For a lot of folks, Westinghouse is a name associated with the washing machines, TV sets and vacuum machines that graced their suburban tract homes growing up. Even at the time, though, the brand seemed a little old-fashioned, something with the ordure of musty velour.
But Westinghouse was then a powerhouse almost as broad based as General Electric. In recent years, as a division of Toshiba, Westinghouse Electric Company (the electronics and appliance maker still exists as Westinghouse Electric Corporation, owned by CBS) has largely focused on the nuclear market. Here's how they've spent the last several years:
For the past few years, amid a resurgence of the nuclear power industry, Westinghouse's Engineering Services group has been furiously upgrading and refurbishing aging plants—and minting money along the way.
But that work is almost done, and Business Week's Brian Hindo documents what Westinghouse is doing to move forward and retain its relevance:
Last fall the company won a contract to make repairs to Alloy 600, a metal that is found in old reactors. It had never done that before. Nor had it serviced a type of reactor that uses boiling, rather than pressurized, water to generate steam. Now it has a satellite office in San Jose, Calif., dedicated to such jobs.
But even this isn't the full point. That comes through Westinghouse's determination to push itself forward though taking on a culture of risk aversion and reversing it to allow the company to think outside hidebound assumptions and discover what else it could do and how it could do them:
[Engineering Services head Nick Liparulo] needed to send a strong signal that risk-taking wouldn't be a ticket out the door. At [University of Virginia's Darden School of Business professor Jeanne] Liedtka's suggestion, he took nine of his best managers and made them "growth leaders." Their sole responsibilities would be to chase down new technologies and markets.
As Liedtka's involvement suggests, this has more than a whiff of an academic business theory given form - expect many pop business books to come out about it if they haven't already - but the results are good and it has pushed Westinghouse forward. Read the whole article - it's a good, positive one and gets the weekend going right - and see if Westinghouse hasn't blown the dust off the velour and made it plush again.