What is an important trend in the composite panel market this year?
Customers will pay to eliminate waste. A company might pay 10 percent more for a light weight product they can move instead of calling the movers. A cruise ship would pay more than 10 percent more if you can offer a product that is less heavy at 6 inches a gallon for fuel. You have to be dynamic because the product is different – the more you can lower price, the more applications there are that can justify a premium over what they’re currently doing. We continue to see more efficiency in design and materials that in turn create opportunities that previously have not been available.
What lessons have you learned working with composites?
Personally, before 1989, I had never touched honeycomb. The whole process of working with composites is about learning, everyday we’re learning. We’re not in a mature industry. There’s a lot of learning that goes on continually and exploration, risk taking. And that’s great juice for an entrepreneur. Every day I need to learn something else and that it’s hard work.
What issues are important for the broader composites industry to succeed?
It’s got to be about innovation in design and innovation in manufacturing process. That’s the only way the industry is going to grow; that and a lot of testing. Manufacturing doesn’t always work the way it does on the theoretical model, that’s not always real life. We’re creating new products all the time and we have to be careful. There is not one of us that haven’t made a mistake; at least that I’ve met. You don’t want to make a mistake that ends up being painful for the customer.
What is your focus for 2012 and beyond?
Our focus is on product development and increasing manufacturing efficiency. Those two things are what fueled composite manufacturers in the past and will continue to in the future. We need to continue to figure out what people want and how to sell our product. How do you reinvent what you have and make it better?