Product Development: Finding the Right Path

KCMN’s March meeting featured three speakers who shared their company’s path from innovation to revenue for new product development.  The consensus shared by all three speakers is that there is no ‘one path’ to success.  However, there were some key themes that emerged during the discussion:

Get the whole company involved.  Drew Lericos from Robbie Manufacturing follows a stage gate process that includes a development team from diverse areas of the company, from sales, marketing, production, procurement and human resources where all have input throughout the process.  Jason Grove from Dimensional Innovations discussed their internal process innovation team who works in parallel with the manufacturing team to develop new products as well as custom projects.  While Steve Hall from Boelte-Hall noted that they are less formal in their process, all functional areas are responsible for continual innovation, as they operate in a rapidly changing market, where their top customers are buying products and services that were not even offered by the company 3 years ago.

Make your message consistent. A real challenge to the process of product development is finding the balance between encouraging enthusiasm from all areas of the company and making sure that customers aren’t getting confusing messages, and competitors aren’t getting a front row seat to your new strategy.  Boelte-Hall uses a color coding system to note confidential projects to all employees.  All three companies noted it’s important to make sure that the sales force is educated/trained on the new products, and can learn to approach different buyers within the same company.  The key to getting sales staff on board is for one or two sales people attaining success with a new product or market, which then helps the rest of the team realize that they too need to get on board or miss the boat.  Overall, internal marketing is just as important as external marketing.

Expect flexibility in the budgeting process.  Regardless of the process used, knowing the true cost for a product development process can be a challenge.  There are specific costs, such as equipment purchases, education and training, product development personnel time and raw materials.  It is more difficult to measure the opportunity cost, of time spent on one product when there are competing priorities for everyone’s attention.  Something that is projected to have 3 trials may end up needing 8.  However, there are federal R & D tax credits available, so documenting and tracking costs is an important part of the process.

Listen to your customers – sometimes.  While getting customer input throughout the process is important, it is also important to think about unmet needs that customers may not be telling you about.   Robbie has found success by taking a product that solves a problem in one area, that can also be used to solve a different customer problem with minor changes.  Steve Hall from Boelte-Hall noted that conversations with customers indicated they had no interest in a new process Boelte was considering. Boelte-Hall invested anyway and now those same customers buy products using that process on a daily basis.  While all 3 companies vary in their depth of research, they all agree that some level of customer and market research are important to guiding the both the decision to move forward, and the changes that need to be made along the way.  The key is to focus on solutions, vs. preferences.

Failure is an option.  Some product introductions may not meet expectations.  Drew Lericos from Robbie noted, “if your culture does not permit failure, you will not succeed at innovation”.  Jason Grove from Dimensional Innovations said they try to use the “fail fast, fail cheap” mantra to guide their process in order to try new developments with a smaller scale vs going company wide all at once. Steve Hall noted “Every one of our successful innovations had an element of failure somewhere in its development.” When things do not work out, it’s important to look at what areas can be improved the next time around so mistakes are not repeated.

Don’t give up too early. Lastly, Steve Hall reminded the audience not to give up too early.  In some cases minor changes can make a doomed project viable.  In other cases, it makes sense to consider timing in the marketplace.  An innovation that was not successful one year may be resurrected as market conditions shift in the future.

Product Development: Getting from Innovation to Revenue

KCMN March Meeting – Sign up by March 2nd!

Much is being written about the need for innovation in manufacturing to drive sales.  In fact, KCMN has covered this topic several times in the past few years.  However, we’ve not talked about the process of taking that innovation to market. Our March meeting features three KCMN member companies:

Lisa Kist – Robbie Flexibles

Steve Hall – Boelte Hall

Jason Grove – Dimensional Innovations

Our panelists will discuss their product or service offerings as well as:

  • The product development process – from innovation to revenue
  • Getting the right people involved
  • The customer’s role in development
  • Product development budgeting and planning
  • Suggestions and lessons learned

Tuesday March 6, 2012
7:30- 9 AM
Hilton Garden Inn at 5th & Minnesota, Kansas City,  Kansas

Cost is $15 for members and $25 for guests. Guests may attend 2 meetings before having to join as a member.  Sign up by no later than March 1st by clicking here, or contact Donna Gordon at 816-304-7958, or

Jason Grove – Dimensional Innovations is an award-winning, multi-disciplinary firm taking ideas through design, fabrication and installation. We create experiences that make distinctive connections with our clients and your customers. Our proven experience in various market segments includes: cinemas, casinos, sports facilities, retailers, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, entertainment venues, museums, zoos, libraries and government.  In 2011, as a product of our Innovations Lab, we created and delivered to market Shield Casework™ , a solid surface microbial resistant line of healthcare casework. The product is designed to meet a wide range of applications in hospitals, labs, clinics and senior living facilities. Shield Casework™ delivers greater value and better bottom line performance.

Lisa Kist – Robbie Flexibles  Founded in 1970 and based in Lenexa, Kansas, Robbie, is a premier packaging company providing sustainable merchandising solutions using 10-color process printing on a variety of films for supermarkets, food/beverage, and consumer goods companies. In addition, Robbie supplies superior pouch and bag technology with high tech solutions for demanding applications.

Steve Hall – Boelte Hall was founded in 1967 to provide print services, including sheet fed lithography, die cutting, mailing, large format, posters, and banners. Over the years, we’ve grown and expanded our services to include not only print, but also event marketing and trade show displays, promotional items, brand management, mailing, video, online storefronts, variable data digital printing and complete cross channel marketing services.

Mid-America Manufacturing Technology Center  and Missouri Enterprise  are our Network sponsors. The event is open to area manufacturers and their suppliers.  Service providers are welcome with the understanding that they not utilize the network as a sales channel.  We invite you to join with us to make KCMN the premier resource for manufacturers.

Due to our need to cover the event costs, no shows will be billed. Cancellations will be accepted no later than 3 business days prior to an event. Cancellations of reservations paid by credit card will be assessed a $10 processing fee by the registration service, or contact us for event credit for a future event.


Robbie Receives 2011 Best of Lenexa Award for third consecutive year

For the third consecutive year, Robbie has been selected for the 2011 Best of Lenexa Award in the Flexible Printer for Bags, Pouches & Films category by the U.S. Commerce Association (USCA).

The USCA “Best of Local Business” Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USCA identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.

Nationwide, only 1 in 120 (less than 1%) 2011 Award recipients qualified as Three-Time Award Winners. Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2011 USCA Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the USCA and data provided by third parties.

Robbie Recognized for Innovation

KCMN congratulates member company Robbie Flexibles for their  prestigious Highest Achievement Award in Technical Innovation from the Flexible Packaging Association.

Robbie was a Gold Award Winner for both Packaging Excellence and Technical Innovation for their recently released  Fresh N Tasty Produce Pouch.
Fresh N Tasty Produce Pouches, designed with freshness in mind, offer processors and retailers an opportunity to brand their produce and to increase repeat sales by improving the consistency of the produce quality throughout its shelf life. And, consumers love the resealable zipper and easy carry handle. The added sustainable benefits this flexible package demonstrates over other packaging formats includes saving fossil fuels, reducing CO2 emissions and the weight of solid waste being introduced into landfills.

To learn more visit Robbie on the web.