At Optimation, we talk about our being in the business of providing turnkey solutions to the manufacturing segment. People that are new to our company observe that our website shows we service a wide variety of market segments, and within a segment, we offer a broad range of disciplines and skills. These prospective customers, sometimes with incredulity, ask the question, “But, what does Optimation DO?” So, we answer the question by citing some examples, like “Well, we design and build flexible web processing equipment, like coating and extruding lines,” or “We build skids that embody a mixing or filtering process,” or “We engineer and fabricate high pressure test systems for the oil and gas exploration industry,” or we might say “We design and install sanitary piping systems,” or “We engineer, procure, and integrate packaging equipment”… and the list goes on. Our prospect might then respond by saying, “But what is your core business? What do you do the most of?” And, when we consider this inquiry, the answer begins to paint the true picture of who we are.
You see, our “standard product” is our creativity, and our ability to conceive, engineer, design and build one-of-a-kind solutions for a customer’s specific need. This is best illustrated when you consider another question our prospective client might ask, like: “Well, how many robotic assembly cells have you actually implemented?”, and the answer usually is a couple, or a few, but not 20 or 30 … our challenge is to educate our client that they are asking the wrong question. In truth, it’s not that we have built only a few of each kind of system, but rather that we have helped our customers solve literally hundreds of problems and manufacturing opportunities by providing one-of-a-kind solutions that were not otherwise readily available in the established art in the industry.
This dynamic, our drive to seek out clients and project opportunities that necessitate a custom solution, is a major influence on our company identity. It plays out in the market segments we compete in and the companies we serve (we tend to seek out clients that are innovative, and are looking to apply technology to advance their business and competitive edge); it has convinced us to own and operate a Media Conveyance Facility so that we can provide fundamental know how and contract development work for the our roll-to-roll manufacturing clients; it has influenced the skills we maintain in our construction business, which are very much process centric (we have expert sanitary pipe welders, and precision alignment millwrights, to name a couple of examples). The custom solution dynamic also therefore presents a challenge to how we market and sell ourselves in the general process/manufacturing market, and more recently, through E-commerce channels.
Part of what we as the service provider must do is help our prospective customers understand that their particular business challenge or opportunity is in fact going to necessitate a custom solution. Many times, the folks we do business with view us as experts, and have this expectation that we will have already on hand (or “in the can” as we like to say) the exact equipment selection that will solve their particular problem. It is somewhat ironic when we respond by saying, “Of course, we are your experts and are fully capable of providing a solution” right along with, “The solution to your particular problem doesn’t exist, and your requirements will need to be compared to the available technology to see what can be applied or adapted, and what we need to create new for you.” How do you put this principle on a business card as a tag line?
One marketing technique we do use, with some success, is to shift the vector of the question from our prospect that asks “What can you (Optimation) do to solve our problem?” to “How will you come up with a solution to our problem?” We don’t know what process platform will be required when a potential client first comes to us with a business need and a problem statement. But, what we can provide is a rigorous, prescribed methodology that shows what steps will be employed to conceive and describe a viable solution (with the client’s collaboration), along with financial, product, and timing impacts such that our customer can evaluate his business case and verify his project justification and ROI. The other principal component of our focus on solution (or project) methodology is a mutual sharing and management of project risk. Our approach provides many decision points where our client can analyze the latest project information, verify his position with respect to pay back, and authorize the next piece of spending. This fosters a business environment of trust and stewardship between Optimation and our clients.
So, we sell custom solutions, but we market a work process that helps our customers understand that their ultimate capital upgrade today is unknown, but given time and the correct activities, will be known with a high degree of confidence. Our clients come to understand that our Capital Project Process will lead them through a controlled plan of phases, decision gates/points, and spending steps, to an installed solution that delivers what their business needs to succeed.