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Boots on the ground

September 1st, 2019 / By: / Editorial

Since IFAI’s editorial department moved back to the third floor a month or two ago, I’ve had a pile of pennies sitting on my work surface, just waiting for a co-worker (or a visitor, or even an intruder) to ask about it, so I could smile modestly and say “It’s to remind me that change is always possible.” This response is more a symbol of my unhealthy attachment to puns than it is an underhanded way of indicating that even someone of my advanced anciency can still come up with some pretty strange ideas when prodded. But as this year’s IFAI Expo in Orlando approaches, I’m also thinking that strategic change is on everybody’s mind as we get down to business. 

While proofreading this issue last week, I was struck by how much the article “Tactical advantage” (page 34) seems to emphasize strategies that go far beyond working with the military: 

Amy Bircher, president of MMI Textiles Inc., advises “The military is going to buy on price—it’s taxpayer dollars. After that, it comes down to delivery. They have to trust that they’re going to get what you promised.”

Edward Silva, vice president of sales and marketing for Engineered Polymer Technologies, says “You have to make sure you are very competitive in all aspects of the sale, not just on price. There are no sole sources for products in our industry, so you have to be aggressive to get and keep the business.” 

Peter Raneri, vice president of sales and business development for HLC Industries, discusses the need for planning, and diversity. “We’ve never wanted to be 100 percent dependent on the military, because when the military drops off, what do you do?”

Materials research. Product research. Market research. Long-range planning. Operational excellence (and flexibility). Financial stability and strategic investments (and partnerships). Concentrated communication and creative customer service. Sounds like the basis for a highly workable business plan—something that can get off to a healthy start at IFAI Expo, developing face-to-face relationships with suppliers, colleagues, compatriots, competitors and customers. 

There’s another key point in that article, however, that I’ve been wondering about for some time now: the fact that (is it a fact?) a lot of the innovation taking place now in this industry is focusing on smart fabrics; and while I’d love to have my book club sit under an awning and have it join in the discussion, most fabrics aren’t smart fabrics. But customers, military or no, can be excited and highly motivated by all kinds of fabric innovations. 

MMI Textiles, for example, is working to improve its textiles’ fire-retardancy, printability, strength and durability—and recently was awarded a patent for its CTEdge™ webbing, which is woven with different color threads (it doesn’t look white, in other words) to blend in more with military-colored fabrics behind it. Innovation drives change. 

Penny for your thoughts?