Corning is one of those successful companies that almost seem to defy logic.
Perhaps best known by consumers for glassware and Pyrex, heat-resistant glass, Corning is a company that continually reinvents itself and in quite unexpected ways.
The Wall Street Journal, 7 March 2008, reports that “Corning has survived 157 years by betting big on new technologies, from ruby-colored railroad signals to fiber-optic cable to flat-panel TVs.”
Now, “under pressure to find its next hit, the company has spent half a billion dollars—its biggest wager yet—that tougher regulations in the U.S., Europe, and Japan will boost demand for emissions filters for diesel cars and trucks.”
Strange history of product development, no? (maybe even stranger than 3M and their yellow sticky notes?
How do they continually reinvent themselves?
“In Ervin, a few miles from the company’s headquarters in Corning, the glassmaker is spending $300 million to expand its research labs. There some 1700 scientists work on hundreds of speculative projects, from next generation lasers to optical sensors that could speed the discovery of drugs.”
“Culturally, they’re not afraid to invest and lose money for many years.”
Corning has also not outsourced production, but rather “continues to operate the 50 factories that churn out thousands of its different products.”
What is the drawback to Corning’s approach?
They “often depend heavily on a single product line for most of its profits—92% of last year’s $2.2 billion profit came from its flat-panel-display business.”
What is Corning’s EA strategy?
Corning is a company that goes where the profits are. They are like the nomad hunter-gathers of yester-year that followed their prey and harvest wherever that happened to be. They put a stake in the ground and then up-end it when it’s time.
They do not copy others, but rather like futurists, they seek out and develop the next great product and make a market for it.
While glassware is not generally considered high-tech; Corning has tech-enabled this everyday product in a myriad of ways, including: heat-resistant Pyrex glassware, fiber-optic cable, flat-panel TV displays, Corning has brought glass into modernity.
Even when looking into the distant outposts of space, it is Corning that had developed the special glass mirrors for the largest telescopes in the world to do this. Corning is truly the master architect of everything glass.