MMForum: Lessons Learned from Sports-Ball Companies in Exploring New Markets for Steel
In its earliest days, soccer was played using a pig’s bladder, and football using a pigskin. It was not until the 19th century that a rubberized ball was created. Thankfully, the rubberized ball became more popular than a pig’s bladder, and was made amply available by various ball manufacturers. This was most likely due in part to a ball-manufacturing company who had an existing product that required a bit of modification in order to advertise the modern soccer ball to a new customer base.
In much the same way, modifying steel and creating new varieties with different mechanical properties will broaden the applications steels are suited for. My research focuses on optimizing structural properties of steel to achieve better mechanical performance, including improved bendability, edge stretching, punched-hole dilation, and yielding behavior. With each newly developed steel comes a new potential application that a customer may desire. Whether the new steel improves an existing application for a customer, or breaks into a new market altogether, steel mills will benefit by improving customer satisfaction, offering more customized products, and by a more diversified product line that will help devise winning strategies to grow the business. By having a fundamental understanding steel alloying and processing techniques, creating new steels to market to new applications become feasible and most likely improves your customer’s experience. A wider range of products affords greater opportunities to target audiences in a more personalized way. Further, multiple steels give more options to marketers for advertising to new customers, potentially replacing material from another supplier with yours.
I feel some challenges for steel companies are to understand existing customer’s needs, and to identify new applications that steel could be used for. My research will allow for steels to be tailored to specific applications, increasing customer satisfaction, and potentially allowing for the newly developed steels to serve in new applications that were once inaccessible to the steel companies.
After the creation of the soccer ball, it was not long until the ball-manufacturing company modified their product again to replace the tennis ball, which was originally made from leather and stuffed full of wool. The ball-manufacturing company soon learned how to modify their product to accommodate almost every sport, creating new applications while still satisfying their existing customers, and never leaving their core field of expertise. Now, sports such as rugby, football, soccer, tennis, basketball, racquet ball, and volleyball all use balls that are made of rubber, are pressurized, and have a unique shape/size.