John Nottingham with Nottingham Spirk

On this week's Industrial Talk Podcast we're talking to John Nottingham, Co-Founder of Nottingham Spirk about “Solving Customer's Problems Through Innovation”.  Get the answers to your “Customer Centric Solutions” questions along with John's unique insight on the “How” on this Industrial Talk interview!

Finally, get your exclusive free access to the Industrial Academy and a series on “Why You Need To Podcast” for Greater Success in 2021. All links designed for keeping you current in this rapidly changing Industrial Market. Learn! Grow! Enjoy!


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nottingham, customer, patent, innovation center, obvious, big, problem, innovation, john, sherwin williams, put, digital, location, prototype, product, industry, dazzled, manufactured, scott, real


This industrial talk podcast was recorded on location at Nottingham, Spirk and E and y or Ernst and Young or just EY. Both companies dedicated to your success focused on the future and solving big problems contact Nottingham Spirk and EY if you have a desire for a brighter future


Welcome to the industrial talk podcast with Scott Mackenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting edge industry focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So good on your hardhat grab your work boots, and let's write


Welcome to industrial talk the number one industrial related podcast in the universe. And I'm not overselling that. It celebrates you the industrial heroes, the people that get it done. You are bold, you are brave. You dare greatly you innovate. You solve problems. You're changing lives and you're changing the world each and every day. And that's what this platform is for you for you. We celebrate you. Alright, we're broadcasting if you've heard the last one we're broadcasting from Nottingham Spirk. You're saying yourself, Scott, I don't know what that is. You will because I'm talking to the gentleman right here. Right next to me. His name is John Nottingham. And he is one of Nottingham sorry, he's not the Nottingham sorry. Let's get cracking. HEY, this is fantastic. Like, I'm telling you, listener, listeners, you need to put this on your bucket list. Big time. Can Can people just come in and see this place?




Well, do I know somebody that can make that happen?


I promise.


So contact me and I'll be able to open doors because this is a spectacular, and I mean, spectacular location. For the listeners. Let's just level set real quick here, John, just give us a little I mean, clearly, it's a bigger conversation, but just give us a little background on who you are.


Well, my partner John Spirk and I graduated from design school, and we both got fortune 500 job offers my parents were so proud. And we turned it down.


Then your parents are saying what we found


a garage. And we started an innovation company and our parents said, What are you doing? What is that? We did it? And I never looked back?


See? So the question is why? I mean, that's not conventional thinking, John, it is not. It's not it. And I guarantee you, your parents are saying we need to what, what you just graduated, and that's a heck of a school. Yeah.


But But we wanted to do something different. You know, we wanted to do something big. And we had to start small.


Right? And by the way, if you're listening, that's a helicopter flying over cut, top of us disregard John's more important than that helicopter. So let's listen to John there. But why? What was that inside of you that said, hey, I want to do something because you come here today? Yeah. I mean, you've seen the whole journey. You come here today. It's impressive. Nothing less, nothing short of impressive. Why at that particular time, did you guys say I'm going to go to I'm going to go a different direction?


Well, we've always created, we were always, we're always building things, always designing things, always innovating things. And graduating, we just kept going. We just kept finding companies that wanted to go on a journey. And create something and and grow.


See, this is interesting. I had a conversation with a gentleman and and what stuck out and you guys live it here. Yeah, this is what's interesting. You think of the end user, you think of that person over here, that you're going to be designing something here. And you're going to say, hey, I want to solve a problem. I want to deliver something. I want to I want them to get a user experience, whatever that is. That that was was that a typical thinking at the time?


Yes. So every I don't care what business you're in. You have a customer, right? Yes. Yeah. So


you, let's put it that way. Yes. Or it's a hobby. So


the fortune 500 Number one CEO came to visit us. Ask Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, and I and he's going around our innovation center. Well describe our innovation center. Oh, yeah. Oh, absolutely. And I said Doug here, you know, you're the number one CEO in the world, largest company in the world. He says, You know, John, if I don't deliver to my customer she wants I'm done. I need innovation. I need something to make her say, Wow, okay, yeah. John, that's your job. I said, Your I


