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Kareem Bassirri

Big Ideas: Thriving in the Materials WorldSeptember 20, 2018

It was the promise of “wow moments” – opportunities for discovery, development and growth – that first attracted Martin Beaton to Materials Engineering.

He thought – perhaps naively, he admits – that his branch of engineering offered the most potential for exciting change.

Turns out it hasn’t disappointed.

Since his 1992 graduation, Beaton has been on the front line of changes in the industry. During his decade of commercial heat treatment with Bodycote International, he participated in thousands of metal-industry supply chains and re-engineered dozens of heat treatment operations to accommodate new, more complex manufacturing methods.

 And today, he’s charged with helping global manufacturing powerhouse voestalpine AG transform itself from a traditional steel business into a “downstream, value-added technology and capital goods business.”

As President of voestalpine’s Additive Manufacturing Centre Ltd, Beaton oversees the dramatic impact that additive manufacturing – or what is often called 3D printing – has had on the manufacturing industry. In fact, the impact is so deep that he envisions a whole new way of thinking about design and removing traditional manufacturing ideas and constraints. 

“The science is every bit as exciting as I imagined, but I really underestimated the business challenges related to staying ahead of the curve,” he says.

But staying ahead of the curve and anticipating the next big opportunity is the other half of Beaton’s job as voestalpine North America’s VP for Innovation and Transformation.

It’s a position that sees him guide voestalpine’s formation of new business models, new value-propositions and ultimately brand-new excitement within the supply chain. In other words, chase the next big “wow moment.”

That pursuit requires a comfort with uncertainty that Beaton attributes partly to his engineering education.

“The personal challenge of grappling with technical problems thrown at me during my education trained me to keep pushing ahead, even if some answers were beyond my intellectual reach,” he says. “This is how my whole career has presented itself and I am still pushing ahead without all the answers.”

As a leader with strength in both technical skills and those crucial softer people-management and negotiation skills, Beaton urges young people to recognize the power of a well-articulated and compelling vision.

 “Do not be afraid of what you do not know, just get moving,” Beaton advices. “And embrace the creative arts as they will stimulate a broader way of thinking and modelling.”

Watch a FB live video of Martin Beaton's Cafe X Presentation on transformational opportunities offered to manufacturers by Additive Manufacturing: