by Jean-Claude Bihr, CEO of Alliance MIM
A luxury product has historically been enrobed in mystery and glamour. Consumers didn’t dare ask how exactly it came to be, for fear it would diminish the good’s aspirational power. Recently though (and sadly, far too late), there’s been a realization that we can no longer ignore the process by which products are made and the impact they have on the planet. Luxury, as we know it, is changing. The process of producing luxury will become the product.
What does this mean, exactly, that the process is the product? The process of creating a product embeds itself into the product, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the process influences how the product is perceived.
Your process then becomes your key differentiator and competitive advantage. A product is only as good as the internal systems and people that make it.
At Alliance MIM, we’ve been focused on perfecting our Metal Injection Molding (MIM) processes for more than 10 years as a lean organization. I’m a believer that minimizing stock is the first step to minimizing impact on the environment and improving your processes. We’re constantly in sync with our customers, and keep only enough stock on hand to produce half a week’s worth of production. This forces us to always be thinking about quality; zero surplus and zero defects. If a product doesn’t go directly to a customer, it is a waste, and all waste impacts the environment.
As consumers become more compelled to reduce their carbon footprint, they’ll want to buy products with a sustainable supply chain, not just a product that can be recycled or reused. They’ll want to buy from people and companies they trust; craftsmen and artisans who take pride in what they’re making. This is also true for business partners. Many of our partners choose to work with us because we generate 65% less waste than our machining competitors and our new plant is optimized for water conservation and carbon reduction.
I think most people would be amazed if they knew the carbon footprint of their luxury items. Individual pieces of a watch or a handbag for instance, can travel halfway around the globe from where they’re sourced to where they’re finished and assembled. We’ve made the investment to own the entire molding process from powder to finishing. Our products travel 90 meters, at max. Not only is that more sustainable, it’s more profitable too.
Luxury has always been an innovator. It can take high risks because frankly, it can afford to fail. I’m encouraged by the progress that I see happening in the MIM Industry and hope others will follow suit to shift the focus to creating a sustainable process.