Innovation By The Ton Yields $3,600 More Per Hour In Sales
Robb LaBranche and Greg McGlone set an ambitious goal: to save their department $5 million in 5 years. The two work at Sherrit Inc., a diversified public company based in Alberta, Canada, with 1700 employees and $1.5 billion in assets. To support the initiative, New & Improved trainers worked with a select group of employees to develop their abilities to lead team facilitation, taught everyone in the organization team problem-solving skills, and created an internal network to support new facilitators. Robb and Greg’s employees tested their new skills immediately. Their first challenge: a major operational problem. A new fertilizer production line was supposed to produce 35 tons of fertilizer per hour. It only yielded 28. So, bright and early Monday morning, three newly-trained facilitators led a 15 person Innovation Team in a problem-solving session for two hours. A five person Innovation Team was subsequently appointed to implement the solutions. The result: within two days the line produced 35 tons per hour. After implementing all the team’s solutions, production reached 40 tons per hour. At $300 per ton, this solution paid for the training program and kick-started Robb & Greg’s project. Think CPS only works for hardcore business issues? It also works for human issues. In fact, the employees at Sherrit have used their creative problem solving and facilitation skills to cut costs and improve the quality of life in the workplace.
- Instituted a work redesign by shifting from functional groups to cross-functional teams of maintenance, operations, and engineering support personnel
- Set more flexible work and vacation schedules
- Expanded involvement in decision-making
- Balanced recognition and responsibility in the workplace
- Determined standardized hiring criteria
- Planned and implemented the annual plant shut-down
- Designed and implemented additional training programs
Innovation Produces a Cheap Solution to an Expensive Problem
Imagine a steel donut with teeth around the outside. That’s a ring gear. Now imagine taking hot metal, putting it in a cookie-cutter like device called a die and stamping it with twenty-tons of pressure. That’s how a ring gear is made. During a training session in team problem-solving methods, an Innovation Team at a forge plant in Upstate NY set their sights on finding a way to prevent ring gears from sticking in and breaking dies during production — a problem that cost the plant thousands per week. Swabbing the dies with grease only made the problem worse. While brainstorming, one teammate jokingly suggested using the aerosol cooking spray PAM® to prevent the sticking. Another participant quickly built on the idea. The result: Using a $1.00 spray bottle from K-Mart and $0.50 worth of soap and oil solution, plant operators now spray the dies to prevent sticking, and the plant saves as much as $40,000 weekly. Since implementing the solution, the plant hasn’t lost any dies, and quality has improved to a statistical level of zero defects.
Making your Shareholders Happy with Innovation
A few years ago, NEW & IMPROVED worked with a group of engineers at Kodak who operate production machinery “bigger than your house” (unless, of course you’re Bill Gates.) The facilitators worked with the group to transform them into an Innovation Team, train them to use Creative Problem Solving, and teach them to take responsibility for the quality of relationships within the group. The manager in charge now reports that the training directly caused $3 million in annual savings on the team’s production line.
Creating a Better Place to Work with Higher Productivity
NEW & IMPROVED recently worked with a large human service organization to develop their mission and strategic plan, and improve their team functioning. Through a series of programs that focused on teambuilding, mission development, strategic planning, and on-going coaching, the group dramatically reduced staff turnover, substantially increased in worker productivity, and improved the quality of working relationships — especially in the management team — from one of “barely repressed animosity” to “respectful, productive friendship.”
Innovative Problem Solving Creates Great Opportunities
Many organizations we work with are constantly looking for new and better ways to solve problems, improve their organization, develop new products and plan for the future. One such organization, the Clorox Company, tracked the efforts of the Innovation Teams we trained. The results are compelling: dramatic time and money savings, as well as increased productivity and profits.
Here are a few of the many problems that Clorox tackled, and in many cases transformed into opportunities :
Solved: a thorn-in-the-side, 77-year old consumer product problem that ranked as #1 customer complaint. This problem was solved through a series of provocative questions that reverses some assumptions about the product and resulted in a new, patentable product idea.
Solved: a way to combine two ingredients that can’t be combined. A unique experiment provided insights that resulted in the development of a new consumer product.
Solved: helping consumers see an “invisible” product benefit. Team efforts lead to an imaginative solution used during in-store consumer product demonstrations.
Solved: shortening the governmental approval process for new products. The key was finding new ways to work with the US government regulators.
Solved: improving routine health test efficiency. Solutions improved efficiency by 30%.
Solved: cost-effectively sorting two nearly identical materials. The solution reduced a two hour process that required two research scientists every day to a 10 minute automated process that is now a trade secret!
Solved: cost-effectively labeling bottles. A new, patent-pending labeling method saves $300,000 per year.
Solved: finding ways to make safe labs safer. In some of the safest labs in the business, this Innovation Team discovered additional ways to improve safety, further reducing the likelihood of lost-time accidents.