The excitement of innovation touches every department at The BoxMaker. In a manufacturing plant, innovation influences both products and processes. While products tend to get the bigger buzz, it's the processes that get the most attention. Production needs more visibility from order entry, customer service needs automated QC checks to increase time on value-added work, and maintenance needs more than a Grainger catalog and Post-It notes to tell them when to reorder light bulbs. On the floor, we call this continuous improvement – the backbone of any lean manufacturing program – and innovation is the big brother of continuous improvement.
Product innovation can be a very fun and engaging exercise. Everyone in any brainstorm session graduates to “crazy-maker” in a short time and ideas are plastered on whiteboards like fireworks on Independence Day. After the crazy-makers return to their day jobs, we vet ideas for plausibility, disruption in the market, cost of engineering, and sheer fun. Unfortunately, in a cost-benefit analysis, sheer fun rarely gets the highest priority.
Process innovation, on the other hand, can be a much more arduous task from beginning to end. It always starts with a pain point, and pain points get people pretty agitated. Current state, dream state, and future state diagrams can easily take up all fours walls of a conference room. Rounding up the stakeholders from several departments can be a fun team-building exercise, but the real test of courage comes in hashing out competing interests from everyone in the room. While process innovation is rarely ever a zero-sum game, you quickly discover that alleviating pain from one bottleneck creates a score of ripples in someone else’s pond. Then, when you look to technology to be the magic panacea, you realize that any solution that solves one problem will almost never integrate with all your other systems, whether it’s an ERP, SaaS, app, or the cafeteria microwave. Then your development team says, “We can build an API for that.”
At the heart of it all, The BoxMaker fully understands that innovation encompasses faster iteration, vision, client insight, automation, and the magic pill of alleviating more than one person’s pain. Innovation strives to make everyone’s life better by decreasing non-value-added time and tasks. Innovation acts to make your clients happy with their buying decisions and thrives in that space where opportunity meets inspiration. At The BoxMaker, we recognize it takes an entire culture of innovation to keep up with the disruptive speed of change, so we improve by adapting – one continuous improvement project at a time.
Justin Stacey, Director of Innovation and Emerging Business at The BoxMaker