Hulit: Customer knowledge a key to success

By Plant Engineering Staff February 14, 2006

New Fluke president Barbara Hulit looks at some of the keys to innovation in her new role.

As the new president of Fluke Corporation, Barbara Hulit comes in from the outside, but with an insider’s knowledge of the company operations.

Over the past seven years, Hulit has worked with Fluke on identifying the company’s new indoor air quality and thermography businesses. In her new role, Hulit has responsibility for Fluke Industrial and Fluke Precision Measurement businesses. At BCG, she helped grow the global packaged goods sector by roughly 20% annually. Hulit holds an MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University and a BA in Marketing from the University of Texas at Austin .

In a discussion with PLANT ENGINEERING , Hulit spoke about her new job, innovation, and her big events at the start of 2006:

Q: You’re not unfamiliar with Fluke, but you come into this new role from outside the organization. What are your first priorities?

A: Myions will allow us to continue growing.This requires us to continue to build on a strong foundation by:

We are continually challenged to innovate and deliver the next great solution.Our customers have high expectations, and we remain committed to exceeding them.

Q: The thermography business has grown as more manufacturers place a higher priority on maintenance issues. How will this business continue to grow, both domestically and in emerging foreign markets?

A: There has been a significant shift from the “run-to-failure”e point that it needs to be serviced. With advances in technology and manufacturing, we can now offer full thermography packages (imager, software and training) for less than $10,000, a dramatic decrease in cost. These new imagers are designed specifically for industrial maintenance and are much simpler to use than traditional imagers. Our goal is to bring new capabilities to Fluke users with equipment that is easy-to-use, intuitive, affordable, and thus has a quicker payback.

This convergence of market forces, affordable technology and ease-of-use are driving the dramatic growth in thermography around the world. Thermography adoption is growing at a rapid rate as non-users find that there are innovative products available that now meet their needs.We don’t see this slowing down anytime soon, especially in industrial maintenance.Fluke is putting a great deal of resources into our thermography business.We’ve recently added Infrared Solutions (ISI) to our organization. ISI has an impressive array of products and technology for a variety of markets. The Fluke ISI combination provides additional resources and capability to accelerate our innovation even faster.

Q: U.S. manufacturing. Where do we go from here? Are you optimistic about the future?

A: As you and your readers are well aware, the US manufacturing sector has undergone

Our parent company, Danaher Corporation, has brought us an expanded tool kit to assure that we have the best quality and service of any player in our market.We are making strong progress driving productivity enhancements through the Danaher Business System around the world.Those improvements allow us to make strategic decisions regarding our global manufacturing and service footprint. U.S. manufacturers who blindly move offshore or miss driving domestic improvements will lose over time.

Q: How do you drive innovation to find the next great idea out there?

A: Innovation is an easy thing to talk about, but it is difficult to do well. You can get a lot of bright, creative people together and come up with ideas for dozens of products and none of them will ultimately be successful.Why? Because they don’t satisfy a customer need. The key to innovation at Fluke is understandingnd quite a lot of time “toe-to-toe” with our customers.We “shadow” them as they work, observing what they do.We seek to understand needs they can articulate, and those they can’t.Once we think we understand their needs, we develop a prototype then give it to them to use. And then we iterate.

We are always combing the globe for innovation, be it from an adjacent market, a completely different market, a partner, a user… our eyes and ears are always open.

Q: January was a good month for you — a new job as president of Fluke and the Longhorns won the National Championship. Any parallels between the two?

A: Yes, it has been a very exciting month!Ater of truly great organizations from the inside.I’d put the Fluke team up against any team, but perhaps not on a football field!