5 Things Obama Learned About Product Innovation That Inspired Him
In his recent visit to Cleveland this past March, President Barack Obama stopped by the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) facilities to see what products were being created and developed by local manufacturers in Northeast Ohio. Obama was pleasantly surprised to see how these start-ups were creating innovations in a wide variety of fields, from medicine to aviation, right in the heart of Ohio.
Here’s what Obama learned in his visit:
Whiskey is being made faster than ever
Obama spoke with Tom Lix, CEO of Cleveland Whiskey and creator of a method that combines temperature and pressure control to make bourbon within six months (rather than the usual eight to 12 year period) that tastes just as good as the competition.
“I love Kentucky bourbon, but apparently this gets made a lot quicker,” Obama noted about Lix’s product. He couldn’t taste test Cleveland Whiskey then as he had a speech to deliver later that day, but he made sure to get his own bottle to take home.
The human skull can be repaired via prosthesis
It isn’t typical for the U.S. President to handle a human skull, but in this case Obama was shown how our craniums can be corrected using the latest computer technology. Dorothy C. Baunach, CEO of the medical device firm OsteoSymbionics, displayed their craniofacial implant products, a line of custom plastic prosthetics that are used to repair skull injuries. OsteoSymbionics’ product line is already used in dozens of top hospitals around the country, including the Cleveland Clinic.
Fuel alternatives are coming up in creative ways
Obama also spoke with Jim Garrett, CEO of Vadxx Energy, and Jeff Schick of EcoChem about the next generation of fuel alternatives. Garrett explained to Obama how Vadxx can make fuel out of plastic waste, essentially turning trash into gas. Shick then showed Obama samples of EcoChem’s High Performance Clean Diesel, which will increases the number of miles per gallon for bus fleets that typically use a lot of fuel. Shick pointed out that EcoChem is working with NASA and the Department of Defense, to which Obama replied, “Yeah, we use a lot of fuel.”
Students are helping to push innovation forward
Obama chatted with three students from Cleveland State University who are shop workers at MAGNET’s facilities. Donald Jackson, Chris Brabenec and Nate Palsa, all mechanical engineering majors, explained to Obama their work and future aspirations.
These students are a part of a MAGNET-CSU internship program, one of several MAGNET initiatives to help build tomorrow’s workforce. Similar work comes from Ohio Dream it. Do it, who work to bridge the skills and education gap in the manufacturing workforce through career ambassador programs for young students and educational tours for high schoolers, among other efforts.
Northeast Ohio holds the model for American business today
Amid the excitement of his tour and all of the hands-on experiences presented to him, Obama made an important observation about how the efforts of these start-ups and MAGNET show the direction that the United States and its businesses need to take.
While touring MAGNET’s facilities, Obama remarked, “This is a great example of how public-private partnership has created American business, employed Americans, and started to export – and we want to see if we can duplicate this across the board.”
Later, in his speech to the City Club of Cleveland, Obama announced that nearly $500 million in new public and private investment would be made for American manufacturing. This would directly benefit MAGNET’s start-ups and create more opportunities for other product manufacturers like them. About MAGNET, Obama added in his speech, “This partnership is bringing manufacturing jobs back to Cleveland. If something’s working, why would we want to get rid of it?”
It is clear that Obama has a plan to improve American business and his intentions were further bolstered by what he learned firsthand from these start-up leaders.
There is no “Perfect Business Model”. While this may seem like common sense, there are still a great deal of startup companies trying to approach their business with a “cookie cutter” approach. Company founders go through the process of developing a plan by assessing the opportunity, applying the problem to the assumed solution, and developing a five-year business forecast with information that is unsubstantiated and quite frankly, unknown. Recent studies show how customer-first methods are able to revolutionize the process, dramatically reducing the failure rate of startup organizations. In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, professor and principal investigator Steve Blank explored the merits of the “Lean Start-up” approach. The first contrast of the Lean Start-up approach regards the development of a framework. Using a template known as the Business Model Canvas developed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, entrepreneurs are able to understand the building blocks to their organization, including categories such as Value Proposition, Customer Segments, Key Resources, and Key Partners. The business model canvas allows you to develop relationships within your building blocks, understanding the most successful approach to presenting your start-up. These approaches can be resource-driven, customer-driven, offer-driven or finance-driven as explained by Osterwalder.
Senior Design Engineer Dave Pierson has been with MAGNET for nearly three decades and serves as one of our best subject-matter experts. He holds over 20 years of varied and practical additive manufacturing training experience, as well as 40 years of experience in mechanical and electrical engineering. As one of the country’s foremost authorities on additive manufacturing, he has helped companies grow through innovation. Not only has he helped bring new products to market and improve existing ones, but his introduction of 3D printing and other techniques has saved money and time for hundreds of businesses in the region. Some of these include: • Little Tikes • Cleveland Whiskey • Heat Seal • Mantua Manufacturing • Alfe Heat Treating He has also worked on many projects for the U.S. military and recently helped install a large wind turbine at Progressive Field, making them a leader in stadium sustainability. In addition, Pierson regularly develops and delivers curriculum at local colleges and trains operators, students, and engineers on the latest and greatest in additive technology. His presentations have also been well-received at national events and workshops, and he regularly presents at the annual R3D Conference at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland. In
MAGNET’s new “Tap into…” series highlights local resources useful for manufacturers in Northeast Ohio. From innovation to product development, from admin to supply chain, these companies, workspaces, and organizations offer the tools you need to achieve short- and long-term success with your latest projects. Located in the heart of the campus of Case Western Reserve University, the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box] is a new center dedicated to helping entrepreneurs, engineers, educators, and students invent and experiment by taking advantage of state-of-the-art tools and hands-on learning. Housed in a 7-story, 50,000 square-foot facility, the hub acts as an one-stop innovation center that has everything you need to test a new invention or experiment with different product ideas, including: • 3D printers • Laser cutters • Miter saws • CNC machines • Vinyl cutters • CAD/drawing software • And more! The best part? think[box] is open to everyone! Those who want to utilize the center’s many capabilities are not required to be affiliated with CWRU or pay extra dues. However, safety orientations are required for participants needing to access the metal or wood shops. Staff members are available at all times to provide guidance and answer questions. For equipment