I’ve really labored over where to go with this week’s blog. I started going back to the task of helping buyers and specifiers, but my heart wasn’t in it. Then I tried to go back to social media and discuss the role it should play in the future growth of 3DL, but my mind kept wandering toward another issue. I was distracted by a pattern I saw developing at IWF, and after struggling with this for a few days a brainstorm finally came over me. Why not write about the issue my mind wouldn’t let go of?

There’s been a flurry of positive feedback about the success of IWF and encouraging developments within the 3D laminating industry. I’ve heard from a number of people in the industry about everything from the energy of the crowd to how much more the average visitor understands about 3DL. In last week’s blog I discussed several exciting developments. We’re all feeling very positive about our future, but good reasons to stay cautious remain.

I recognized a disturbing dichotomy in the discussions that I had during those four days. Veteran 3DL component producers, many of which had jumped prematurely at the promise of cheaper/easier/faster, were telling me of the problems they’ve had and the changes they’ve made to improve their product quality. Companies that had been using the “we’ve never had a problem” defense were now sharing their concerns with me and genuinely wanted feedback. Some of these producers were previously making products I knew were hurting the industry’s reputation. These truly were exciting conversations.

On the other hand, I’m concerned by the kinds of questions I was getting from those new to the industry or just considering investing in the process. There it was all over again: the excitement and hunger to embrace the simpler, cheaper, and faster. When I stressed caution, many enthusiastically repeated the same pitch I’d heard for years. Did they get the message? Will they continue to research and ask the right questions? Will they simply believe what they want to believe? I guess time will tell.

I am truly not trying to discourage anyone from working with producers new to the industry. The knowledge is available to get up and running quickly and manufacture a consistently good quality product.

Several years ago I worked with a customer that was understandably anxious about getting into this industry. The horror stories of the early days were still playing out and they needed to know they weren’t going to have to fill dumpsters for six months to learn the process. I gave them a list of pre-installation requirements and made the promise that if they would follow my instructions they would be shipping high-quality product in the second week and would never have to look back. Years later they reminded me of that promise, and assured me that I had kept my word.

They asked the right questions…and they listened!


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