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Week of 6 November 2017: Lessons from the iPhone X

Email Jim at jthompson@taii.com

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The Apple of today rarely stumbles, at least not as it did in the 1980's when it nearly went out of business. However, Apple's recent product launch, the near simultaneous announcement of the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X (what happened to 9?) was close. The 8 experienced sluggish early sales. There were dire predictions about the X. However, this past week, when the X was available for pre-order, despite its lofty price (over $1,000), the units available for pre-order sold out in about 10 minutes.

When I was a kid, I avidly followed automobiles--their models, model years and styles. I wondered why the big companies of the day didn't just leap ahead a few years and pull, say, the 1965 models up to 1962? Obviously, they were in development, what would it take? I missed the point--they could sell the 1962, 1963, 1964 and then 1965 models at the rates they could make them. Pulling them up in the introduction schedule would cost money, lots of money in new development work that would have to take place to keep the pipeline full in the future.

We often think innovation should occur as swiftly as possible. When we are up against stiff competition, this is true. It is also true when we have a break-through product.* But in the normal course of events, it is often best for the bottom line if you pace yourself on innovation (as you might have guessed, our topic for the month is "innovation and strategy").

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Save the date! The Pulp and Paper Industry Reliability and Maintenance conference, sponsored by IDCON and Andritz, will be held March 19-22, 2018 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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Even if you have other insights about what your development people are bringing down the road, it often makes sense to be just innovative enough to beat your competition today and tomorrow. Let's not get hasty and try to beat them next year already.

I was explaining this to a supplier to our industry a couple of years ago. He had a bunch of great ideas and was ready to rush to market with all of them. I told him to slow down, each one of his ideas looked like it would produce a nice revenue stream on its own, but taken together, it was just possible they would devalue each other. Even taking into account the time value of money, introducing them all at once just might result in less total revenue over say, the next five years, than if they were introduced one at a time and more slowly. After all, he was already outshining his competition and had all the orders he had the capacity to handle. He should bank some of those innovations for years further out.

This is the mistake Apple made with the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X, at least as I see it. Of course, that business is highly innovative and cut-throat, so maybe the X had to be brought out now to keep the competition at bay. In that case, why bother with the 8 at all?

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Jim Thompson is back again...with a new book on a taboo subject: the personalities in the pulp & paper industry. Jim has written in the past on many subjects based on his four plus decades in the worldwide pulp and paper industry. This new book is packed full of information valuable to the senior member of the industry as well as the recent entrant. A must for every pulp and paper library.

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We often think we have to innovate as quickly as we can, but it is just like the old joke about two guys out in the wilderness with one of them worrying about whether they could possibly outrun a bear. The other turns to the worrywart and says, "I am not worried about outrunning a bear, all I have to do is outrun you!" There is a good lesson here.

For safety this week, the area where we do not want to slow innovation is health and safety--lives are at stake! Whoever in your facility is in charge of safety, I urge you to encourage them and provide them with the means to keep up with the latest in developments in industrial health and safety.

Be safe and we will talk next week.
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*Of course, when we talk about innovation in the pulp and paper trade publication field, we are aware of no one that is more innovative than Paperitalo Publications, a positiion we have held for over a decade. As I mentioned last week and will continue to mention in the coming weeks, it is advertising sales season in our business. If you like our innovative ways of presenting the news about the pulp and paper industry, I'll suggest you do the following, as I suggested last week. If you are in a mill and like what you see here, please tell your suppliers what you like to read and who you would like to see them support with their advertising budgets. If you are a supplier, please be aware (we know) we are first in news, (we think) we have the largest audience in the pulp and paper industry worldwide and (we know) we have the lowest advertising costs. Give me a chance to prove it--call me on my cell phone, 404-822-3412 or email me at jthompson@taii.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Nip Impressions has been honored for Editorial Excellence by winning a Tabbie Award!

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