Composites manufacturers are embracing the growth of new processing technologies for a wide range of growing end markets. With opportunity comes challenge, said CAMX speaker Phillip Dushkewich, production manager for Fiberglass Fabricators, Inc., a manufacturer with hand lay-up, vacuum infusion, light resin transfer molding and pultrusion capabilities. Dushkewich provided attendees with a set of steps for successfully adding a new process or project to a manufacturer’s organization.

1. Be specific with your targeted outcomes. Whether your customer has a unique demand or your competition is gaining an edge that you want to neutralize, be specific with your targeted outcomes. Establishing a well-defined, measurable objective is the first step in the development of new capability. An example might be, “We are developing a product that outperforms the previous generation by 12 percent.”

2. Understand the customer’s needs. Learning and evaluating the customer’s needs up front may lead you to decide against the project if their needs are not in sync with your organization. Do they need the product to be lighter, stiffer, tougher, greener or cheaper? Will it operate in a harsh service environment? Is it a long-term development project, or do they need the new part in less than six months?

3. Assess the opportunities for going green. Increased awareness of manufacturing sustainability has created the need for new processes. If your neighbors are complaining or your customer demands a more sustainable model, consider that you may have opportunities to market to other customers interested in a greener public image.

4. Challenge the customer. In-depth conversations with the customer may require you to challenge their concept for the part. They came to you for expertise, so don’t hesitate to share it. Learn as much as you can about their expectations in the finished product – higher volumes, part-to-part conformity or better finish. Develop a rough schedule with them and perform a reality check: Can you meet their deadline?