If you look up the meaning of the word bellwether, one definition references the lead sheep in a flock that wears a bell around his neck. The other is an indicator or predictor of something to come. We launched Bellwether with the intention of leading the way in manufacturing through innovative ideas and processes.
As trailblazers, we quickly learn that we can’t get stuck in our ways. We must continually seek new avenues to advance.
For instance, an idea for a product launched our company in 1974. The item was a highly specialized, niche replacement part for a certain type of weaving machine for the textile industry. Using the machine to perform a task for which it had not been designed caused problems. Our solution was to develop improvements to the part based upon proper specifications, thereby improving performance. Although the development process took two years, our painstaking efforts paid off. The innovation became a fixture in the U.S. textile industry and sold in 31 countries around the world.
Where is that game-changing part today? By the late 1990s, the application was no longer in demand. Textile manufacturing had also sharply declined in the U.S.
Fundamentally, we had to reinvent Bellwether—change with the times—to remain a viable business. Consequently, we diversified by developing parts for pumps, oil wells, heavy equipment, automobiles and medical devices. Our customers were makers of consumer and commercial products. We further launched into the aerospace and defense industries.
Although our business is far more diversified than we initially envisioned, we’ve continued to focus our efforts on the difficult-to-machine, close-tolerance, high-precision products. The complexity of our work, therefore, has required that we embrace the technological innovations—software, equipment and materials—that would enable us to meet the demands of our customers. Much of what we use today didn’t exist in 1974.
Importantly, no matter how much we innovate, we never lose sight of the past, which is a great teacher. Our experiences give us a strong sense of direction as we strive to anticipate what’s ahead and take those next steps.