Showcasing the Innovators

Innovation section brings the latest, greatest to Products Finishing readers.

My favorite story about Thomas Edison took place in 1930, and was told by Martin André Rosanoff, who had joined the noted inventor’s staff as a chemical investigator in his laboratory.

On his first day on the job, Rosanoff approached the venerable Edison with a simple question:

“Mr. Edison,” he started. “Please tell me what laboratory rules you want me to observe.”

With that, Rosanoff wrote in Harper’s magazine a few years later, Edison whirled around and spat on the floor at his feet, then bellowed:

“Hell! There ain’t no rules around here! We are tryin’ to accomplish somep’n!”

Spoken like a true scientist—but also the greatest innovator this world will probably ever know. Some will argue that Leonardo da Vinci, Ben Franklin or even Archimedes might top the list, but I will argue over a beer that Edison was the top dog.

In modern times, some may point to Apple’s Steve Jobs as one of the greatest innovative minds civilization has ever seen. Jobs had a knack for dreaming up gadgets that the masses would buy in the millions, but yet he also had a penchant for simplicity.

Derek Sivers, a noted computer programmer, tells the take of Jobs showing a prototype of what would turn out to be the massively popular iTunes Music Store to record executives to give them a sense of what he was developing. Sivers says that the execs kept raising their hands and peppering Jobs with questions such as “Does it do [this]?” and “Do you plan to add [that]?”, to which Jobs finally exploded:

“Wait, wait—put your hands down. Listen. I know you have a thousand ideas for all the cool features iTunes could have. So do we. But we don’t want a thousand features. That would be ugly. Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying no to all but the most crucial features.”

We agree that innovation is about crucial things. Industries live and thrive on innovation, and the finishing industry is no different. Amongst the hundreds of labs throughout North America and Europe that are testing and contemplating the next “great thing” in electroplating or liquid and powder coating chemicals and equipment, there is something there that some day will benefit the shop owner in Kansas, or the OEM in Michigan.

The finishing industry is constantly innovating and developing, and we here at Products Finishing want to show a renewed commitment to bringing those innovations to you. A few months ago we tasked Assistant Editor Jess Larkin with finding the latest and greatest in supplies, equipment and technology in the finishing industry and bring them to you each month on these pages.

The section that we call “Innovations”—catchy, eh?—will highlight the new and improved in all things finishing. Looking for latest technology in electroless nickel chemistry? Check out Innovations. Wondering who has the latest technology in powder spray guns? Innovations. Looking for some new advances in film measuring gages? Yep, Innovations.

There are those who might say there isn’t much being developed in the finishing industry. Henry Ford may have the had the same thought when he said: “I see no advantage in these new clocks. They run no faster than the ones made 100 years ago.”

But we have found that is not the case. While most chemical suppliers may come out with a new line of products only a few times a year, they are all constantly working like mad scientists to meet a customers’ expectation with a tweek here or a twist there. That information may help a plater in California who is looking for a fix to their problem, or even a powder coater in Florida who is perplexed with the performance of his powder. Either way, we want to bring that solution to you by way of the latest innovations from some of the best scientists and researchs in the industry.

We are working more closely with industry suppliers to get them to provide us with not only their new line of products they have, but also the little nuances that can make a big difference in getting chemistry just right— dialing it in, as I hear a lot of finishers calling it—or using a coating that has better adhesion than ever before.

“Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd,” Winston Churchill said. “Without innovation, it is a corpse.”

Steve Jobs said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” We like the sound of that tune.

Originally published in the January 2016 issue.