Insights & News

Even Great Companies Can Fail When They Don’t Adapt. Ask Kodak.

Posted On September 26, 2017

Founded in 1888, the Eastman Kodak Company was once the company other companies wanted to be like. Founder George Eastman was one of the most innovative and visionary leaders to ever run a major corporation.

During its first century of existence Kodak combined great strategy and cutting-edge technology to become the dominate camera and film manufacturer in the United States. In 1901 Kodak introduced The Brownie, which created the first mass market for photography. A steady stream of innovation followed, including the first easy-to-load, point-and-shoot camera, and color filters that set the industry standard. Kodak was also known for using the “Gillette Strategy”, making most of their profit on film and accessories rather than the cameras themselves. And for a long time, Kodak’s strategy worked. As late as 1976, Kodak made 85% of the cameras and 90% of the film sold in the United States. That’s nearly 100 years of dominating a very large market.

But it wouldn’t last. In 2012—after two decades of losing market share to competitors—Kodak filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and refocused its effort away from cameras and film toward printing and professional services.

What happened?

In 1975, the company manufactured a groundbreaking digital camera, but quickly dropped the product because they feared it would harm their lucrative film business. That decision left Kodak permanently behind in the digital market, and would become a benchmark example of a company failing because it rejected innovation.

Kodak feared change, and that fear of change did what two World Wars and one Great Depression couldn’t do: kill the company. (Or, at least severely wounded it.)

Of course, the fear of change isn’t just limited to one company or one industry. At Flat World Holdings, we see that same fear in some of the customers we work with. Over the years, how you manage your supply chain, shipping, and logistics program may not have changed a whole lot. Yes, there are likely more computers in your shipping department than there used to be, but the presence of more technology and fundamentally rethinking how you approach supply chain management is not the same thing. Even though Kodak walked away from digital cameras in the 1970s, their competitors didn’t. And just because you haven’t embraced change in your shipping department doesn’t mean your competitors haven’t. Change within your shipping department doesn’t have to be a threat. Embracing change makes you more adaptable, innovative, and capable of thriving in a rapidly changing business environment. In other words, it makes you all the things Kodak wasn’t.

At the Flat World Holdings family of companies (Flat World Supply Chain, Flat World Hospitality, Ram International, Ram Custom Crating, and Prologue Technology), we look forward to helping you embrace change. Our team will be there with you while you make your supply chain, freight forwarding, or transportation technology more innovative than ever before. The Eastman Kodak story shows that even great companies with a history of innovation can be undone by a failure to adapt.

And we’ll help make sure that doesn’t happen to you.