Tinkering with technology

There’s technology, and then there is technology creatively used to solve strategic business challenges.

This year, the eVolution in Manufacturing winners exemplify fine examples of the second kind. In real estate, there are three factors for success — location, location and location. As I reviewed this year’s nominations, I found that most also stressed three factors for success — customer, customer and customer.

In a year when many companies took a "sit tight" approach, some leading companies took this opportunity to get ready for an improving economy. These proactive companies are now better positioned for growth as the number of orders begins to grow.

The impact that technology properly applied can have on a company can be immense, even transformational. The key is to use it as a tool, not as a substitute for a well-considered strategy.

The recent recession made companies pause and question their use of information technology. But those companies that knew the true value of information as a competitive edge — not only for their managers and workers but also for their customers — quickly recommitted to business strategies exploiting the extraordinary developments in IT through the 1990s.

For example, a previous eVolution award winner, Lincoln Electric, was able to create — and significantly grow — a new retail business unit leveraging its ERP system, Web-based solutions and lean manufacturing concepts. Another large company, GE Quartz, created an integrated management information capability that provides its employees with a real-time picture of all aspects of its business globally.

Smaller companies have been particularly vulnerable in these difficult times. As Voss Industries faced challenges as an automotive and aerospace supplier, it knew that the only way to survive was to improve customer satisfaction and increase productivity. To accomplish this, it implemented a synergistic blend of Web-based and conventional ERP applications, allowing it to exceed customer expectations while reducing the cost and time of production.

No group of companies was hurt more by the plight of IT than the traditional IT consultant. One firm that did not fall into that situation was EYEMG. As a Web development and hosting company, its entire business of developing and supporting Web-based applications was at risk. However, because of the company’s customer focus and creative IT strategies, it made it easy and productive for customers to do business with it. This has enabled EYEMG to not only maintain but also grow a very loyal customer base.

By dedicating time and resources to the right technology for the right reasons, the eVolution award winners are living examples of how companies can sustain and grow their businesses through customer satisfaction and improved productivity … even in tough times. I am particularly proud of the 2004 winners for their focus, ingenuity and commitment to improvement. Stephen Gage is president of CAMP Inc., title sponsor of the eVolution in Manufacturing awards.