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How to grow and innovate

The annual Executive Leadership Conference held by the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute is known for, among other things, its ability to attract some pretty terrific business session speakers.

PMMI's 2007 ELC, held April 22-26 in Marco Island, FL, was no exception. It featured a freewheeling and insightful two-part session by Michael Treacy, author and co-founder of GEN3 Partners. That firm, based in Boston and St. Petersburg, Russia, is dedicated to creating science-based product innovations for a wide range of clients. Delivering advice on how packaging machinery builders can grow and innovate was Treacey's main focus. His observations included these:

-The U.S. has abandoned its innovation edge where mechanical devices are concerned.

-U.S. businesses have demonstrated that they have the discipline necessary to cut costs, but they do not seem to have the discipline to grow.

-Don't grow by dropping price. Grow by putting better value into the marketplace.

-North American builders of packaging machinery need a strategy recognizing that they may be caught between commodity-oriented producers in China and "fast-cycle innovators" in Western Europe.

-The sustainable packaging craze is here to stay. Take careful note of it, and seek ways to make it play to your advantage even though it tends to be more materials-focused than machinery-focused.

-Innovation among North American businesses is blocked for a number of reasons, but two key causes are that we don't always listen well and we tend to look for innovation in familiar places.

-Get better at listening, but listen with discretion. That means giving customers what they will pay for, not what they want.

-Be sure your innovation strategy is geared toward attacking root causes and not mere symptoms of root causes.

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