Bliley Technologies Inc. was originally founded as the Bliley Piezo-Electric Company in 1930 manufacturing quartz crystals for the amateur radio market. In the mid-1930s, their customers and products soon broadened to match the interests of military and commercial communications fields and they became the largest quartz crystal company with 11 employees. Today, Bliley is a leader in manufacturing low noise frequency control products; applications requiring not just precise, but exact, timing function.
Keith Szewczyk, CEO/Director, said the company is in an 85-year old industry and, over the years, a lot of the low-end technology in the industry has moved to be manufactured in Asia. Bliley now centers their focus on high-end products for technology industries such as aerospace, defense, and communications. Their goal is to continue to grow business profitably by diversifying into new markets that demand their technology and manufacturing capabilities. “We have our eye on the fastest changing technology of PNT (positioning, navigation, and timing). This is where autonomous vehicles fit in and they need our technology,” said Szewczyk.
Szewczyk has been at Bliley a little over a year now. When he joined the company, he brought with him a ‘start-up’ mindset and wanted to recreate the way employees think about products and the organization. “I refer to Bliley as a re-start-up company, because we were sitting on some intellectual property (IP) that hadn’t yet been commercialized in a big way,” he said. “We knew the problems our technology could solve, but we didn’t know much about the market out there. We weren’t sure about the market and how to approach the first sale.” He acknowledged that companies usually would do a return on investment (ROI) analysis before going to market with something new, but they needed to learn more about the market itself first. They didn’t have the tools, methodologies and resources to do an in-depth market research, so they began with a ‘start-up company’ approach which landed them a few customers they didn’t expect. Knowing that was the tip of the iceberg, they wanted to engage an outside resource to do the deep-dive research and fill in the blanks in terms of future opportunities. That’s when they engaged the Northwest Industrial Resource Center (NWIRC).
“We liked NWIRC’s approach of using the TDMI (technology-driven market intelligence) methodology and the support they had with resources at RTI International. We have all participated in brainstorming types of activities, but this process was much more structured for leading to results you can use,” Szewczyk said. He said their leadership has the capabilities to do the research, but lacked the time as well as the proven and efficient process. NWIRC had the right resources and they liked the methodology outlined for them. A core team at Bliley still had an active role by providing NWIRC access to materials and feedback along the way. “We guided NWIRC and RTI with what we knew, but allowed them to run with their creativity and then our periodic briefings would correct the course,” he said.
TDMI provides a systematic and comprehensive approach to technology focused market assessments. Michael Griffith, Manufacturing Technology Engineer at NWIRC, facilitated the TDMI project. He explained several goals for the research to answer questions, such as 1) what price point these emerging technology markets are willing to pay for this high-end product, 2) what is the market size, 3) what is the timing of when the product would be needed, 4) what technology currently exists that could use the product, and 5) could Bliley’s product help progress the overall timing of the emerging technology. Researchers from RTI also participated in brainstorming sessions, and helped develop the framework for the research project.
One of the most productive steps in the process was the ‘mind mapping’ activity to free think outside the box uses for Bliley’s technology and laying out what a potential customer could look like. Szewczyk said he feels most companies don’t spend enough time understanding their products’ long-term or future market potential….”what it looks like 5 years or more down the road”. He referenced that most spend time prospecting who is out there now to use their product and go after those customers for an immediate return.” Going thru this TDMI project won’t bring us immediate results, but will help us prepare for changing markets,” Szewczyk said. “The average company, including Bliley in the past, doesn’t focus on the market driven activity, they only look at the needs of their current customer-base.”
Before Bliley dedicated a lot of time and resources to selecting what markets to go after, they decided to use the resources of NWIRC and RTI to vet out the markets with greatest potential. Although the impact of the project is still imminent, the TDMI process helped them save time and money in the long-run by not taking time away from employees with critical roles at the company and gave them a roadmap for the future.
A key deliverable, provided to Bliley by NWIRC and RTI, was the feedback via interviews from actual contacts within the industries being researched. Szewczyk thought these companies and contacts will be valuable as they move forward with plans for the technology.
As the leader in high performance frequency control devices, Bliley Technologies’ tagline ‘Bliley Takes You Further’ was developed because “we don’t want to be thought of for just our product,” Szewczyk said. “We are more than a quartz crystal or an oscillator manufacturer. We are a solutions provider and advancing technology is part of our DNA.”