In the 1940s, Swiss engineer George de Mestral was hiking in the Jura Mountains when he noticed that tiny cockleburs were sticking to his pants and his dog’s fur. While most of us might view this as simply an annoyance, de Mestral’s curiosity was piqued.
He looked at the cockleburs under a microscope and saw that they attached themselves with tiny hooks. Working with friends in the weaving business, he developed a product that replicated this effect using synthetic hooks and loops of fabric. The name for this product is a combination of the words ‘velvet’ and ‘crochet,’ and we know it as Velcro. He saw the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Sometimes innovation begins just by looking at what you see everyday in a whole new way.
Or, as our Core Values statement says about Operational Excellence: Relentless pursuit of performance excellence across all our business functions drives the results that differentiate us from our competitors. We must continually find ways to improve how we do business to remain competitive.
Innovation is not always a top-down approach. It is often driven by an employee who looks at how things are being done and realizes that there is a better way- and then communicates this idea so that the new idea can become our usual way of doing business.
Innovation can be proactive as well as reactive. It can be proactive if each employee takes an active role in examining how he or she does their job and looks for ways to improve it. It can be reactive when an employee sees a problem and finds a new, better solution.
This type of innovation can be beneficial in all aspects of our business. For instance, in process improvement. A small improvement in the way we process, distribute or market our products can make a huge difference in efficiency and profitability in the long run. Or, in safety. When you see a way we can work more safely, pass it on. Every one benefits when we have a safer workplace. As for customer service, ask our customers what we can do better. If there is an area they are dissatisfied with, consider new ways of finding a resolution.
The takeaway here? As you work at Mississippi Lime, be on the lookout for ways that we can do things better. Faster. Cheaper. Safer. And let us know your ideas. It might not be the next Velcro, but this relentless pursuit of innovation by everyone can make a big difference.