JOHN DAVIES: Falk’s secret weapon in pushing frontiers

2014-05-11T00:00:00Z JOHN DAVIES: Falk’s secret weapon in pushing frontiersBy John Davies
May 11, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Do you agree an innovative business model in one industry can sometimes be used in another?

Journals have long advocated effective management practices in one field can often be applied in another.

Indeed, Mike Falk carved out a niche by being the first to deploy laser scanners and laser trackers in the steel industry. He’s determined to deepen and widen this niche by identifying new needs. He describes this as having a “better bedside manner.”

For years, lasers and trackers had been used in laboratories, aerospace and automotive sectors. Mike brought this technology to Northwest Indiana 16 years ago.

Unlike traditional optical measurement tools, laser tracking and scanners deliver unprecedented accuracy and speed to clients, helping customers return to production in significantly less time with greater safety.

Not that it has been an easy road for Mike, who first used lasers while building the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas before coming to Northwest Indiana.

Actually, he began his company in the basement of his home. His company started as a result of a failed acquisition of an existing company, so he was challenged to create a start-up company with limited resources. Now he has operations in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Portage.

Another pivotal moment came as the steel industry underwent a series of bankruptcies. He was challenged to manage financial exposure and help clients reduce project costs while working to sustain his business.

There were other significant challenges that led to the adoption of clear business policies and procedures, and experienced professionals in key positions, with a strong vision of the future.

Now Mike stands on the cusp of a new era as he prepares to move to larger offices at Ameriplex. He added his company is receiving state funds to train an expanded workforce. “It’s a wonderful thing,” he added.

When I caught up with Mike, he mentioned he had a team in China working for an aluminum company for whom he had done work in the United States. Also, he cited numerous other teams on location in Northwest Indiana and elsewhere.

While his company is known for measurement with lasers, he emphasizes he should be known for using this technology to solve problems of customers. “What is the data trying to tell us, and how can we use the data to help clients compete.”

Another innovative aspect of his business model is once teams gather data, Falk-PLI inspires customers to apply solutions using sometimes simple ideas. “You only have their attention for a brief time,” Mike added.

He was influenced by a Harvard Business Review of fast paced schedules, complex priorities and limited attention spans. So he adopted informative and stunning color reports and images showing laser shots of infrastructure. As competitors adopt laser technology, his secret weapon is to keep innovating!

John Davies is managing director of the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana, which is part of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center of Ivy Tech Northwest. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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