This piece was originally published in the March 2017 issue of electroindustry.
John Williamson, President & CEO, Atkore International
As a manufacturer of electrical raceway and mechanical products, Atkore International knows it is crucial to be on the frontline in the development of installation codes and product standards. We must remain highly aware of and engaged in a wide range of industry issues. These include codes, standards, and regulatory requirements, as well as the effects that technical developments have on products, customers, and markets.
NEMA members work side by side with NEMA staff, standards development organizations, and other manufacturers to address industry concerns, provide input to codes and standards, and educate the electrical industry on our product attributes and installation. As is the case with other members, we have representatives on leadership and section committees. We actively participate in working groups, technical forums, and councils such as the High Performance Building Council.
Although involvement in all of these areas is a great starting point, ensuring that the knowledge and information acquired from this involvement is carried throughout the organization is crucial. In the past, we siloed the responsibilities of industry affairs members within their specific business units. This led to inconsistent communication between the units, which in turn resulted in business leaders not being as well versed in key issues as they could have been. Having responsibilities nested in each business unit also led to competition between business units on some issues. Unintentionally, we may have diluted our voice.
Recently, Atkore modified its approach to encompass an organization-wide reporting structure that ensures that the knowledge gained from participation in industry affairs is carried throughout the organization. This improvement has led to
- an increased understanding across our organization of industry issues, decisions made, and positions that have been taken;
- a proactive process for informing key members of our strategic development teams about changes in codes, standards, and trends; and
- an increased understanding of the time, money, and resources we spend across a broad range of industry interfaces, the efforts of which bring a positive return on investment.
This greater connectivity is accomplished through a variety of meetings, which include monthly business unit meetings, Industry Affairs Council meetings, and quarterly Executive Industry Association meetings. Business unit meetings consider changes in standards, codes, and environmental regulations that could have an impact on a specific product group.
Monthly council meetings are now a forum for various business units to share issues. Information from this meeting is then forwarded to appropriate personnel (e.g., product managers and product engineers) as needed. The CEO, business unit presidents, and other members of the leadership team attend quarterly industry association meetings, which incorporate what we learned from association meetings and activities during the last quarter and what is coming up in the next quarter. The leadership team is aware of regulatory changes, concerns, and industry issues that could impact our products.
It is important to note that while we have implemented an organization-wide approach, the leadership team is sensitive to the fact that some of our products may compete in the marketplace and information shared may be proprietary to that product group. To ensure that confidentiality is kept, we designated experts for specific product groups to handle the association work and proprietary information.
In our highly regulated industry, which is impacted by ongoing technological changes, this approach has provided a path for staying current on leading industry issues and communicating the impact across our businesses. It is a key component of our strategic planning process.