Every plastics company looks at technology, but Chris Morton, who is a senior plastics leader at Flextronics International Ltd., discussed how to formalize the process using ``technology road mapping,'' during the Plastics News Executive Forum.
Morton is vice president of the newly created FlexMobile Mechanicals unit at Flextronics, a Singapore-based, $15.9 billion electronics contract manufacturer with 1,400 injection presses at plants around the world. In his role he oversees all the plastics and metal mechanicals operations for the company's fast-growing cell-phone business.
In Tampa, Morton described Flextronics' Chief Technology Group, a cross-functional team of experts. ``We merge that all into a central group, where we can cross-pollinate technologies.''
Flextronics uses technology road mapping to help plot strategy. CTG members talk about specific products and manufacturing technologies used to make them. Morton said they avoid discussing broad subjects such as the ``automotive market,'' or ``medical.''
The group looks 12-18 months into the future but avoids unproven, fringe technologies. Flextronics operates in a highly competitive business, so officials have to spend their research and development dollars wisely, he said.
The CTG helps Flextronics build closer relationships with customers and the supply chain. ``It's an absolutely endless process,'' Morton said in his talk March 7.
People in manufacturing assess technology every day. ``Every time you read a magazine. Every time you go to a trade show. Every time you talk to a supplier or a competitor, you're talking about technologies,'' he said. The key is to make it a formal process and take action based on the findings.
And Morton said technology road mapping is not just for Flextronics-sized mega-companies.
``It doesn't take 50 people to do this. It takes one or two people who are committed to the process,'' he said.