Marti Nyman, President and strategic growth leader of NDC Technologies, provides insight into his diverse experience and shares his views on opportunities and trends in the tobacco and cable industries, NDC’s key to success, and his thoughts on the future in a recent article interview with Tobacco Journal International magazine.
Can you give us a short history of your background?
My undergraduate degree is in Mechanical Engineering and I began my career with GE, working as a Manufacturing Engineer in the Company’s Manufacturing Management Leadership program. From there, I held several different assignments in a diverse range of roles – international marketing, field sales, sales management and product management. Next, I began to expand my experience into other markets and new functional roles at firms that included Ericsson, ADC Telecommunications, Best Buy and UnitedHealthcare, as well as an Engineering services firm. This diversity enabled me to see how different types of firms solve the fundamental challenge that all organizations face – how to grow amid challenging market conditions. That’s what energizes me and it’s what has led me to NDC.
You have worked a lot in the health industry, how does this help with your current position?
That’s a great question. There were two things I learned from my tenure in the healthcare industry. The first was learning how to scale and manage growth in a complex industry – and healthcare is truly one of the most complex industries today. There’s regulation (at the State and Federal level), and there’s a high level of critical compliance measures that need to be managed (e.g. privacy and data security). In addition, there’s a myriad of different use cases – whether it’s managing chronic conditions, dealing with acute care or just keeping people healthy. These need to be effectively managed, ALL while growing the enterprise.
The second valuable learning I received from my healthcare experience was the ability to leverage data and insights to drive growth. The healthcare industry has enormous data assets, such as claims data, clinical data and user demographics at its disposal; however, only a fraction of that information is utilized to deliver a better customer experience. The industrial measurement and control industry has a similar profile. Each day, our gauges and scanning systems generate gigabytes of data that can and should be used to help our customers to better manage the efficiency of their plants and improve the quality and consistency of their products. This in turn drives greater profitability and capital efficiency. That’s the opportunity we have before us.
What drew you to the NDC opportunity?
My passion is in growing companies. The last two thirds of my career have been spent in roles that centre around creating new growth for organisations, whether it would be through new product development, territory/market expansion, cultural transformation or collaboration with other partners in the market. This is what I enjoy doing and it’s what attracted me most to the NDC opportunity.
What are your first priorities as the new president?
My immediate priorities are centred around creating a more customer-centred and growth-minded company. To accomplish this, I’m focusing the organisation on three areas. The first is rejuvenating our new product development efforts and creating new, innovative solutions for the markets we serve. The second is to continue to improve our operating execution, becoming a more efficient, streamlined and Lean-centred organisation. Third, we’ll be increasing our market-facing efforts with enhanced marketing campaigns, leveraging social media channels more effectively and helping to create better and more aligned value-selling tools that help our customers meet the challenges they’re facing.
You oversee many different areas, but is there one particular part of the job that you perhaps enjoy the most?
It’s difficult to choose just one thing, but I would say what I enjoy the most is seeing people in the organisation grow. Whether it’s someone taking on a new functional role or an employee who has a particular passion and finding a way to leverage that to better serve our customers, these are instances where people are growing. When people grow, the company grows. Developing the next generation of leaders at NDC is one of my highest priorities and passions, and it’s a key part of my efforts today. That’s the aspect of my job that gives me a lot of energy and a part that I truly enjoy.
What are the strengths of NDC’s portfolio, product and technology strategy which allow you to be one of the leaders on the global market?
I would submit that the combination of our application expertise, combined with the versatility of the technology in our portfolio, is what enables NDC to sustain its market leadership role. This can be evidenced by the diversity of ways in which we solve our customers’ problems. In one case, an infrared-based technology will provide the necessary resolution and accuracy to enable the customer to measure the moisture level of tobacco.
The tobacco industry is rapidly changing. What is one of the most challenging issues for NDC at the moment, and how is the company dealing with that?
I would say our biggest challenge is to ensure that we’re adapting and moving alongside the tobacco industry as they address the various challenges they’re facing. Whether it’s quality-related issues, new innovative tobacco alternatives or improving the yield of their existing lines, our job is to ensure that we are seen as a crucial partner to helping our tobacco customers navigate the issues they face. Our goal is to be part of the business and strategic dialogue with our customers. This is where we’ll provide the greatest value. And while it’s not always easy to get that “seat at the table”, because of our past performance and delivered benefits, we’re confident that we will continue to serve our customers as they adapt to the various changes and shifts of the marketplace.
What do you think has led to NDC’s success and growth over recent years?
In looking back, I believe there are three attributes that contribute to our market success. The first is our ability to understand the unique needs of our customers and develop a solution that truly meets all the requirements of the situation. Our application expertise and track record of solving very tough solutions in difficult operating environments is what distinguishes NDC from other suppliers. It’s one of the reasons why our name comes up as often as it does when there’s need for highly accurate, reliable industrial measurement and control. The second is our product portfolio. Since our company’s earliest origins, we have implemented a broad number of technologies in over 100,000 different customer applications around the world – each solving a problem and doing so in a way that reliably delivers results, year after year. The final attribute is our accumulated experience and breadth of impact. By our latest estimates, we have amassed over 1 billion hours of operating experience with our installed systems.
What do you think sets NDC apart from other companies?
