup his costs from the savings the plant realizes over a set period of time. Or he may wish to forgo profit on the unit in exchange for the plant owner's endorsement. But he should take the instability of the oil market into account. He could tie payments to gallons of fuel saved, rather than dollar savings.
Boyd Hemphill Jr.
Superintendent, Procurement Management
Aircraft Services Inc.
Vance Air Force Base
Popcorn! Peanuts! Paper!
Joanne Anderson's company stopped using polystyrene "peanuts" to pack shipments because the plastic is harmful to the environment. But the shredded paper she switched to was dusty, customers complained. In January, Anderson asked Network readers for alternatives (Care Package, [Article link]). As it happens, we may have answered her question ourselves: an item in Hands On highlighted a company that uses popcorn for packing material (Popped Fresh Daily, March, [Article link]). But other readers were split on paper versus peanuts.
Ms. Anderson's problem might be the type of paper she uses as packaging. Some papers, when shredded, are dirtier than others. Recycled paper used in most office supplies is dirtier than higher-quality stationery paper. If she's shredding recycled paper, a vacuum aerator would diminish the dust by cleaning the shredded paper.
Like Ms. Anderson, our company still uses polystyrene peanuts for packaging, and we, too, are concerned about their disposal. But until a suitable substitute is developed, perhaps businesses could recycle the peanuts. Cooperating businesses in a city would agree to save the peanuts they receive in packages, and deliver them to a central location. Companies that use peanuts for packing could buy from this recycling center for considerably less than the material must cost new. Businesses would save money and the city could reduce landfill.
R. A. Steiner
National Wholesale Label
Klamath Falls, Ore.
Our company packages its leaded-glass inserts in shredded paper for shipment, and we have no problem with dust because we first wrap our panels in craft paper or butcher paper. This solves any dust problem, and shredded paper works better than anything else.
Stoltenberg Stained Glass
Engineering a Success
Chris Cleveland has an idea for a new electronic device, but where can he find someone to build a prototype? And how will he pay that person without bankrupting his plans (In Search of Engineering, January, [Article link])?
Many firms provide the design services Mr. Cleveland requires, but there are several degrees of expertise. He should first determine what degree he needs: is his device a Mercedes or a skateboard? Then he should look for a company to fit that need. The Thomas Register of American Manufacturers is an excellent place to start, and it's available in most libraries. He might also check his Better Business Bureau for the names of local electronic design firms.
Even if he plans on building the units, Mr. Cleveland should deal with a firm that offers contract manufacturing. It will typically design a product that is easily produced. He should ask to see some of its products and pay attention to aesthetics.
I would also caution him not to be so quick to give away part of his company in exchange for design services. Rather, he might propose to the firm a manufacturing contract. Some vendors will amortize part of the design fee over a production run if the product looks promising. Finally, he should not release any details of his product without getting a signed nondisclosure agreement. Otherwise, his product may get to market without him.
Director of Operations
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Mr. Cleveland should contact the electrical engineering department heads at universities in his area. Often, students who are close to graduating need to complete a project, and perhaps one of them would be interested in his idea. A department head might be able to point out bright students. He or she might even know of an interested instructor.
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