Hulit: Customer knowledge a key to success

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.
By Staff February 1, 2006

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:

Question: On the growth of thermography in domestic and foreign markets:

Hulit : “There has been a significant shift from the “run-to-failure” approach to planned preventive and predictive maintenance. In today’s highly competitive market you simply can’t afford a loss in productivity. 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. This convergence of market forces, affordable technology and ease-of-use are driving the dramatic growth in thermography around the world.”

Question: On the current state of U.S. manufacturing and her optimism for the future:

Hulit : “As you and your readers are well aware, the U.S. manufacturing sector has undergone dramatic transformation over the past decade. Competition from a global marketplace continues to intensify. By improving uptime and productivity, Fluke tools are essential equipment for outstanding manufacturing organizations. We are helping make U.S. manufacturers more competitive.”

Question: On driving a company toward innovation:

Hulit : “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. As a rule, our best ideas come from having a deep knowledge of our customers. We seek to understand what motivates our users, what they do all day, what their goals and aspirations are, what frustrates them. We understand how they use our products and how that changes over time.

We spend 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.

Question: On a January in which she was named president of Fluke and her alma mater won the college football national championship:

Hulit : “Yes, it has been a very exciting month! At Fluke one of our core beliefs is “the best team wins.” The University of Texas Longhorns had a great season. So did the team at Fluke. I feel very proud of both organizations and am truly honored to be working with the team at Fluke. I’d put the Fluke team up against any team — but perhaps not on a football field.”

For the full text of this interview, go to www.plantengineering.com