Innovation: The Key to Growth and Profitability

For the last two years, the recession has forced manufacturers to focus on a single issue—survival. This year, with the economic recovery underway, MAGNET is launching a new service—the Partnership for Regional Innovation Services to Manufacturers (PRISM)—that will help manufacturers focus on innovation as the key to their long-term growth and success.

by John Schober, Director of Innovation, MAGNET

John Schober, Director of Innovation, MAGNET
John Schober, Director of Innovation
Media Coverage:
Regional biz plan to help neo manufacturers thrive, by Karin Connelly, Freshwater Cleveland, April 21, 2011
Cleveland—While it's common for individual companies to develop a business plan to help prepare for success, Northeast Ohio is one of only three regions in the country to pilot a regional business development plan. The Partnership for Regional Innovation Services to Manufacturers (PRISM) will be headed by MAGNET to help small and medium sized manufacturers thrive in the region.

New "Biz Plan" for region hopes to jump start manufacturers' innovation, by Mhari Saito, WCPN IdeaStream, April 12, 2011
Cleveland—You've heard of business plans for companies, how about one for a metropolitan region? ideastream's Mhari Saito reports, with help from the Brookings Institution, NE Ohio is one of three regions in the country to pilot the development and execution of such a plan.

For many of us, the turning of the calendar into a new year prompts the annual ritual of making New Year’s resolutions. These promises to ourselves remind us to place increasing emphasis on what is important, like spending more time with family or improving one's health, and to avoid being a slave only to what is immediately pressing.

Businesses face a similar challenge of finding the time and resources to focus on those things that are important but appear to have limited urgency.

One of the vital matters that often does not receive the attention it deserves is focusing on developing the ability to respond to opportunities and changes in the marketplace.

It is no stretch to say that the economic recession of the last few years forced many companies to focus on a single priority—survival. In this kind of environment paying attention to anything with a time horizon beyond a few weeks—let alone a few years—can be a challenge. But many companies struggle with this challenge in good times as well. When customer orders are coming in faster than they can be processed, how can anyone find the time to focus on the future?

Whether in manufacturing or services, or whether companies are large or small, balancing the demands of now with the opportunities of the future is a common challenge. Like any organization, MAGNET has faced this challenge.

Innovation Events Calendar

A few years ago, an extensive manufacturing-led planning process called the Global Manufacturing Roadmap resulted in the decision to create MAGNET on the organizational platform of the former Cleveland Advanced Manufacturing Program (CAMP). The goal was to better respond to the changing needs of manufacturers in the region.

This evolution didn’t happen as fast as we would have liked, and it didn’t play out entirely as planned, but MAGNET now has a broader range of programs and services aimed at helping manufacturing companies compete. These include product engineering, workforce development, market diversification, export assistance, and sustainability, along with the traditional services focused on productivity and quality. These services have helped make a difference for hundreds of manufacturers in the state and region.

This year, MAGNET is once again making a choice to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of the region's manufacturers. We are focusing on improving our ability to support the efforts of companies to shape their futures through increased attention to innovation.

Like MAGNET’s previous evolution, this choice is motivated by changing market conditions. Certainly the ability for manufacturers to develop their business for the future has been impacted by the economic recession, but we also see untapped potentials for our manufacturers in markets outside of the ones that have traditionally been associated with the region, such as medical, solar and wind.

In addition, we see growing opportunities to leverage support from state and federal agencies, universities, community colleges, and other economic development resources that all share an interest in improving the vitality of the regional manufacturing sector.

Prompted by these changing market conditions and opportunities, this year MAGNET will launch the PRISM (Partnership for Regional Innovation Services to Manufacturers) initiative. PRISM is an effort to better leverage the assets of the region found in the private, public, and non-profit sectors by connecting them to manufacturers. These include the capital, talent, hard assets, best practices and knowledge that can support growth and which, if appropriately used, offer manufacturers the prospect of higher return on their investments in growth-directed activities.

We already have significant momentum behind the new PRISM initiative. Organizations across Northeast Ohio, including The Fund for Our Economic Future, The Cleveland Foundation, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, NorTech, WIRE-Net, and several manufacturers, are already playing key roles in its development.

PRISM is also generating national interest, as it was recently highlighted as a key element in Northeast Ohio’s broader economic development strategy at the Brookings Institution’s Global Metro Summit in Chicago last December. It also was mentioned in a Time magazine article that compared Turin, Italy’s approach to economic development with Northeast Ohio’s strategy.

PRISM is the beginning of MAGNET's effort to find better ways to help manufacturers focus on shaping their future. We are currently looking for manufacturers that may be interested and willing to work with us in piloting the new PRISM services.

We feel a meaningful resolution you can make to strengthen your manufacturing organization this year is to talk with us about the PRISM program. So I invite you to contact me if your organization is interested in participating in this dynamic effort to grow your business.

[This article originally published in the January 2011 issue of MAGNET Roundup]

Regional News Briefs: Innovation

Parker Hannifin developing hydrogen fuel cells for Airbus, by Robert Schoenberger, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 1, 2011
Cleveland— European airplane giant Airbus has selected Parker Hannifin to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cells to power the electrical systems on future planes.

Alcoa plant to add workers; Barberton wheel facility planning $21 million expansion, by Katie Byard, Akron Beacon Journal, July 1, 2011
Barberton, Ohio—The investment – involving new energy-saving technology to be used in recycling scrap aluminum chips – will help to keep 350 full-time manufacturing positions in the city, as well as create 30 additional jobs, aluminum company officials said.

