I was with some manufactures in Colorado Springs a while back. They had gotten together for the first time to talk about how they might be more effective as a business community after a lot of them were hammered by the downdraft in electronics earlier in this decade. I thought it was interesting that they identified as their top goal ways to be more innovative.
Fly across the country now to Pennsylania and that same topic is on the minds of Keystone State manufacturers. A recent issue of PA Manufacturer had a very good article about the innovation imperative. Appropriately enough, it is titled, “Open Your Mind to Innovation: See How Formalizing Innovation Can Create a Whole Other Paradigm for Your Manufacturing Outfit.”
This article, by Evan Pattak, shows how companies can build innovation into their other processes and faults those executives who only think innovation is sparked by a eureka moment and not cultivated. They take a look into Wilton Armetale in Lancaster County that got a group of employees together for their “Skunk Works” meeting to brainstorm about “off-the-wall product and distribution concepts.” Ken Lefever, the company’s president and CEO, says “One of our rules is: no idea is a bad idea. We don’t laugh at it. Skunk Works determines if we will move forward.”
While this sounds like something everyone would do to envision their next generation of products and processes, it appears that what Wilton Armetale is doing is somewhat unique. The PA Manufacturer article says that too many companies are only focused on controlling costs and too few have an innovation process that should include these elements:
* talk to customers about current products to gain insight on how they might be improved or where there is gap
* measure results such as time to market for a new product or set a revenue goal
* question everything; an outside facilitator might be useful so a company can think out of the box.
* create a culture of innovation by being open to suggestions from all parts of the company
* designate a process change leader.
If you want to read the whole article, click here and go to page 6.
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