Business Aviation Insider - November/December 2013 (PREVIEW) - (Page 24)
Creating Customer Connections
Though Plitek's business is highly
technical, this manufacturer's
decision to use business aviation
in support of customer relationships was simple.
"We work with customers on engineering products and problem solving, from
concept to the end product, explained
Alma Likic, Plitek's marketing and opportunity development specialist.
No Substitute for Being There
"Plitek is a solution-oriented manufacturer,"
declared Karl Hoffman, CEO of the Des
Plaines, IL-based company that specializes in fabricating precision components
from adhesives, plastics, foams and other
materials for use in a broad range of applications across many different industries. A
dwindling number of American companies
can make that claim.
While Plitek's precision die cutting, multilayer laminating, custom film extrusion
and other high-tech "converting capabilities" are impressive, it is the company's
value-added customer services - material selection assistance, design support,
process development, rapid prototyping,
clean room manufacturing, and contract
assembly and packaging - that sets it
apart from its competition and has been
the key to its success.
For Plitek, customer collaboration means
traveling to many destinations off the
beaten path, such as Wahpeton, ND;
Henderson, KY; Redwing, MN; Suffolk,
VA; and Hartsville, SC. Because Plitek
people need to visit remote locations,
combined with the fact that the company
obtains 70 percent of its new business by
actually visiting business partners, using
business aviation makes sense. So the
company flies its TBM 850 single-engine
turboprop, which is based at Chicago
Executive Airport (PWK), approximately
200 hours per year to visit customers and
"Plitek has flourished during the past
five years," explained Hoffman. "We aren't
just lucky; we picked the right path. We
are constantly reinventing ourselves, innovating to make new products. The only
way to do that is to be out in the market,
traveling to see customers and the
changes that are going on in the industry.
"I tell all my employees, 'Good things
happen when you are in front of customers,'" Hoffman said. "These good things
don't always happen by email, text or teleconference, so being there is critical."
Rob Larsen, Plitek's engineering and
new product development manager,
agrees, because for him to collaborate
with customers most efficiently, he has to
be in the same room with them.
"You can't replace a face-to-face meeting with a phone call," said Larsen. "The
relationship starts to grow when face-toface conversation happens. In our highly
technical business, we need to not only
see what we will be making, but how it
will be used. You have to be in front of the
customer to do that."
Be Nimble, Be Quick
Plitek has used business aviation ever
since Hoffman and his wife Cheryl bought
the firm in 1995. His father, Ken Hoffman,
owned a series of light aircraft, so Karl
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