By June 1983, Corwin Corporation had grown into a $150 million per year corporation with an international reputation for manufacturing low-cost, high-quality rubber components. Corwin maintained more than a dozen different product lines, all of which were sold as off-the-shelf items in department stores, hardware stores, and automotive parts distributors. The name Corwin was now synonymous with "quality." This provided management with the luxury of having products that maintained extremely long life cycles. Organizationally, Corwin had maintained the same structure for more than fifteen years (see Exhibit I). The top management of Corwin Corporation was highly conservative and believed in using a marketing approach to find new markets for existing product lines rather than exploring for new products. Under this philosophy, Corwin maintained a small R&D group whose mission was simply to evaluate state-of-the-art technology and its application to existing product lines. Corwin's reputation was so good that it continually received inquiries about the manufacturing of specialty products. Unfortunately, the conservative nature of Corwin’s management created a "do not rock the boat" atmosphere opposed to taking any type of risks. A management policy was established to evaluate all specialty-product requests. The policy required answering yes to the following questions: What is the total projected profitability to the company in terms of follow-on contracts? Will the specialty product provide the same profit margin (20 percent) as existing product lines? Can the specialty product be developed into a product line? Can the specialty product be produced with minimum disruption to existing product lines and manufacturing operations? Organizational chart for Corwin Corporation President
VP Marketing Gene Frimel Market Support Contracts Project Mgmt
VP Engrng Dr. Royce
R&D Dr. Reddy
These stringent requirements forced Corwin to no-bid more than 90 percent of all specialty-product inquiries. Corwin Corporation was a marketing-driven organization, although manufacturing often had different ideas. Almost all decisions were made by marketing with, the exception of product pricing and estimating, which was a joint undertaking between manufacturing and marketing. Engineering was considered as merely a support group to marketing and manufacturing. For specialty products, the project managers would always come out of marketing even during the R&D phase of development. The company's approach was that if the specialty product should mature into a full product line, then there should be a product line manager assigned right at the onset. THE PETERS COMPANY PROJECT In 1980, Corwin accepted a specialty-product assignment from Peters Company because of the potential for follow-on work. In 1981 and 1982, and again in 1983, profitable follow-on contracts were received, and a good working relationship developed, despite Peters’ reputation for being a difficult customer to work with. On December 7, 1982, Gene Frimel, the vice president of marketing at Corwin, received a rather unusual phone call from Dr. Frank Delia, the marketing vice president at Peters Company. Frank Delia: '"Gene. I have a rather strange problem on my hands. Our R&D group has $250,000 committed for research toward development of a new rubber product material, and we simply do not have the available personnel or talent to undertake the project. We have to go outside. We'd like your company to do the work. Our testing and R&D facilities are already overburdened." Gene Frimel: "'Well, as you know, Frank, we are not a research group even though we've done this once before for you. And furthermore, I would never be able to sell our management on such an undertaking. Let some other company do the R&D work and then we'll take over on the production end." Delia: "Let...