Article > Editor’s Note

Research & Development Are Keys To Success, If Money Is Spent Wisely

By Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips
The secret to success for a vibrant automotive aftermarket just may be something you can’t see with the naked eye.

How so? During the past 60 days or so, I’ve visited and researched a number of aftermarket manufacturers who are doing their part to make sure their parts are the absolute best they can produce.

At one company, they use electron microscopes to analyze steel at the molecular level, to understand how to make it better. Electron microscopes aren’t exactly cheap. And they’re planning to buy a new one. In the past few weeks, our sister publication, has published a number of stories concerning openings and additions to research and development facilities. These are welcome developments during a time when the overall economy is uneasy and the stock market has been on a constant rollercoaster ride. During most tough economic times, many companies hold on to R&D because they know it can be an effective weapon in their arsenal.

Parts manufacturers aren’t guaranteed better profits with more R&D spending because there simply aren’t guarantees in R&D. Researchers may know what they want to accomplish but exactly how to get there isn’t exactly known and that’s why they’re doing it in the first place.

A recent study by Booz & Co. says that just because a company throws money at innovation doesn’t mean it will lead to financial success. The consulting firm’s report “Global Innovation 1000” concludes R&D dollars alone won’t lead to greater riches for a company. It’s a culture of innovation that will.

Barry Jaruzelski, author of the study, told CNBC that “culture is key to innovation success, and its impact on performance is measurable.”

“It’s not that money doesn’t matter,” Jaruzelski told CNBC. “You have to have resources, but the differences between two companies with the same budget is really the quality of their process culture, alignment and focus.” To illustrate how spending money alone won’t lead to greater profits, the report reveals that among the top 10 innovators, Microsoft, Samsung and Toyota also appear on the top 10 spenders list. So seven of those companies are able to be more innovative without spending as much money as others.

By the time you get this magazine, AAPEX 2011 will begin to be a memory. Many companies will already begin planning for 2012. But there’s something you probably brought back from the most recent show that you should do something with: All those business cards.

I’ve seen it happen many times before. Someone goes to a trade show, makes fantastic contacts, has great conversations, and they trade business cards with countless people. Then they get on a plane and the business cards go in a drawer, rarely to be seen. Why does this happen? No one knows why. I’m sure scientists somewhere are studying this fascinating phenomenon. But don’t let it happen this year. Dig those cards out — better yet — don’t relegate them to the drawer in the first place. Tap those business cards for the opportunities that may await you.

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