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Jim Armstrong

Keeping innovation alive to drive growth

Author: Jim Armstrong, European sales director, OEM channel


3rd Jun 2013


Growing a business during a period of deep global recession has its difficulties. Loss of markets and lack of investment have brought some major brands down, especially in the retail sector.

Cutting costs alone won’t save you. Identifying innovation is not easy and finding additional funding even more difficult. Yet successful companies must possess the agility to allow their organisation to rapidly and efficiently adapt to changes.

So what is to be done?

Investing (time or money) in research and development is difficult to justify during these difficult times. And yet what better way to drive growth?

How do companies build a culture of innovation?

So what do we mean by ‘innovation’? Here, I’m talking about translating ideas into new products, services or processes. All it means is coming up with something new and better than before that has the capacity to be commercial.

Most companies are innovative when they start out, but day to day problems often make them defensive and the focus starts to move towards maintaining the status quo rather than looking at new ideas or new demands

We need to create the time and resources within an organization to allow staff to really innovate - and we must not be afraid of failure, but we should learn from it.

Let staff know what is going on – what the company wants to do and encourage an exchange of ideas; communication is vital. Look for ideas from inside and outside the company. If staff really understand the WHY of the organization, they will be involved, immersed and passionate; all staff attributes that stimulate innovation.

We may work on many projects and not all of them are successful. However, knowing when to ditch an idea can be just as important as recognising when to back a winner.

Things are not always perfect first time round. Sometimes it is better to get something started and moved on rather than spend time refining and perfecting, but essentially never getting the project finished. The service or product can be improved over time for incremental gains. This has the advantage of showing customers that you are improving your offer and gives you something to talk about.

Your staff are of prime importance is this process. Understanding where their strengths and abilities to innovate lie will help you to structure innovation groups. Some people prefer research, others think big; not everyone is the same.

Innovation is not always easy when you are concentrating on the job in hand

Obviously you know your own product or service and which target markets you are focussing on. But by keeping an eye on trends, not just in your own markets, you will see how the world is changing and how your company can fit in, and make money from it. Changes in social trends, laws, progress in materials and technology can all have an impact on how you deliver your products or services.
If you are focussed on innovating new products then find the gaps in your offer and fill them. Don’t be afraid to look back over old products and see if they can be resurrected with some modifications.
Keeping up to date with new materials and technology and marrying them with new trends will also help to fill the product funnel with ideas.


All of this takes time to research and so time becomes one of the most important resources needed if you are serious about being an innovative company.

My conclusion

Investment in R&D is difficult when money is tight, and time is money. Many companies cut this area during a recession without thinking of the long term consequences.

The generation of ideas for new or improved products, services or processes will help companies to succeed and create an atmosphere within the organization to encourage new thinking and keep innovation alive.

Sue Witkowski

Waste prevention and reduction

Author: Sue Witkowski, Marketing services manager


21st May 2013


The environment has long been a priority for Accuride and over the years we've continued to implement practices to ensure that when we take care of business, we also take care of the environment.

There are a number of things Accuride does to be environmentally conscious. Some actions are small, while others are major changes in manufacturing processes, such as the revisions made to our plating process.

However, it is not a destination or state of being, it’s a continual process to reduce, reuse and recycle.

There are a number of things Accuride does to be environmentally conscious, ranging from using natural light in our factories, to recycling all scrap metal, to reducing packaging.

RoHS compliance

Plating requires chemicals, water, and energy. Our engineering staff aggressively seek methods to reduce usage of all three. Products in compliance with the RoHS Directive are manufactured and comprised of components that meet restricted levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium (Cr6), PBB, and PBDE.

To meet this requirement, Accuride changed the plating process from Hexavalent to Trivalent chromium, which is much less hazardous. In addition, all slide components such as bumpers and plastic housings used in the manufacture of our slides are compliant.

Read our RoHS compliance statement.

Energy reduction

In Accuride’s Mexicali plant, the engineering staff was tasked with reducing normal equipment shutdowns on our plating machines. A shutdown, for any given reason, means the machinery is still running, but not producing product. This results in wasted energy in the form of natural gas and electricity. After careful analysis and process improvements, the engineering staff’s efforts paid off, with a one-third reduction in the number of machines required to produce the same amount of product. Not only does this make good business sense, it’s a more responsible use of resources.

Water consumption and treatment

We treat all process water to neutralize or minimize harmful components. Accuride uses high-tech polymers to trap or encapsulate the harmful components in the sludge after treatment.

Used rags are cleaned to remove oil and other residues and are reused multiple times. When discarded, they are cleaned one last time and disposed of according to environmental requirements.

Accuride actively seeks methods to reduce water consumption during the manufacturing process. In fact, ongoing efforts in the Mexicali plant have resulted in a 33% reduction of the water volume used in the electroplating process. Flow restrictor systems are used to carefully control the amount of water used by the plating machines.

Packaging

Accuride’s distribution warehouse in the UK stocks well over 1,000 part numbers ready for shipment to our distribution network across Europe.

When bringing a new product to the market, our design engineers work closely with the purchasing department to design and specify packaging that will protect the product while using as little material as possible.

We have been looking carefully at how existing products are packaged in our global manufacturing plants and have reduced box sizes across many of the ranges.