see this is interesting. Now I can I can rattle off all of the challenges of the pandemic. Yes. And they're out there got it understand. One of the things that I believe as a positive is the, the the need for businesses to collaborate to solve problems to figure out solutions. And one of the things that popped out is the power of that customer. All of a sudden, I can't get my products. And everybody's a supply chain. Expert. And and it's, it's an interesting realization of how important that customer is. And if you're not pinpoint focused on their needs, you're missing the mark,


part of our secret sauce. And it's so simple. And it's amazing how many people don't do it blows me away with my client partners, I say I want to know your customer. I want your customer inside our Innovation Center, inside our focus room, behind our two way mirror, I want you to see this the twinkle in their eye. I want to see the body language. They may not even say something, but I want you to see your customer. What are you putting your customers now, all of a sudden, now you have a pandemic? HEY, your your your customers freaked out? What are you going to do about it? Here's opportunity. Say every problem. Every every problem that I see is an innovation invention in disguise. Now, yeah, you'll say, I've got rehab 13 150 issued atoms that we have created co created with our with our client partners. 13 150.


That's, that's, that's spectacular. I don't have one.


There we go. So you know what? To get a patent, so simple. It's so no, no,


no, no, no, no, no, you're soft pedaling, because. Okay,


go ahead. I'm gonna give you this thing. There's only one criteria for a patent. patent claim. It has to be ready for this. Okay. On obvious. That's it. I'm serious. It doesn't it's it's not a good idea. It's not a great solution. It's if it's obvious, it doesn't get a patent. It only gets a patent if it's not obvious. That's it.


Okay, so I'm wandering the halls here, right? Yeah. And you've got example after example, after victory after victory of just displays. Yes. All excited. It's like, yes, yes. I just I'm dazzled right back. There was one in there. And when you have that definition, it's the baby cradle one, right? Yes. Come on. That's obvious. No, no, it isn't.


Hold on, hold on. You want to know if the patent is? Yes, please. Okay. It's easy to do a bassinet, right. Right there. Okay. Our client wanted to stick out. So we had to do something on obvious. So okay, what do I do? I have my customer come in a mother. She's gonna have a baby. What are some of the issues that are happening? So we look at the trends and there's one trend that mothers are co sleeping with their babies in their bed? That's not a good, a good idea. But I'm not gonna argue it. That's my customer talking. So what did I do? I did a bassinet that is swiveled on to the bottom Hold on a second. Hold on a second. Hold on. It's brought to the mother's bed. And the side has a spring and the mother can cradle and CO sleep with her baby in her bed and the baby is is comforted and safe. Now listen to this. So we so we got a patent on it. Right? An obvious yes, it's Las Vegas to the juvenile furniture show right? At the end of the show, they have an award for number one innovation at show. Guess which one didn't bang go okay. If you or your significant other is going to a baby shower wants a big deal. Maybe gift. It's the Bassen nest bass and nest an obvious Oh, this thing is the number one bassinet in the country because it's on obvious see.


So I'm walking by and I see it and then I realize it's like no kidding. Are you kidding me? This is amazing. Yeah, it is. Yeah. So okay, so as we as we venture in so here's the deal. Alright, so I come to you, I'm a business, I'm going, Okay, God, I need your help. You're going to go and you're going to look at my customer, whatever it is like, what do they need? And you're going to have a conversation. It's real. It's like, what are you looking for? What's what's going on? What's your pain, whatever, you


know, I say, Be careful what you wish for, because it will come true


in it and see, and that's interesting, because it's real out there. Right? What I am fascinated by it, is that you'd say, okay, got this idea. We go through the prototype, you're starting to design it. Right. Very cool, right? But you also throw in, is it? Is it going to be marketable? Is there a business case around that? Yes. And then all of a sudden, you're gonna say, okay, yes, yes. And then you're gonna say, now we have to modify, or we have to manufacture right? This product. Yeah, you're involved there. Yes. And that's why you have such great success, because it's cradle to grave grave. And it is because you, you take into consideration and this is where I find I'm sorry, I'm sure. You can tell. I'm geeking out everybody. This is just too cool. Right? Where it starts to fail is like, Here, here's your here. Here it is. Now. Good luck with it.


Now, let me tell you, that's cool. Let me tell you the secret sauce. Don't tell the other secrets. Anybody? Okay. Remember that? 13 150 patents I say? Now, the US government has given 10 million patents? What percentage? What percentage of those 10 million do you think have been commercialized? What percentage?


