Over the last several weeks we have started our process of looking at various product development updates based on our current offerings and where we feel we can provide the greatest value to our customers. Our products have been on the market for several decades with little or no changes in design, aesthetics or user-interface improvements. Changing for the sake of changing isn’t our goal but, we do see the need to take our designs and make some tweaks, providing more value to our customers in the areas of quality, cost, and delivery. 2020 is shaping up to be an exciting year as we plan on deploying updates to our branding, rolling out a new website, and releasing product updates that will be available to our customers in the first quarter.
As part of the changes we are considering, branding is at the top of the list. The Iroquois name has withstood the test of time since we were founded in the 1950’s, and it is the foundation of our company, helping to create who we are today and supporting where we are going in the future. As we prepare for a new chapter and a new decade, we desire a new identity that is timely, quick and direct, but still true to who we are. We plan to move forward into this new era under the name iQ Labs. iQ being short for Iroquois, and Labs, because we are so much more than a fume hood manufacturer. We strongly believe this enhancement to our brand better represents the company as it stands today and in the future.
Just as we are adjusting our branding, we are also looking at product development, with some planned improvements being minor, such as providing better manufacturability of our product allowing us to improve our pricing structure and shorten our lead times to our customers, while other changes are a bit more noticeable to our end-users, such as changes to the front panel design of our fume-exhaust systems and the availability of a quick-ship program. These changes come with a few things in mind; provide the end-user with improved safety as this is at the core of what we do at iQ – provide high-quality products that protect those in laboratory and educational environments – and secondly, give our customers the highest quality laboratory products at the most competitive price to meet their budget and scheduling demands.
After closing on Iroquois in October, Rick and I quickly realized the amount of opportunity that was available to improve our operational efficiency. I’m not the operations guru out of the two of us (that’s Rick’s bag), but he immediately saw opportunity everywhere he looked inside the plant. These improvements – often simple fixes if you have the eye for seeing them – are how we can greatly improve our lead times and reduce the overhead costs associated with each unit we sell. If we can move our product from order-receipt to shipment by reducing operational waste that is found in the manufacturing process, our customers and ourselves will see an immediate benefit. Quality and inventory issues become easier to spot and quickly fix, allowing us to focus on the things that matter versus firefighting problems that arise when there is clutter and waste in the process flow.
Producing high quality products continues to be our focus and we are continuously looking to interface with our customers to get honest feedback, as this is something that we truly enjoy doing, even if the feedback we are getting is less than flattering. The reason for this is simple from our standpoint, it gives us the opportunity to improve. Striving to get a little better every day is our focus and we do this through focusing on quality and always trying to better understand what our customers needs are. For us, this means we have to be honest about our products, where they stand in relation to our competition, and continue to improve on the things that we may fall a bit short on. As an example, during an engineering review the iQ team identified that we should make improvements to the service fixtures. Aesthetically the changes go completely unnoticed, but the fit and function of the new fixture and valve system is where the improvements are going to be realized with a much improved feel for the technicians and chemists who spend hours working and interfacing with our products each day.
These types of efficiency improvements are what have allowed us to move quickly over the last few months making changes and improvements, and we are excited to provide a new value point to our customers which we are dubbing the iQ Quick-Ship Program. The goal of this program is to solve one of the main challenges that we see our customers facing on a regular basis – product lead time. Lead times play a big part in our industry, with most products taking an industry average of around 6 weeks to complete from order to shipment. We are looking to reduce lead times across all products platforms, both standard and custom, but we are putting our emphasis on offering the quick-ship option immediately on select standardized equipment that is typically needed in a pinch. This program has allowed us to take lead times of 4 to 6 weeks, down to 1 week from order-receipt to the product leaving our dock. We feel that if we can solve the issue of lead time for our customers while still having the on-hand flexibility of stock that we hold to customize products to the end-user’s specifications, everyone wins. The initial challenge will be to understand what products our customers need quickly and make sure that we manage our inventory correctly to accommodate this need.
Looking forward to the new year, we are excited about our existing and future partnerships and a year of planned growth. We are delighted to announce that we will be attending Pittcon 2020 in Chicago where we will be displaying the latest updates and future improvements that will be coming to our product lines. You will be able to find us at booth number 4512 in McCormick Place from March 1st through the 5th. Historically our company has not had a presence at these industry events but, we see them as our best opportunity to show off the strategic product initiatives that we have been working on and also receive feedback on these changes. As a team we are excited for this opportunity to meet new people and see the latest industry trends and technology while sharing the iQ Labs story. We hope to see you there!