Before a few weeks ago, I could have cared less about springs (clearly I’m not an engineer like those surrounding my office). The most exciting spring I ever cared about was a slinky (is that even a spring)? Anyway… I didn’t care about springs when I walked into the door of Lee Spring in Brooklyn, New York (a client of MEP’s New York City affiliate, Industrial + Technology Assistance Corporation). I thought I was going to see the making of bed springs, pen springs and pogo springs (oh my!) Within minutes, I was quickly converted to a Spring-fanatic as Lee Spring President Al Mangles walked our team through the shop floor. It was fascinating to see prototype springs being built by hand to solve some of the most challenging engineering problems from around the world.
Did you know a set of springs keep a pool cover in place when an elephant walks across it to prove the cover’s strength? Or that a spring is essential to monitoring tsunamis? How about the necessity of a tiny spring the size of a gnat being a key component to the world’s most exclusive cell phones?
Maybe you did… But did you know that Lee Spring invented a durable spring made from… plastic?!?! With two patents pending, Lee Spring’s LeeP™ product is eliminating issues corroding and metallic springs caused, and introduced to the world springs that are recyclable, corrosion resistant and non-magnetic. This innovation made a dramatic difference to countless products: medical devices, x-ray machines, marine products, food processing, cosmetics packaging, electronics, and more. Lee Spring solved problems all over the world with LeeP™!
They did it by listening to their customers… but maybe not in a way most of us are used to hearing. We often hear companies using a “voice of the customer” to plan their future –often listening to the customer won’t get you an innovation like LeeP™. Asking customer’s what they want, often leads to them telling you what’s already out there and how they want it shifted or changed. Lee Spring CEO Steve Kempf said the secret to their success in LeeP™ wasn’t asking the customer what they “wanted”… but rather what they “needed”. Lee Spring management asked “what do you need” instead of “what do you want”? Turns out customers needed a spring that could be integrated in an otherwise a recyclable product. They needed springs that could be submerged in water. They needed components that didn’t magnetize. Lee Spring’s customers sure did need a lot.
And now their customers know what they want… a plastic spring. Just listening to Steve talk about how they figured out to make a durable and strong spring with plastic was exhausting. Pulling a spring out of plastic molding is quite a trick. They found a way to have one innovation that solved so many problems… and so many needs… for their customers.
I learned a lot in Brooklyn – that springs surround me everyday, that Brooklyn is home to the best Italian restaurants in the United States… and that I’m no longer going to ask what people want, but rather, what they need.