Last month a manufacturer's representative in Northern California, Mark Drazba, contacted me about a column idea. Mark and other machine tool and accessory salesmen are in a unique position. Their customers are the job shops that develop new products out of necessity. These products are the solutions to the manufacturing problems that I like to share with you.
Mark says the December column made him think about all the new ideas that he has seen during his career. Some were a run away success, while others have moved on to that great "reject bin in the sky."
His suggestion was that I should talk about one of the most successful job-shop-comes-up-with-a-product stories that most of my readers know about. Mitee-Bite, of Ossipee, New Hampshire, has been providing workholding clamps for 15 years. If you have attended a machine tool exhibition, you have seen its products and probably have talked with the founder of Mitee-Bite, Maurice Bishop.
Moe Bishop moved to Ossipee from Massachusetts in 1977 to begin a one-man job shop. He built a small building behind his house and moved in some basic machinery. Within two years he had put up an addition on the building and added four employees. The cam action clamp, designed in 1985, was exhibited in Los Angeles at WESTEC in March of 1986. This product was the solution to a problem on the shop floor, and it became a viable industrial product that is currently being used around the world.
Mr. Bishop says, "We did not realize the work and expense related to sales and marketing, but pushed on. This process can be overwhelming and more time consuming than engineering and manufacturing combined. It also requires substantial financial resources to support a proper marketing program."
He also points out that you cannot rely on your initial success. Yesterday's solutions do not always lend themselves to the problems that you are facing today on the shop floor. That is one reason that Mitee-Bite is committed to a research and development program to introduce new products.
Mr. Bishop is also an example of another efficient method to bring new products to the marketplace—use the existing channels that an established manufacturer has in place. If the potential market for your new idea is not large enough to support the sales and distribution cost as well as the manufacturing expense, perhaps you should partner with a company that has an established and compatible, but not competitive, product to get your message across to potential customers.
Mr. Bishop finished our discussion by pointing out that, "the first eight years were difficult and rewarding at the same time, but we persevered and presently have a 24-page catalog of specialty clamps for jigs and fixtures. Our business continues to grow, and we presently market our products in over 25 countries."
All this from a "one-man job shop."