Companies look for innovation in tours
Innovation was a concept unfamiliar to Bob Hoolahan, CEO of All Water Systems Inc. in Turtle Creek.
Little did he know it would help him build a successful company over 33 years that provides specialized water treatment systems for businesses and researchers at PPG Industries Inc., Consol Energy Inc., Carnegie Mellon University and others.
Without realizing it, the high level of customer service he emphasized through the years was an innovative way to keep his clients satisfied and grow his business.
“I never knew what innovation meant until they told me,” Hoolahan said on Thursday during a program aimed at helping companies like his improve through innovation.“We realized we're doing innovative things, and we're looking at ways to do more.”
He's not the only one looking for help. Five area manufacturers, including All Water Systems, participated in the pilot program created by Catalyst Connection, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that helps manufacturers.
Executives toured Daedalus Inc., a firm in Lawrenceville that helps companies design products, and TechShop Inc., a workshop and prototyping studio at Bakery Square in Larimer, which furnishes the tools of innovation to its 450 members and hundreds more who have taken classes and training since it opened six months ago.
“A lot of people, when they think about innovation, think about Steve Jobs,” said Connie Palucka of Catalyst Connection. “But innovation goes across a lot of lines — to services, processes and always looking to deliver for the customer.”
At All Water Systems, in addition to selling water treatment equipment, Hoolahan developed a service culture that “customers appreciate and find painless. He's got a real good reputation in that field,” she said.
“The innovation program gave us a formality to what we were doing,” Hoolahan said. “Now we're doing things like database mining, which was never part of our thinking.” All Water Systems has about 400 customers who use its high-purity water systems.
Mecco Marking & Traceability Inc., a 124-year-old company in Cranberry, participated in the innovation program. Ian Conaway, applications engineer, said he learned about “the process and procedure of finding new ideas that I never heard or thought of before.”
Mecco sells tools to place imprint codes, numbers and logos on metal products, instead of labels that can fall off. “We don't have an idea team. I've been tasked to help us stay at the cutting edge and give us an edge in the large and competitive market we deal in,” said Conaway, who's in charge of a laser-marking system the company sells.
David Manko, director of global engineering at Kurt J. Lesker Co. in Jefferson Hills, said the company “wanted to get a fresh perspective on product development.” Lesker manufactures and distributes equipment that creates a vacuum — chambers, hardware and pumps — and assembles vacuum systems.
“We've been overhauling our entrepreneurial process and wanted to figure out how to do it faster and more efficiently,” said Jenna Lesker, the company's finance manager.
Tim Fletcher, a designer and business development manager at Daedalus, described product design thinking as “understanding how a product will be used.” Daedalus has been engineering and designing products for companies since 1979 and has 24 employees. Designers use user-centered research, models and repeated redesigns to produce a prototype and then do it again and again.
“Instead of a process, think of it as a set of toolboxes with a different set for each situation and goal,” he said.
TechShop's tools for inventors range from computers and 3-D printers, laser and water-jet cutters, to a complete machine and wood shop. “We're a catalyst, a gateway where someone with very little training can come in, take a class or workshop and gain skills that can be used in the workplace,” said Les Gies, accounts manager at TechShop in Pittsburgh.
The company is based in Menlo Park, Calif., and has eight locations nationwide. The Pittsburgh location in Bakery Square was opened under a partnership with TechShop, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency under a two-year agreement, said Matt Verlinich, general manager. Under the agreement, TechShop provides sponsored memberships for veterans.
John D. Oravecz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7882 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh’s tech startup activity rates last of 40 metro areas in report
- After years of downsizing, big houses make comeback
- Aetna to buy rival Humana for $35B
- New J.C. Penney CEO comes from middle-income America
- Floating homes offer ‘affordable’ option in San Francisco area
- Corporate America speaking out on social issues, getting results
- How to land that 1st job after college
- Halliburton to close Indiana County office
- Airlines offer small conveniences to counter higher fees, less space
- Truffle dogs sniff out pungent fungus prized by foodies
- McDonald’s localizes menus to battle growing competition