I unfortunately know the answer. Because i i I'm very inquisitive. 5%. Baby?


Yes. 5%? Yes. 5%. That is, everybody knows that number. All right. Everybody knows, like, that's


common knowledge.


I got a patent award. I was. I was National Academy of inventors. I got an award from the from the commissioner of US patents, and he's putting the metal around my neck. And I reminded him I said, I said, you know that only 5%? Yeah, I see it. He's like, Yeah, yeah. I said, we have 1300 50 patents. 95% have been commercialized 95%. And


the remaining 5% are still in the process of getting commercialized yet.


So So here's the thing. Why is that? Big? Why? Why is the track record of other patents so abysmal? Because they're invented in silos? Yeah, you have an insights group. And that they throw it over the wall, and it goes to a design group, they throw it over the wall, it goes to the engineer that throw it over the wall to the prototype, or they keep trying it over the wall. Okay. And by the time it's at, it doesn't bear any resemblance to where you started. You see him saying, what we do, this is what we do in our innovation center here. And you're looking at it, it's historic Bill, you like this?


That's a whole nother conversation, because I just look at it. And it's like, all I can think of is how did they get the material in here? How did they, they built it. And then when you go when you walk in the rotunda, whatever you want to come back,


you know, you know, the return of our innovation center is bigger than the US Capitol.


Spectacular. That's the first thing I noticed. It's like, whoa, whoa, taking my breath away. I


know. It's impressive.


Very cool. So we're second, the secret sauce that gets thrown over the wall, throwing it over the wall.


We start with a plant partner, they have give me your biggest problem. Give me your biggest opportunity. Just you think it's impossible? On obvious, okay, right. And we put a team together at the very beginning, we have a project manager, okay, the project manager has leads for insights, design, engineering, prototyping, digitization commercialization, and they're all there at the front end all of them. And they very carefully go through a 12 month process to commercialization and 95% get there. That's the difference.


How do you and because I, I interview many within industry, my backgrounds industry, and I and I've been experienced in that, that conference room where somebody comes up with an idea. Okay, it might not, it might be a little off the mark, but there might be some nuggets of truth, right? Yeah. But in industry, it gets shut down.


That's the problem. That's the silo. Exactly. Correct.


Yeah. So create that cool. Okay. So what we do, don't shoot people do we do


is we start with the customer. We start with how right? It's all right. Okay. You start with a customer. So you bring a customer in. Okay. and you start talking to him, you know, what about this product or that product? What do you love? What do you hate? What this? Did you start getting this input, okay? And you get their pain points. And you can you start, all of a sudden you open the customers mind and you start picking their brain, what do they do? What do they want, so forth. That's number one. Then you take all of that great data, and you go into your designers. And now your designers have what we call a creative session. And the creative session is we focus in a room, you have about eight to 12 people. And we focus on what we call mild to wild. Man, it's cool. Alright, so mild is the obvious thing, you know, just get that out of your head. Okay. Yeah. Now, you got that out your head. What's the wildest thing you could say? I don't care if it can't be done. I don't care if the technology then I don't care if it's levitating. I don't care what what is the wildest, wildest thing? Now get that out of your head. Now, everything in between, now you have 100 ideas. 100 ideas, I call that the diverging concept, you diverge, and you just, there's no bad ideas, by the way. Nobody can shoot anything down. Okay, good. And you do that. So now the walls are literally filled with posts, felled, and you're exhausted and you go home. Okay, you go home. The next session is the con verging session. You take those 100 ideas. Now you separate them in groups. You sketch your best ones, and everybody takes turns saying, I like this one, make a presentation. But here's this here's the here's the sacred thing. And I'm gonna give it don't tell anybody. Okay? Don't listen, guys. Everybody has three is everybody can do this. By the way. 333 note cards. Everybody gets three note cards. One note card says, nice. One note card says, Who cares? And one note card says, wow. Okay, now, it's coming out now. Put it down. Yeah. Make your make your passionate presentation on this idea. Now everybody at the same time, put up your notecards. Okay, now, he's made a passion or he or she made a passionate thing. Everybody says Who cares? I don't care. Get rid of it. It's never gonna fly. Okay. The next guy comes up. Next person comes up mix their passion thing. Nice. Nice. Nice. You know, that's the hardest one. Yeah, because everybody's got nice product too many nice product is produced. Nice and nice. And they come out. And they have nice sales. Nice sales. But when you have this thing, every once in a while you do. Everybody says Wow. Wow. You know, when you walked in, when you walked in our rotunda, what did you say? Oh, I


said, Wow, I did.


