Category: Innovation

The future of asset management: No tool left behind

Stanley Black & Decker, at its annual shareholder meeting April 16, touted its line of RFID-embedded “smart tools” as the future of the industrial tool market.

The company’s ProtoID tools – such as sockets, wrenches and pliers – have RFID chips that are embedded in the tools (not applied to the exterior) so that they can be located at any time. The company also offers CribMaster storage cabinets that automatically keep track of the RFID-embedded tools.

“It’s especially important for people in airplane hangars, on military bases or in other critical applications where mechanics need to know where every single socket is, for instance, before a plane can fly or before a Hummer can leave its garage,” said John F. Lundgren, chairman and CEO of the company.

The CribMaster website notes that “whether it’s due to waste, hoarding, or even theft, inefficient tracking and control of these inventory items can quickly cause major problems.”

At the shareholders meeting, Lundgren said: “These tools make facilities and workers both safer and more productive, and we believe they’re the future of the industrial tool market.”

Electric vehicles will face stiff competition from eco-friendly gasoline-powered cars

Popular notions that electric cars will suddenly replace conventional gasoline-powered cars don’t acknowledge the possibility that there could be eco-friendly advances in conventional car technology. A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) finds that “internal combustion engines are improving their ability to cut CO2 emissions at a lower cost than expected, and, as a result, carmakers should be able to meet 2020 emissions targets mainly through improvements to conventional technologies.”

A key word there is should. It would take a concerted effort by automakers in several technical areas. Continue reading “Electric vehicles will face stiff competition from eco-friendly gasoline-powered cars”

17 questions to ask about that gee-whiz tech development

Science-fiction author David Brin explains his method of examining the future:

“The top method is simply to stay keenly attuned to trends in the laboratories and research centres around the world, taking note of even things that seem impractical or useless,” says Brin. “You then ask yourself: ‘What if they found a way to do that thing ten thousand times as quickly/powerfully/well? What if someone weaponised it? Monopolised it? Or commercialised it, enabling millions of people to do this new thing, routinely? What would society look like, if everybody took this new thing for granted?'”

Those are good questions, as far as they go. My methodology for examining new developments (especially technologies) is to ask additional questions, some with a decidedly negative slant:

  • What if it runs into legal or political problems?
  • What if it can be used by criminals?
  • What if it raises ethical or religious objections?
  • What if people prefer doing it the “old way”?
  • What if a cheaper alternative overtakes it?
  • What if it’s too expensive to make or distribute (in volume)?
  • What if it lacks the necessary ecosystem or support infrastructure?
  • What if it runs smack into a counter-trend?
  • What if entrenched interests squelch it?
  • What if it has unintended consequences?
  • What if the roll-out is botched, glitchy, underfunded, embarrassing?

And, when will it emerge from the Hype Cycle‘s “peak of inflated expectations” and “trough of disillusionment”?

Complacency bad. Foresight good.

Why do firms fail when faced with new technology or innovation? Clayton M. Christensen’s theory of disruptive technology asserts that the dominant/incumbent firm dismisses the early version of the technology as inferior and fails to respond to its development. But a study titled “Demystifying Disruption,” by Ashish Sood and Gerard Tellis, finds that incumbents produced disruptive (replacement) technologies just as often as those pesky up-starts.

The results of their analysis suggest that many aspects of the disruptive technologies theory are exaggerated.

In fact, the incumbents produced more than half of the new technologies that superseded the previous dominant technology.

In other words, Tellis says, the start-up slaying Goliath makes a good story, but represents only a small fraction of all cases. Continue reading “Complacency bad. Foresight good.”

The future of marketing: customer-centric

Too many firms still operate as if they were stuck in the 1960s, “an era of mass markets, mass media and impersonal transactions,” says a recent article, “Rethinking Marketing,”  in the Harvard Business Review. To compete in today’s “aggressively interactive” environments, companies will have to reorganize to make products and brands subservient to customer relationships, the article says. Put more bluntly: Restructure to cultivate customers rather than market products. It will require reinventing the marketing department altogether. The culture must put customer relationships — not products or brands — first.

The re-imagined “customer department” (vs. marketing department) has the following characteristics: Continue reading “The future of marketing: customer-centric”