The Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub recently sat down with Conor Flaherty, Business Development Manager for the Reliability Division at RILCO Lubricants & Services, whose hobbies include racing and snowmobiling. Headquartered in Rock Island, Ill., RILCO is one of the largest lubricants wholesalers and private label packaging companies in the Midwest. Conor, a frequent presence at Hub events, talked to us about why he’s a believer in the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub.
Why did you first become involved in the Hub?
I’ve been involved with manufacturing my whole career – plus I’m a gearhead when I’m not at work – so it’s really important to me to support our area’s manufacturing base. I grew up here and want to see more things made here, and the Hub helps you to make those connections to build that support.
What do you see as the value of the Hub?
Relationship selling is more important than ever now. Newer tools like digital technologies are great for reaching out to connect with current or potential customers, but it’s still on me to develop that contact into an ongoing relationship. I can’t oversell the value of building relationships, and that’s one of the things the Hub can help you do.
In addition to growing your network, you also can share knowledge as well as learn lessons and best practices from others. Sometimes when you’re so busy it’s easy to get into your own little bubble. The opportunity for a fresh perspective helps you see what’s working well for others as well as the challenges they’re facing. It’s harder to have access to that kind of knowledge without the Chamber facilitating these programs.
What is some knowledge that you’ve shared at a Hub users group?
I work in RILCO’s Reliability & Predictive Maintenance Division, which performs system analyses to help clients find and prevent performance inefficiencies in their facilities that could lead to production down time. One thing we can do is thermal imaging to see how electrical systems, gear boxes, and mechanical systems interact in order to see if there are patterns that indicate the start of failure, which ultimately can be costly.
I took an image of my own snowmobile with the thermal imaging camera and shared the photo on Twitter and LinkedIn along with tagging the manufacturer. While my hope was to catch their attention, it also helped me increase exposure online for a service we can provide. I shared it at the Digital B2B Marketing Users Group as an example of how to use social media within the sales space.
What have you learned from the Hub so far?
One thing that has changed for suppliers is that there are no face-to-face sales meetings any more to first get in the door; it’s all moved toward digital contact. While I grew up in a digital environment, I also understand that if you don’t know how to use new technologies, you might not get a chance to sell your product or understand the requirements and expectations of a customer. The same is true with other technologies. Having the Hub help facilitate access to knowledge about digital requirements – for example, the supplier event held at John Deere – is valuable because it’s not usually something you can get one-on-one.
Why do you think others should get involved?
I work here and live here; I want it to be a strong community. This type of collaboration is an opportunity to support and grow our local manufacturing industry. Strengthening it means jobs, and that’s good for all of us.
I know I’ve already built some relationships out of the group that are valuable to me professionally as well as personally. I would encourage others to come with an open mind and make connections valuable to their own line of business. Look at it as a way to get something, give something, and make new friends and contacts along the way.
The Hub is here to help. Want to learn more about how the Hub can help you grow, diversify, and stay competitive? Attend a Hub event or connect with us at AsktheHub@quadcitieschamber.com or online at www.quadcitieschamber.com/QCMIH.