Not planned. Wow. Is it emotional response? Boom, wow. Okay. When I when I have this idea, and I put it in front of the group, and I say okay, put your note cards up and everybody says, Wow, I got a winner. I got it. Okay. Then the hard work starts. Yeah. Then you, you know, you design, you make a prototype of it, you always come back to the customer. Okay. You keep on going here. I had a thing, Scott, I think it was a new Iron, steam iron. And it was a prototype, but it looked just like the real thing. And I had a woman in there and said, I want to buy this thing. And we said, well, you know, it's a prototype. It's there's only one I mean, she did she She put her arms around it says I'm not leaving. I want to buy this thing. I knew I had a winner.


So this is interesting. Yeah. So there's a tremendous amount of energy. Oh, by


the way, become the number one selling art in the United States. But it is what yeah, what is it? What's the number one? I


don't? Don't know. But there


you go. I got a million of these stories to see, here's the deal.


Here's the deal. What makes this location this innovation center? Yes, this juggernaut and solutions is the fact that when you walk around your to your team, you can go from concept all the way to your


creating vertically integrated right there. Yes, everything's there.


Everything's there. Yeah. And you're saying I'm looping in the customer at the same time. So all


the way through ERP we are at this stage, the customer comes back. And you know, we know by the time we're out in the market, we know but then yeah, but then we never go on a national launch. We go on a soft launch. One soft launch with one retailer, one region of the country, because we want to know, even if we think it's a winner is the price right is a position right? Is it packaged? Right? Is it gonna? Is it gonna perform the way we want to? And then we see that and if there's a if there's an issue, we'll tweak it. No problem. But when we get it right, then scaling is no problem. No problem. It's just so exciting. Let me tell you this story. Amazing. I've the Sherwin Williams twist and pour paint container. You see that?


Okay, so I've seen it. Yes. Okay, good. Talk to us about the show. Cuz it's obvious, but everybody knew he's like,


talk not only is it not obvious, I've got 23 patents on it. But yeah, who's counting? Who's counting? Who's counting? Okay, so paint has been in metal cans forever. Okay. You need a screwdriver, open it you need a hammer to close it. You know, you know the contractor. He doesn't care. But the do it yourselfer does big time. So we bring the dirt yourself around. She says I can't get a butter knife to open this. I mean, I don't want what if I had


sorry, guys, five years? Yes. I was there. butter knife we're getting


we're getting so they got to open the open the thing with a with a thing. It always pours down the stack. You gotta have a hammer to close it. It's messy. You know what? Maybe there's a better package. So we did. We partnered with Sherwin Williams, we created a product called a question pour paint container. You don't need up, you just twist it open. You poured it doesn't drip. You push it back. And it's a square can and it's wonderful. Now we knew the customer liked it. Loved it


doesn't get stuck. Now. See, when I saw it out there on the floor, or wherever it was within the journEY around this place? When I saw it, I just said how many times have I taken a can use the butter knife, open it up? Had to share it or do whatever and then close it back up with a nut with a hammer. And it splatters everywhere. It was just but it never changed.


Is that good customer engagement? I don't think so.


No, not one bit. This is it. Right? Do you like it?


Great right here. See? So that is dazzling? Right? It's dad?


He does stuff all day long. Man. This is a blood test with that. It's it's the it's that little machine. Gotcha.


And that's it. Yes. And it is it is going to change blood testing in the world. Not the not the world. Why? The art. So let me tell you, let me tell you. It has a little has a little thing called the clock chip, you prick your finger, you take a blood test, you put it on our little handheld machine, right? And instantaneously. You can tell for instance, if your blood is too thin or too thick if you're taking a blood thinner, okay? With not with no antigens, it's used. It uses physics instead of chemistry. Alright, you don't have to get antigens from China. You can do it right here. It's all digital, and it's instantaneous has never been done. And it's on obvious


scene. That's amazing. Yeah. So you just eliminated the necess. The supply chain, it says it's it's digital. It's right next right there. It doesn't have to tell you, man, it's, it's spectacular.


