LOVELAND, Ohio—Many companies talk these days about using the “voice of the customer” to improve their business.
The Franklynn Industries division of Illinois Tool Works Inc. is taking the idea to heart by launching an initiative intended to assess current conditions and needs in the rubber molding industry.
The Market Segment Focus is a tool that parent company ITW uses on a regular basis, but this is the first time Franklynn will use the process since its late 2006 purchase by ITW, according to Zdenka Puflerova, product manager for the Loveland-based maker of mold releases and other process aids.
She said the premise is pretty simple: Franklynn will ask customers and potential customers what their unmet needs are.
“In the light of the severe economic crisis we feel it is of crucial importance, now more than ever, to stay abreast of the issues rubber molders are facing,” Puflerova said. “It is our sole purpose to better define the problems a typical rubber molding facility deals with every day.”
By listening, Franklynn aims to develop a better understanding to the challenges molders face and, ultimately, identify solutions the mold release firm can provide. “We really want to find out what it is that the industry is dealing with that nobody has been able to solve,” she said. “If it's in our wheelhouse, we'll find a solution.”
Franklynn will look specifically at four market segments as part of the process: rubber-to-metal bonding customers; seals and gasket makers; foot-wear producers; and tire manufacturers. If approached, however, the firm will talk to companies outside these markets.
Currently, the firm is trying to get the word out about the study to get molders interested in taking part. It is starting with its current customers, but wants to broaden its horizons as well.
“We do want to talk to people who don't buy from us. We want to know why they don't buy from us,” Puflerova said, adding that it's not a sales effort so participants won't be badgered afterward.
The study will be conducted in several different forms. The main method, she said, will have a team from Franklynn meet with a cross-functional team from the molded goods maker. The mold release firm wants to hear not only what challenges the manufacturing side faces, but also the problems encountered by such groups as research and development, purchasing, and sales and marketing.
The other two methods are one-on-one interviews over the phone or an online version that can be completed in about 15 minutes for those firms that don't have time to otherwise participate.
Through the first 10 days of the program, Franklynn has found people willing to talk, according to Puflerova. “We stress that it's not a sales call, that the goal is to improve the rubber molding process,” she said. “If people understand that, they're open to talk to us.”
In the early stages, the company has found that customers are looking for one-stop shopping, hoping to make their purchasing more convenient and interested in cutting costs by reducing suppliers.
“Thus far we haven't heard anything we haven't heard before,” she said. “If we don't find any groundbreaking ideas, that's fine, because that means we have our bases covered. It's important to validate (current practices).”
Franklynn needs to finish the process by May 15 because it does planning for next year starting in the summer and wants to identify any potential R&D programs that may be brought to light by customer answers, Puflerova said.
Those wanting to participate can send contact information to [email protected] with “MSF” in the subject line. Participants will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win an iPod Touch.