Shepherding Innovation

What happened at Marland?

Marland created a Marland Process Improvement Committee and a form to promote innovation. Jan Powers, Finance Vice President and moldmaker Tom Rotolo describe how the system works.

What are others doing or have done?

W.L.Gore and Associates, a company known for innovative products such as Gore-Tex, has created a unique improvement-oriented company culture. Gore’s approach to fostering innovation is profiled in EQUITY: “People are always trying to think about ‘Today we got 100 units, tomorrow how can we get 105?’ says [Robert] McCracken (a leader in one of Gore’s business units). “We actually have an idea database on Lotus Notes where they can suggest an idea. And it goes to the manufacturing operations leader, and those two people have a dialogue about it: “Tell me what you’re thinking.”…[Then] you say, “OK, this is your business, you own a piece of it. Would you cut a check for $25,000 for that microscope or that other piece of equipment?” You talk through how long is this opportunity going to last, how long are you going to utilize the equipment, are you going to get a return on your investment? We talk about the profit share, about the ASOP [Associate Stock Ownership Plan]…
You have that conversation, and then you figure out what would we have to do to implement it. If we implemented this, could we get 105 instead of 100, every shift, every day, fifty-two weeks a year? And then, we tally our return on investment for all the ideas, by the quarter and by the year.”

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