Eyes on the Future
Enterprise Minnesota Magazine – June 2009
Eyes on the Future In a recession economy, waste and recycling products manufacturer Harmony Enterprises Inc. stays hopeful by getting creative.
Perhaps surviving harsh winters gives Minnesotans a perennial optimism. While much of America worries about the current economic climate, some Minnesota manufacturers remain hopeful that spring will come again. For example, Harmony Enterprises Inc., a waste and recycling products manufacturer, is taking advantage of the economy.“I spend my time looking at where we go next—where we [will] continue to grow,” says Harmony Enterprises president Steve Cremer. “The good thing about things being slow is we actually have [more] time to focus on what’s going to happen this summer, next fall or next year.”
Last year, Harmony underwent the Eureka! Winning Ways program through Enterprise Minnesota. The process generated a list of ideas for improvement that Harmony now has time to implement. “Some of [the ideas] are just product improvements,” Cremer says. Part of this process is looking at products and processes through customers’ eyes. Cremer and his staff ask questions like, “How can we make the job of using our balers easier for customers?” Once they get an answer, they are able to make improvements.
During a time when Harmony’s clients were hesitant to spend, Cremer and his team decided that instead of seeking out new clients, they’d revisit products and processes for existing customers and find ways to make them better.
“We took advantage of a couple of months when things were slow to plant seeds of new ideas—even though we knew we weren’t going to walk away with a purchase order when we talked to [existing clients],” Cremer says. “We’re trying to give them the idea so that whenever they’re ready, they have new projects on the line for us to look at.”
One of the most important tools in Harmony’s strategy is seeking out niche markets. “Instead of just going out to everyone, we’re [contacting] recyclers and distribution centers,” Cremer says. “We’ve actually developed new products for those niche markets.”
In one such market, the bottling industry, Harmony developed a full line of liquid extraction balers to repurpose soda bottles and cans. The machine crushes surplus product in a way that allows liquid to be salvaged, and the containers can be recycled.
“We’re not trying to compete with everyone in our market out there trying to sell the same thing,” Cremer says. “We’ll let [the other] guys—especially when things are slow—cut prices and just try to get a sale. We’ll take our niche products into markets where no one else is and help solve problems.”
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