Ashland Technologies is a contract manufacturer of machined and fabricated parts. It also manufactures and distributes its own branded line of fuel filter systems for all diesel applications. They employ about 20 people in Schuylkill county..
Currently, the company makes 99.5 percent of its products as a contract manufacturer. With international competition devouring this market, it was apparent to Bill Wydra Jr., company president, that a long-term strategy for its future growth was needed. He requested the assistance of MRC to help him determine where the company should direct its future growth.
MRC and Bill agreed that the company needed to develop a proprietary line of products for long-term growth. MRC was familiar with several opportunities to develop in-house products for Ashland; however, as an affiliate of Lehigh University, MRC evaluated that the best fit for Ashland’s needs was the Lehigh Integrated Product Development program. The IPD program encompasses students, faculty and course expertise from the colleges of Arts & Sciences, Business & Economics, Engineering & Applied Science and Education. The multi-disciplinary project team approach to technical entrepreneurship fosters an environment that encourages innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit within the realities of design, business and engineering functions. Bill presented two product ideas to the IPD Team that needed to be researched, designed, and engineered for workability.
Four-seat Gyroscope Ride – to design and build a prototype for sales to amusement ride companies nationwide. Since, Ashland already produces parts and rides for the amusement park industry. This idea was a natural fit to Ashland’s new proprietary product development.
French Fry Vending Machine – to design and build a state-of-the-art vending machine even encompassing wireless technology to signal when the machine needs refilling. Currently, Ashland supplies a part for vending machines like this, but no company has a dominant market share. In approximately two years with the help of MRC, Bill hopes to produce this vending machine and place it next to every soda machine nationwide.
Partnering with MRC and the IPD Program helped Ashland garner: access to Lehigh’s intellectual power; research to solve problems and seize opportunities; creativity of students for unique design; prototype that is well engineered and workable. The sales forecast for the four-seat gyroscope is projected to be $3 million for the first year. The unit will be ready for production in November, 2005.