Differentiation Through Innovation
Most companies know that if they only had a magic innovation wand they could do great things for their business. Who wouldn’t like to have innovation springing up and creating new and differentiating products, services and processes? What a difference it could make in the success of the company! While no one that we know has a magic wand that creates innovation, there are proactive and intentional ways to foster it so that it is not an accident that innovation happens.
The first place to start is to create a company culture that sets expectations for delivering more than the status quo. Acme Industries does that with its value promise of Beyond Precision and its Formula 1 pledge that commits all employees to the following four tenants: Rigorous, Customer Focused, Collaborating, and Learning. If the company’s team embraces and lives this culture, then their antennae are always up looking for ways to improve what customers are asking for or how the internal processes of the company produce its products and/or services.
Innovation may seldom produce a home run for a customer like the one described in the Product Innovation Increases Market Opportunity case study (link to case study). In this case, innovation occurred because Acme’s team was aware of the limited life of its customer’s product and taking the initiative to develop a product innovation that would significantly improve its life. Working with customers that are willing to collaborate can produce other cases like New Company Launches Through Joint Product Development Process (link to case study) or Product Development Ensures Critical Delivery Performance (link to case study). At the product development stage there are many great opportunities like these where Design for Manufacturing principles can be applied if a customer collaborates with its supplier/partner. Costs can be optimized while still enhancing the functionality of the products being developed.
Almost all companies have fertile ground to plow by encouraging their employees to generate and implement ideas on how to improve the company’s internal processes. Expectations can be set with employees so that it is understood that this is part of everyone’s job. The results of these efforts may only produce bunts and singles but they can all add up to making a company more efficient and cost effective. Formalizing a Lean Manufacturing program can help make continuous improvement another part of the company’s culture and provide the road map needed to gather data for problem solving and the metrics that can help insure that results are being obtained and tracked. Successful projects like Customer Gains 6-12% Cost Reduction from Acme’s Lean Manufacturing Benefits (link to case study) can produce savings that can either be passed on to customers or used to improve profit margins.
Until we find that magic innovation wand, we can do our best to commit to our customers that we will exceed their expectations with value promises like Beyond Precision and then delivering what we promise.