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No doubt we've all seen reports that ratings for the recent XX Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, were disappointing. Popular reality shows pulled audiences away, and several U.S. athletes did not perform as well as expected-if at all. I, for one, have always been a fan of the Games, and I was glued to my TV. The athleticism of the competitors is awe-inspiring, as is their dedication to their sports, and I enjoy thinking about all of the hard work, the hours of training and practice that go into their often very short performances. I imagine the multitudes of other people-from parents, coaches and trainers to friends and neighbors-who have worked together to support each athlete and help them succeed.
The process isn't so very different in industry. So many people throughout the various levels of a company all work together to achieve the same goal-a successful business. Building a successful business requires constant improvement. Just as athletes train with the latest gear, so too must manufacturers take advantage of modern equipment and production practices to remain competitive.
Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than in the refractory industry, which has seen not only its customer base shrink significantly, but also diminished consumption from those customers that remain. Keeping costs in line is crucial to maintaining competitive pricing, and many plants could save a bundle in the long run by updating their old processing equipment. Modern feeding equipment, scales, mixers and process control systems not only help keep costs in line through reduced maintenance and rejects, but they enable manufacturers to efficiently produce high-quality products (see the article on pp. 21-26).
Like the in-line skater who transitions to speed skating, other companies can benefit by taking advantage of their current capabilities and targeting new markets. One grinding and milling equipment manufacturer, for example, is enjoying great success by offering toll processing services. Many of its customers, though wanting to offer new products, aren't yet in a position to purchase the necessary equipment. Using toll processing services enables these companies to economically offer quality products without taking on the burden of capital equipment costs. (See pp. 19-20 for a detailed account.) This trend is sure to continue as companies seek to achieve or maintain a competitive edge.
Though cooperation in Olympic competitions is limited to the support of individuals or teams, in industry it often extends beyond corporate boundaries as organizations collaborate to each other's benefit. The Glass Manufacturing Industry Council's initiatives both within and beyond the glass industry are a perfect example (see p. 29).
While most of us will never be lucky enough (or talented enough, in my case) to participate in the Olympic Games, we certainly can and should work toward improving our respective businesses. Toward that end, CI remains committed to providing useful information to help you succeed. If your company has a new product or technology that could benefit manufacturers in the ceramic and related industries, I would love to hear about it. Please feel free to contact me at (330) 336-4098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.