GE Cracks the Fibers Market

We discovered an artisanal culture whose engineers wanted to work with GE from the earliest stages to develop new materials.


GENERAL ELECTRIC IS UNDERGOING A MASSIVE TRANSFORMATION to see if the world’s greatest execution organization can also be the world’s greatest innovation organization. Jump has been a close strategic partner in this initiative, beginning with a project to help GE gain traction in the high-performance plastic fibers market against competitor DuPont.

Entering a new B2B market against an entrenched competitor

In 2005, GE Advanced Materials was ready to enter the high-performance fibers market. The company’s strength had previously been in dealing with science and technology-centric injection molded applications, not textiles. However, GE had recently invented several new plastic fibers for the industry but wasn’t sure how to capture the market. By comparison, their competitor DuPont was the leader in both high-performance and commodity synthetic fibers.

Using ethnographic methods to understand the value chain

Jump and GE spent time in the field with key players in the textiles market to understand what they need from a raw materials supplier. At the outset, it was assumed that new technical uses for their fibers would be key to entering the market. Instead, we discovered an artisanal culture whose engineers wanted to work with GE from the earliest stages to develop new materials. With this insight in mind, GE took a collaborative approach with its prospective customers, sharing prototypes early and working to solve problems together instead of offering technology-driven turnkey solutions.

Saving money, building relationships

The Jump team created an entry strategy for the fibers industry based on a proprietary understanding of the market. We recommended an approach that brings GE’s customers into the development process early on. We also identified killer application areas for GE’s new plastic fibers to rapidly drive adoption. By uncovering the explicit and implicit needs of customers, we were able to identify the areas that GE could address in ways competitors couldn’t. As a result, GE saved $1.1 billion by avoiding the development of a processing facility. GE also hit its year five revenue target in just 18 months. Seeing the value of hybrid research, design, and strategy projects, GE now encourages observational learning and needs identification across business units.

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