It's been what care bike? Yes. mountain bike. So the bike has been manufactured in Northeast Ohio. And because it's an E bike, it's got software that has three modes. One is E by, you know, 25 miles an hour, no license, moped well, more powerful and full on badass motorcycles. 85 miles an hour, right? Yes, same thing. Yeah, it's been manufactured right here, and it's got a plug in battery, you can take it out, you can run your laptop on it in the woods or whatever. I mean, it changes the game, and it's gonna be manufacturing. So


I have we could, we can definitely talk forever. For me, I don't have the time. I could just sit here and have a great DisnEY Land of innovation, big time. And it is true that you're not underselling that one bit. Oh, not one and how bad now one of the questions I do have, because you've been around for many years. I think we're coming up on what the universe is Xero big 500 And we're starting our second five year 50 year plan. And you should yeah, you'll be around. There's a legacy here.


We're working. We're working on that. Yeah, you're


fine. You're fine. But the thing that I'm interested in is how did this whole it's like one day People were talking about this digital transformation. It's great. It's, it's good around a coffee table. But now it's real real. How has that really impacted the way you look at products? Everything


is digital today, everything. And, and I, you know, when you go into our prototype facility, which is like that prototype, isn't that great?


I like every I even like, I mean, I like every part of this building.


Here's the things we ourselves was factory 3.0 Here, we've got all of these, these, these CNC machines. Yeah. And in digital, 3d printing is all that stuff. But we are even taking the ones that are like 30 years old. And we're digitizing. You don't have to have a brand new. You don't have to redo your factory. That's it now. Yes. And so you can you can get you can get predictive maintenance, you can get yours next. Oh, you can do a digital twin of your old old factory and bring it up to factory 4.0 and an eight that hard. See,


where do you see it? Okay, put your future hat on. Okay.


Are you kidding me? Scott, I always have my future.


He was taking a group around his organization here. And you can tell that there's a there's still immense passion. You're never tired about? Oh, no, no. And rightly so. I was born to do you were born to do this. So where do you where do you think it's going? Where's this? My


God? The sky is the limit. We just have the launch pad here. Alright, we have the launch pad. We're building the rockets. And I don't know how have these rockets are gonna go but the sky's the limit. I'm telling you.


What if a company wants to get ahold of you, what do you do?


Pick up the phone.


World Wide Web, you know that that internet,


you can push a


button rallies. And I'm telling you, it's an honor. This is exciting. This is this is the manifestation of me as a kid going to DisnEYland. And in the Carousel of Progress, I have to share this reel with you real quick. So I was here last night, doing a walkthrough, getting all giddy getting all just so jazzed about the whole thing. I go back, my wife and my son are with me. And I just said you can't believe it. And I'm hyperventilating as I explained this particular location, and that I yanked my son. I said, You got to get out. You're coming down here, just because I want to see the dome. You got to see the dome. And then we walked around and you guys have been absolutely gracious, gracious. And it's very cool. Thank you. Excellent. Alright listeners. You can reach him out of the worldwide web. That is it's it's under


Nottingham's. Oh, there


you Right. You got that URL.


I did that.


All right. We're gonna wrap it up on their site. So stay tuned, do not go away. You will not be disappointed.


You're listening to the industrial talk Podcast Network.


Come on. You've got to love that conversation. That is Mr. John Nottingham. He is a trail blazer. You cannot and I mean, you cannot deny the impact that Nottingham's for E y is having in manufacturing industry as a whole. They are solving problems. It is a big deal. Nottingham Go out there. And I'm just telling you, you got to put that on your bucket list for an opportunity to sort of see that location. You will be dazzled by alright. Remember, we've got to educate. We've got to collaborate. And we've got to innovate. Not an expert, Mr. John Nottingham and team Nottingham spurt. Classic example. Do not let another day go by without your commitment to that need to educate that need to collaborate and that need to innovate. All right. Be bold, be brave daring greatly. We're going to have another great conversation right around the corner. So stay tuned.

About the author, Scott

I am Scott MacKenzie, husband, father, and passionate industry educator. From humble beginnings as a lathing contractor and certified journeyman/lineman to an Undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Business Administration, I have applied every aspect of my education and training to lead and influence. I believe in serving and adding value wherever I am called.

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