18 years ago running an ingredient supplier to the food industry as a contractor, I sponsored a project of quantifying a range of ingredient specifications against a matrix of organoleptic, and cost outcomes given a range of processing parameters.
Our objective was to be able to demonstrate on the spot to a customer the impact of apparently minor specification changes of the ingredient and/or processing conditions on the operational, taste and viscosity outcomes, and costs of the product. We did many hundreds of bench trials in the lab, carefully documenting progressive changes of all the parameters, their impact on the product outcomes, and recording them in a database that enabled us to call up the information at any time. This turned an ad hoc, iterative, time consuming, and inexact process requiring expensive lab time that had often taken months to complete, into one that could be done in front of the customer with a few mouse-clicks. Real time outcomes that we were confident could be replicated in a factory trial.
The impact on customers the first time they saw this capability was profound.
I was reminded of this project again recently talking to the manufacturer of extruded plastic components. His sales process involves extensive iteration on a 3-D cad/cam package following usually extensive design and problem definition discussions, and then still pretty expensive models that need to be validated before “cutting steel” for extrusion dies.
It seems to me that in the next very short time, all these processes would be able to be done in real time, in front of the customer with 3-D printed prototypes.
The intersection of sales and technology is ignored by many, for a host of reasons, but pretty clear when you think about it for just a moment. The scary part is that you no longer have to have the resources of a multinational at your fingertips, this stuff is available off the shelf at your local tech vendor, and if you are not doing it, the competitors you may not even know about probably can.
Writing this post, I also realised that we missed a really important parameter in the exercise 18 years ago, one that is the focus of my esteemed “e-mate” Howard Moscowitz‘s work. That missed parameter is what the consumer really thinks, rather than what the marketer with whom we were working thought they were thinking. This discrepancy has been made famous by Malcolm Gladwell’s celebrated TED presentation reflecting on Howards work in the development of Spaghetti sauce.
This is a whole other area where sales, marketing and technology are increasingly intersecting