by Susan Mayer, MS CFS Innovation Advisor, RTI International

I love the diversity of regional manufacturers- from established companies started in the 1800s, to entrepreneurs with no manufacturing experience but lots of guts and vision, to family-owned and regional companies that are the backbone of so many communities. Even with a wide range of industry type and company size, there’s a lot in common – striving to make great products faster, safer, and more useful, utilizing more technology – but sometimes hitting a road block or unexpected challenge.

Maybe you have a great product and want to explore new markets but aren’t sure how to find and qualify them. Or the road block is a manufacturing problem that just can’t seem to be solved with your current processes and suppliers. You know there’s opportunity for your company if only you can meet this challenge. Consider this option:  Go outside.

Yes, some fresh air can always clear your mind, but what I mean is look outside your organization and vendor circle to get a broader view. There are two good reasons to go outside.

Consider your resources: Your staff has the time and skills for the daily and even cyclical work, but probably no time for these challenges and roadblocks. If you believe that you are staffed for the challenges too, then consider the second reason.

Get a different perspective: You are great at what you do and what your company does. When your challenge goes beyond that area of strength, you can meet it by utilizing resources that specialize in what you need – the expertise and ability to look beyond your company.  A different perspective can find new market opportunities so you can then make sound strategic decisions for your business.  An outside perspective can see your process challenges differently and search more broadly for solutions. I’m not suggesting a permanent staff addition – just contract these resources for the task and time you need them to solve the problem or move the roadblock.

What are your company challenges? Perhaps you need a technology solution for a manufacturing problem, or want to grow your products and technology into new markets? Consider joining the many companies across Pennsylvania and the country who have grown their business by going outside.

Susan Mayer has over 25 years of experience in food industry manufacturing, product development management, and quality systems. As an Innovation Advisor for RTI International, she leads a wide range of technology projects for food and consumer goods companies. Mayer holds a BS and MS in Food Science from the University of Maryland, and is a Certified Food Scientist.

Side Note: Susan Mayer is a featured speaker for the Manufacturers Growth Conferences in St Marys (May 17) and Erie (May 18). She will share more information, along with case studies and resources, to help companies take the next step to market and product diversification. The event, hosted by NWIRC, is sponsored by PNC, Knox Law, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Find more information about the conference here.