Time for real innovators to stand up
By Gregory Hale, InTech, Editor
In the grand and glorious days of the mid 1970s, Cadillac introduced a luxury vehicle named the Seville. The vehicle would be smaller in size than the behemoth Deville or the Eldorado, but it surely cost more.
When it came to the quality of the car, workers within and outside General Motors, paraphrasing the famous line from P.T. Barnum, said “there was a Seville owner born every minute.”
While the line was funny, it also went to show automakers, while giving it lip service, were not totally committed to customer satisfaction. After all, GM knew better. The company was bigger than anything. Wrong.
Decade after decade, American automakers suffered from the days when it seemed like they forced cars they produced down the public’s throat. Those days are now coming to a close as various U.S. automakers made it their goal to innovate and to come out on top in the customer satisfaction awards. That meant quality cars and quality service.
For all of the turmoil Detroit automakers have been going through, customer satisfaction with the vehicles they build skyrocketed in this year’s edition of a highly regarded University of Michigan study.
The scores for all three Detroit automakers rose in the 2009 American Customer Satisfaction Index. In the rankings by brand, Cadillac tied for first place with its chief competitor, Lexus, while Buick and Lincoln-Mercury placed third and fourth.
They did something considered impossible as short as a few years ago.
“They showed a great deal of improvement, something that we’ve never seen to this extent,” said Claes G. Fornell, a business professor at the University of Michigan who heads the customer satisfaction study. “Until now, we haven’t seen much movement in the right direction from any of the domestic carmakers. This is highly unusual.”
The interesting thing is yes, industry forces compelled the automakers to change, but these huge companies did in fact change. They did not stay still; they innovated.
Are any companies in the Automation environment any different? Can they innovate themselves into success and out of the recession gripping the industry?
Right now, there are thousands of people out there in a garage, a lab, sitting behind a computer, or even walking down a street, coming up with a great idea that can change the world. They are not sitting around worrying about how to collapse their business. They are free thinking.
After all, it is easy during down times to just fold up and say, I do not have time to create something. And if you read all the reports, it seems innovation is not at the forefront of most companies’ dossier.
But National Instruments’ cofounder, chief executive, and president, Dr. James Truchard knows better. He said during his keynote address at NIWeek in Austin, Tex., “innovation is what will get the U.S. back on track. You (users) here have been very innovative and counter to the trend to the overall U.S. industry. You have spurred innovation that has been definitely needed.”
John Graff, NI’s vice president of marketing and customer operations, took the need for innovation to another level.
“The financial engineers have really screwed this up,” Graff said. “It is now time for the real engineers to step it up.”
Right now, there is no easy solution to the real-world circus the industry is facing every day. But when the real engineers stand up, you will see innovations that will impress everyone, even a Seville owner.
Talk to me: firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 990-9275.
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