Gaining the Competitive Edge: A Realistic Look at Innovation

Across the nation manufacturers in every sector and of every size are being asked to take on a critical challenge: To do their part in strengthening the backbone of manufacturing, in both their respective states and for the overall health of the U.S. economy.

And what manufacturer wouldn’t want to comply?

After all, there’s a direct correlation between the strength of manufacturing nationally and the strength of the individual manufacturer. Thus, any improvement a manufacturer can make in doing its part can only increase that same company’s own profitability and sustainability.

But while it’s natural to become excited about what’s possible for your individual bottom line, not to mention the bottom line of the nation, manufacturers are often left with one looming question: HOW?


How will we innovate?

How will we save energy?

How will we close the skills gap?

How will we continuously improve?

Needless to say, it’s one thing to want to innovate, for example, and quite another to develop attainable goals and doable plans for getting there.


While many states like Maryland (where EFI Group is headquartered) are fortunate to have plentiful support programs that its manufacturers can leverage on the road to taking measures towards decreasing energy use and expanding to international markets, just to name two, there can still be a wide gap between goals and the tangible action plans that achieve them.

As consultants to manufacturers seeking to make both incremental and substantial leaps in profitability, our focus is always on finding the path that minimizes risk to the greatest extent possible – and this started us thinking:

There are so many articles describing the complex concepts, strategies and technologies that lead to substantial shifts in how business is done, but where is the advice for the more realistic, incremental approach?

In service of answering this question, we’ve pulled together a small collection of articles that take this approach to change in one of the areas in which we see manufacturers being called to meet the challenge most: Innovation. We hope you find these resources valuable not only in doing your part to strengthen manufacturing in your state, but also in simply preparing for your own more profitable future.

A Realistic Look at Meeting the Call to Innovate


How America Can Win the Future in Manufacturing: The call to innovate can be a heavy load, but only if your perspective of innovation is narrow. As this article points out, “while America continues to lead the way in disruptive innovations, its insatiable drive to open new frontiers sometimes overlooks the importance of innovating within current industries.” Based on the premise that there’s “a difference between a nation that produces great innovations and a nation whose industries, both old and new, continue to adapt to and profit from these innovations” Industry Week columnist Jeffrey L. Chidester of the University of Virginia makes the case that it’s the non-disruptive types of innovation that U.S. manufacturers would be wise to focus on.


Types of Innovation – Choosing Where to Innovate: As a companion to the article above, we also recommend this article for gaining a wider lens through which to explore innovation generally, as well as to identify types of innovation that might make the most sense for your company. According to the author, Decision Innovation, “Categorization [of innovation types] also helps in the measurement of innovation, allowing for performance comparison and evidence-based choices that can guide where improvements or advances might generate the most return for a given investment.” The Return on Innovation is EFI Group’s focal point when assisting manufacturers in determining what types of improvements will have the most positive impact on profitability and sustainability.


Rethinking Innovation in Industrial Manufacturing: Are You Up for the Challenge?: To wrap up our realistic look at the “how” of innovation, we’re including the companion report to PwC’s Global Innovation Survey 2013 which looked at the impact of innovation on the growth of manufacturing companies. In particular, the report explores (paraphrased): 1) How manufacturers are using innovation to drive growth and the return on investment; 2) How the approach to innovation is changing – in particular, the trend towards more disciplined innovation; and 3) Leading practices and critical success factors. You can also review data from the original survey here .


As we mentioned previously, strengthening the nation’s manufacturing backbone can only be the result of strengthening the bottom line of each individual manufacturer – and this means that being highly selective about where you focus your effort is actually essential.


That said the worst thing any company in any industry can do to support growth is nothing. So, examining how other manufacturers are approaching innovation (as in the above articles) is an ideal first step in determining your own starting place and your own “how” for increasing your own profitability and sustainability. 


Be realistic, yes. Be cautious. But be in action.



Should you wish to tap into our wide-ranging industry experience and the insights we’ve gained from working with manufacturers in sectors within and outside your own, schedule a complimentary conversation by contacting Jim Solich at We’d very much enjoy hearing your plans and sharing our thoughts on keeping up with the pace of change. 




We hired EFI Group to help us figure out a project and scope it, and I felt confident they would keep a keen eye on it. They had to deliver quickly and they did it well. They are especially good at project management when you don’t have the resources to do it internally. Reliability is the word I would use to describe EFI Group.
— Coatings Industry Professional
EFI Group is timely. We’ve had a lot of situations when we’ve been in a time crunch and they’ve responded very quickly. They are detail oriented and efficient. They’re a good group of people who also have a lot of strength in pre-engineering — the thought process to get to preliminary design and making sure we’ve investigated all the potential asks of a project to ensure we didn’t miss anything. They have great attention to detail up front which is very important to any project because having that detail-oriented deep dive into the pre-engineering phase sets the stage for the success of the rest of the project, making the process smoother and making it much easier to keep the project on schedule and on budget.
— Mike Quigley, Engineering & Maintenance Manager, Food Industry
I’ve worked with EFI Group for a while, so I know they have a good, knowledgeable staff. We know we’re going to get the results from them we expect. From my interactions with all the different EFI team members I’ve worked with, I know they have knowledge across many industries. Equally, I never have to follow up with EFI Group and, in some cases, they keep me on track.
— Ryan Fredsall, General Manager, Pacer Minerals LLC
We view EFI Group as a team that can dimensionalize our capability to execute projects. We can articulate what it is we want to do and they can take that input and run with it without much intervention from us. They’re able to move a project along independently and only engage us when it’s time to bring us up to speed or get more input to drive a project to conclusion. That’s one of the reasons I view them as an excellent contractor.
— Environmental Engineering Industry Professional
EFI Group has good engineers and good customer service. We know when we get an EFI engineer on a project, we’re going to a get a good job from them and it’s been a productive relationship for both of us — I genuinely like the people.
— Corporate Director, Project Management in Food & Flavors Industry
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