Warren Incubator hailed as nurturing future, by Dennis LaRue, Youngstown Business Journal, June 30, 2011
Warren, Ohio—"This incubator is us looking forward," stated U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who secured $2 million in funding from Congress to advance TBEIC. If it proves as successful as hoped, he said, the incubator will prove a source of good jobs that keep and bring back to the Mahoning Valley young people who grew up here.

Kent Displays gets $7 million in funding, to add 40 jobs, by Robert Schoenberger, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 29, 2011
Kent, Ohio—Kent Displays, a company founded by Kent State University professors, has received $7 million in financing to increase production of its Boogie Board product line.

Johnson Controls to invest $138.5 million, add jobs at battery plant in Holland, by Larry P. Vellequette, Toledo Blade, June 28, 2011
Holland, Ohio—Auto supplier Johnson Controls Inc. will invest $138.5 million in its battery plant in suburban Toledo and add approximately 50 jobs as it converts the plant from making traditional lead-acid automotive batteries to newer absorbent glass mat, or AGM, technologies.

Wind turbine starts up in Euclid above Lincoln Electric Co., by Andrew John, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 27, 2011
Euclid, Ohio—Lincoln Electric's 340-foot, 800,000-pound towering turbine, located a few hundred yards from the Shoreway, was imported from Germany just two months ago and quickly became identifiable in Northeast Ohio's skyline. The $5.9 million project is the first big step in bringing cutting-edge energy sources to this area.

House passes patent overhaul, by Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2011
Washington—The House passed the most sweeping changes to the patent system in nearly 60 years, a rare bipartisan accomplishment pushed by major businesses bent on reducing a huge backlog of applications and aligning U.S. procedures with most of the rest of the world.

Obama announces $500 million effort to boost high-tech manufacturing, AP via Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 24, 2011
Pittsburgh—magining advances from lighter cars to smarter robots, President Barack Obama is announcing a $500 million project to spur high-technology manufacturing, a sector of U.S. industry that presidential advisers say has lost ground to such competitors as Germany and Japan.

NorTech identifies Northeast Ohio's opportunities in advanced energy, by Chuck Soder, Crain's Cleveland Business, June 22, 2011
Cleveland—vNortheast Ohio could create more than 2,000 jobs by 2018 if companies and organizations with expertise in energy storage technologies work together, according to a study by regional technology advocacy group NorTech.

Ryan: Lead the world in advanced manufacturing, by Steve Minter, Industry Week, June 22, 2011
Washington—The United States should set a goal of leading the world in advanced manufacturing, says Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, co-chair of the House Manufacturing Caucus. While he says much of manufacturing has become more efficient and competitive, he says advanced manufacturing in areas such as green technology is critical to the country's economic future.

Ohio wind manufacturing on growth trajectory, by Bill Rice, WCPN IdeaStream, June 20, 2011
Cleveland—Ohio's wind energy industry has been gaining momentum, and this month was given an additional boost: China agreed to drop its subsidy of wind energy manufacturing.

Sherwin-Williams wins green award from U.S. EPA, by John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 20, 2011
Cleveland—The award recognizes work done by Sherwin-Williams scientists working in downtown Cleveland who have invented a water-based oil paint. The new paint is just one example of the company's efforts to become sustainable -- that is, to adopt the principles of sustainable development, doing business today in a way that does not ruin the environment for future generations.

Olympic Steel to unveil 120-foot-tall, 100-kilowatt wind turbine, by Dan Shingler, Crain's Cleveland Business, June 16, 2011
Bedford Heights, Ohio—Once complete, the turbine is expected to provide about 15% of the power consumed at Olympic, a steel processor and service center that sells steel to manufacturers.

WindMade label for wind-powered companies debuts in U.S., Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2011
New York—This fall, businesses can apply for certification from the new WindMade standard, designed for companies that get at least a quarter of their electricity from wind power.

Alcoa says new materials will save planes weight, AP via Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 10, 2011
New York—Aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. said Thursday that it has developed new alloys and engineering techniques that will give it a chance to compete against the non-aluminum parts increasingly used by airplane makers.

Siemens CEO urges Mahoning Valley to seize opportunities in green energy industry, by Dennis LaRue, Youngstown Business Journal, June 7, 2011
Youngstown, Ohio—The Mahoning Valley has the attributes needed to play major role in the green energy industry "but must upgrade its infrastructure to be competitive," the CEO of the U.S. region of Siemens Corp. said in his keynote address to the Sustainable Energy Forum sponsored by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and held at Youngstown State University.

Vadxx Energy oil fuels potential for large-scale growth, by Dan Shingler, Crain's Cleveland Business, June 6, 2011
Cleveland—From the incubator at the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, or Magnet, in Cleveland, Vadxx founder and CEO James Garrett has been working on his black art. It's a way to take oil back out of tires, plastics, vinyl products and other items that were made with oil but are now sitting in landfills. He's doing it in the lab, he said, and now is shopping for a site at which to base his first commercial facility.

Polyflow, YSU turn trash into treasure, by Dan O'Brien, Youngstown Business Journal, June 1, 2011
Youngstown, Ohio—Polyflow LLC, a startup company that operates a small pilot processor in Akron, is looking to use its patented process to convert household plastic and polymer items into transportation fuel and new types of plastics on a large scale somewhere in northeast Ohio.