BY STEPHANIE JOHNSTON
As we head into the new year, I could say what everyone else is saying after last year’s unprecedented challenges.
How the desire to protect employees prompted metal manufacturers to accelerate any robotic/automation plans they may have had. How U.S. companies that relied on one or two overseas suppliers are now willing to pay a bit more to work with more local partners, creating new business opportunities for metal manufacturers and strengthening our economy overall. How supply chains are becoming more collaborative, even sharing data to design and deliver products more efficiently. How machine tool builders that have augmented reality (AR) headsets saw sales increase as customers sought contactless maintenance troubleshooting. How, while still representing a small percentage of manufacturing processes, the use of 3D printing (see pages 14 and 32) more than doubled last year.
All that’s true. But at the same time, let’s not forget the basics that enabled U.S. manufacturers to weather the Great Depression, Great Recession, and today’s new normal of constant change: using technology to help customers succeed and remaining open to change.
Jarvis Cutting Tools in Rochester, N.H., may be 120 years old, but its marketing approach is 21st century. The fifth-generation family-owned manufacturer makes roughly 25% of the form taps sold in the U.S. as well as drills and rotary files. It uses commercially available measurement technology, but develops its own when necessary. It works with suppliers to test new PM steels, coatings, and machining processes. Its engineers use Six Sigma’s define, measure, analyze, improve, and control (DMAIC) process improvement strategy, pulling machine builders into this continuous feedback loop to develop the most-effective application-specific tools possible.
Such efforts reflect the company’s “factory-to-factory” customer service philosophy. Another recent development illustrates how effective the company is at another pillar of success: clear and concise branding.
About three years ago, Jarvis Cutting Tools hired a new sales and marketing director. Alissa Blouin’s background was in the real estate and medical industries, not metalworking, so when she came on board she reviewed the company’s promotional materials with a completely fresh eye. And what she saw communicated “old-fashioned” and “kinda boring.”
“I felt our literature and marketing was a little too complicated,” she told Steven LaMarca, manufacturing technology analyst for AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, in a “Road Trippin’ With Steve” videos. “I wanted to bring it down to a level where someone with no industry experience could look at it and understand what we make. Capture their attention with something bold, and give the full description with nitty-gritty details behind a ‘read more.’ (Here’s one tagline: We can tap it. Even if it’s a pain in the AHSS. Here’s another: I’d tap that.) We have engineers who’ve been here for 40 years, so they can tell you anything you ever wanted to know.”
Another obstacle to new-customer recruitment is that schools no longer teach students how to write, much less read, the cursive typeface used in the company’s logo. (You know – handwriting.) “People at trade shows would squint at my shirt or my name badge. I used that experience to say we really need to update.”
She embarked on a logo redesign and is gradually transitioning the company’s marketing materials and promotional items like water bottles, baseball caps, and beer cozies. The new logo uses the same company colors, but in easier-to-read typeface that’s supplemented with a drawing of a cutting tool tip.
Logo redesigns are deceptively simple but fraught with complications. Everyone has an opinion. They’re a huge change, and this particular design was 115 years old. But management supported the effort. “They’re willing to take a little bit of a risk, to trust me, which makes it fun.”
To that I say, amen! My pet peeve is trying to decipher what a company does. What problem does the company solve, and how? Many confuse form with substance, working so hard to impress they make it difficult for a potential customer to interact with them. And there goes a potential sale.
Kudos to Jarvis Cutting Tools for having the courage to refresh their brand and convey a clean, contemporary look while communicating with clarity to their customers and prospects. Their willingness to embrace their history but shed the appearance of “old” is worthy of attention – now is a great time for every competitive-minded manufacturer to evaluate the image they’re projecting in this whirring marketplace of advanced technologies.
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ACE Provides Free Machine Tool Training
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