In many instances we have been able to restrict the weight of each filled carton to under 15 kg, and sometimes 10 kg, without the need to fill large gaps with a lot of throw away packaging materials. The filled cartons become more stable with less air inside. Reducing the weight of each carton also reduces the need to use warning stickers and impacts on transport costs.

This is an on-going project that aims to reduce packaging and use recyclable materials wherever possible.

Environmental Standards - ISO 14001

Accuride’s plant in Germany is certified to the ISO 14001 Environmental Standard. This certification is achieved through adherence to a comprehensive set of standards for environmental management practices. Certification requires evaluation by a third-party auditor.

As with all standards, ISO14001 requires formal documentation relating to the company’s environmental policy, as well as record keeping that demonstrates the company is operating according to the requirements of the standard.

The Mexicali, Mexico plant has an established program that adheres to the ISO 14001 standards and policies. An internal team performs audits on a regular basis.

Turn the lights off

Sometimes the smallest actions can have an impact. Staff members are encouraged to take individual responsibility to reduce or prevent waste. For example, not leaving the computer on stand-by all night, turning the lights off when leaving a room or separating office waste and putting it in the correct refuse bins. We can all make a difference if we try.

Accuride strives to have as little negative effect on the environment as possible. Our environmental policy includes a commitment to adhering to local environmental laws, exceeding the standards whenever practical, using raw materials efficiently, and reducing waste.

Peter Baxter

Where do I buy a slide and how much will it cost?

Author: Peter Baxter, European sales director, distribution channel


30th Apr 2013


Where do I buy a slide and how much will it cost? This will depend on what market sector you work in and the type of application you need the slide for.

Slides installed into woodworking applications, like furniture or cabinetry, are bought from our cabinet hardware/woodworking distributors.

Slides installed into metal applications or used in industrial or electronic industries are bought from our industrial distributors.

Some of our distributors also supply retail shops, both on and off line, so most people can buy just one pair of slides for their project.

Each of distributors has their own pricing structure and they will give you pricing on the products you wish to buy. Some online sellers publish their prices on the website.

Click here to find your nearest Accuride distributor.

Large volume purchases by Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) are the only direct sales handled by Accuride.

Because these sales are usually project based and need bespoke products, the pricing will depend on many design and manufacturing factors. This makes it impossible to give any guidance on costs here.
Contact your Accuride sales manager to discuss your project.

Sue Witkowski

Data to go – Accuride slide information on your mobile

Author: Sue Witkowski, Marketing services manager


18th Apr 2013


People now demand internet access from anywhere, at any time.

Also, for many people around the world, the mobile phone will be the only means of accessing the internet. According to the latest research, mobile data traffic is expected to grow 15 times by 2017.*

When you are out of the office you may need information quickly and you shouldn’t need to search complicated sites for content.

Accuride realized that viewing a desktop version of a website through a mobile device is not always a useful or pleasant experience. So we have produced a streamlined mobile site where you can get information on Accuride products quickly and easily. If you access the site via a smart phone you will find yourself at the mobile site without having to click on links.

The mobile version is still in 6 languages, but concentrates on the product content that you probably need in a hurry. If you really want to visit the ‘mother’ site a simple link will take you there.

3D CAD models

Don’t forget that we also offer optimised 3D models of our ‘off-the-shelf’ drawer slides and associated products. Just fill out the form on line and the CAD drawing will be emailed to you within minutes.

* Ericsson – Traffic and Market Report June 2012

Peter Baxter

Importance of 24/7 support for distribution sales channels

Author: Peter Baxter, European sales director, distribution channel


11th Mar 2013


An effective distribution channel is of prime importance to many manufacturers where it is part of the product placement strategy. Therefore, manufacturers using a distribution channel need to take particular care to support that channel across many functions.

Different customer segments will need different levels of service and support so it is important to first choose your distribution partners carefully, and secondly work closely with them to support their own marketing and sales.

Dedicated customer site

One area that has been very successful for Accuride is an online customer portal via the company's website.

This portal gives 24/7 access to the latest product information, such as catalogue drawings, photos and CAD drawings, training manuals, order and delivery information, pricing and stock levels. The fact that the web is always open is significant for companies who operate globally and where staff may need information outside of office hours.

Authorised distribution partners can access the Customer Site using passwords and usernames issued by their Accuride sales manager.

One of the more recent upgrades to the Customer Site was the linking to the back office Fourth Shift ERP system.

Fourth Shift integrates our finance and accounting, manufacturing, supply chain management, and customer services so that the information flows between all areas of the organisation. Once an Accuride partner has access to the portal they can link direct into parts of the system and view their past and current orders and delivery times, search their price book, and check live stock data.

Stock availability

Accuride prides itself on being able to hold large off-the-shelf stocks of products ready to ship. We know, from talking to our distribution partners, that being able to check our stocks has been a popular service; it gives them confidence that we can deliver product when it is needed.

Keeping open lines of communication between our sales managers, customer services and marketing department with our distribution partners has been the means to make this sales network so successful in growing both reach and revenue.

What.How.When.

Planning to buy, install or use a drawer slide?
Our 'What.How.When' guide to ball bearing slides is everything you need.

Case studies...

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Accuride self-closing slides used on mobile machinery base


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