In this industry, with the growing pressure and challenges facing our customers, there’s low tolerance for solutions that are just “ok” – these measurement and control systems must work, day in and day out, year after year. Production lines are working around the clock with fewer and fewer operators to attend to them. The product quality expectations of consumers today are continuing to increase. What’s at stake today is far greater than what it was 20 years ago. With that increased expectation comes a responsibility that speaks to who we are and how we approach our work. The dialogue we’re increasingly seeking with our customers is that of a true business partner versus just an equipment supplier. We work hard to not only understand our customer’s business, but their customer’s business as well. When we do this, we’re in the business of not just selling a solution but of helping our customers succeed in their goals and objectives.
Tell us what you’re doing in the field of alternative tobacco products?
Because we’ve been a prominent and successful measurement and control supplier to the tobacco industry, we’re continuing to work with our customers as they explore new developments in the reduced-risk tobacco arena. Solutions for this emerging segment are interesting because they go beyond the traditional measures of on-line moisture, nicotine, sugars and total-volatiles, and include additional attributes such as glycerol (humectants) – a key metric required for reduced-risk products. Regardless of what the new, innovative product will be, our focus needs to be on ensuring our customers can continue to deliver a high-quality product, control in-pack moisture and reduce production waste – all while enhancing and strengthening brand loyalty to these new offerings. This is the essence of what we mean when we seek to serve as a business partner for our customer, not just a purveyor of measurement equipment.
What do you see as the biggest trends affecting measurement and control solutions as a whole?
We see two things emerging that are shaping the next chapter in the measurement and control industry. The first, which has been under discussion in our industry for some time, is the need for the next level of connectivity, device awareness and intelligence at the point of measurement. There is tremendous power in the data being captured by these devices, yet their full potential is still to be realized. In other words, there’s lots of data but little information. The convergence of more intelligence at the point of measurement, greater connectivity (LAN, WAN) and data speeds, Big Data analysis and modelling tools, and the integration of more predictive capabilities still need to be brought together to enable manufacturers to operate more efficiently, improve quality and yields, and scale production capabilities. This is not entirely a technology issue – economics also play a role. In some use cases, the Return on Investment strongly supports the investment in next-generation measurement and control, while in others it’s difficult to justify the capital outlay required.
Secondly, the continued pressure on scarce labour resources combined with the more advanced measurement and control systems being installed – there’s a need for ensuring the employees working the production lines are properly equipped with the latest tools. In this context, we’re referring to tools that quickly enable employees to understand the data being produced and take the appropriate actions when they are seeing out-of-range or out-of-spec conditions. Additionally, there’s a need to be able to quickly assess the nature of an out-of-range reading. In some cases, the gauges themselves are working properly and there’s a need for adjustment on one or more process controls. Instead of losing valuable production cycles, systems and operators need to efficiently assess, confirm and initiate the necessary actions. Additionally, with fewer maintenance resources being applied to a broader number of lines, the measurement and control technology needs to provide the necessary intelligence and support to augment their efforts. This ensures that the right lines are being serviced and the right preventive maintenance schedules are being maintained. With all the promise of advanced technology coming into the market, it’s all too easy to overlook the human element. That’s something we’ve been actively developing as part of our overall suite of offerings.
Sustainability has become one of the key factors in the tobacco industry. How would you describe your competitive advantages in that area?
The virtue of our solution designs and approach is that we get to leverage the various technologies (infrared, X-ray, etc.) to find the best and most accurate means of measuring the things that matter. Sustainability is and will continue to be a high priority for our customers, yet how each customer addresses this challenge varies. In some cases, it’s energy consumption (of production lines). In other cases, it’s the optimization of raw materials; while other customers will focus on both (and more). Regardless of where our customers are focusing their sustainability efforts, we’re proud of the fact that we have one of the broadest portfolios of technologies and applications expertise that can help. Lastly, with our growing efforts to quantify the full value of our measurement and control solutions, we can (and will) play a more prominent role in helping our customer to determine the economic benefits associated with these initiatives. Sustainability initiatives must address three domains: economic, environmental/operational and social. And we’re actively assessing how we help our customers in these areas.
What are NDC’s goals for the future?
Our goals could best be summarised in three areas: customers, employees and offerings. For our customers, we’re intent on delivering the best possible experience in all interactions with NDC. From the first meeting with our applications and sales team to the quotation we provide, to the installation, to the commissioning of a line, to the final invoice, all aspects of their interaction with NDC need to be exceptional. And while we’ve still got work to do, our focus on being customer-centred is guiding us in how to best do this.
For our employees, we seek to be the place of employment where people are growing, both personally and professionally. We’re proud of the fact that we’ve got many employees with 10, 20, 30 and more years of service with NDC. This is a solid foundation upon which we’ll build. But in today’s tight market for talent, it’s vital that we create a work environment and company culture that attracts and retains the very best individuals. Again, we’ve got a great foundation to build upon, but the work of enhancing and strengthening our culture continues. I’m grateful for the commitment and dedication of all our employees in making this happen.
Lastly, the work of being a market leader is challenging. With the growing number of competitors in the market, we need to continue to advance the pace of innovation in our solutions while still providing economically viable offerings. We continue to invest in R&D and explore new developments, especially in the areas of software and data management. And we will continue to look for ways to enhance the speed, access and delivery of our services. We’re actively developing product roadmaps which lay out where we’re going, the technologies we’ll be deploying and the value we’ll be delivering. And our engineering and market-facing teams will be working closely with our customers to ensure we get it right, each time.
Source: as published in the April-May 2020 issue of Tobacco Journal International magazine.