Do you ever feel like all the solutions for the converting industry have already been created? They haven’t. But to create a new solution for your converting company, you need an Innovation Infrastructure to make it happen.
Henry Ford once said that if he made what people asked him for, he’d have invented a faster horse.
That’s the thing with innovation: People get stuck thinking about what has been created, instead of the possibilities that don’t yet exist. But that’s not just a lack of imagination holding companies back. It’s a lack of innovation infrastructure.
Four Different Approaches to Create an Innovation Infrastructure
There are number of different approaches to building an “Innovation Infrastructure.” We’ve listed four; a mix of physical and intellectual resources. The approach you choose will be entirely dependent on your organization’s goals and resources.
1. Invest in intellectual capital.
If you invest in intellectual capital, you gain the expertise and knowledge to drive innovations. But how to do you acquire intellectual capital?
First, you must work with multiple business sectors. Learning from different industries let’s you apply success in one sector to another. Besides actually working in these industries, you can network and create alliances with other business to share ideas and swap techniques.
Second, you acquire intellectual capital through experience. That’s tougher to come by. These are hard-earned stripes, the result of many successes and failures. It can’t be taught, only learned.
Whether you build your intellectual capital by developing your current personnel, or if you recruiting new talent, this is a human-resources centric philosophy. But talent is the key driver to any aspect of business — especially innovation.
2. Invest in dedicated lab equipment.
In manufacturing, materials and web machines don’t always act according to plan. To innovate, you may consider investing in equipment to allow for testing on new concepts.
This can be a big infrastructure investment, and it should be part of a long-term commitment. Your purchase decision must be a strategic one. Do you want a flexible machine that will allow you to run multiple tests, or do you choose a scaled-back, simple machine if you have specific goals.
Dedicated lab equipment allows you to answer questions before you’re too deep into the process. Will the materials work together? Can you reach the specified tolerances? It can help save significant dollars over the long run.
3. Invest in a company that has resources to develop, prototype and test your product for you.
When time to market is of utmost importance, partnering with a company to develop, prototype and test your product will help you reach your goal in the most efficient manner. It will allow you to overcome the experience/expertise shortfalls from #1, and the equipment deficit from #2.
In terms of evaluating various development and testing facilities, there are some essential production and testing capabilities that separate the players from the pretenders in this arena.
For instance, if you are looking to reduce materials costs, you may want to incorporate a process such as island placement into the design of your part, but in doing so, you may have to test several methods to accomplish this.
Be sure the resource you choose to assist you has a large variety of manufacturing methods to determine which converting method is the best fit for you. Other examples include:
Full scale converting and packaging equipment with a variety of custom converting modules such as:
Laser processing modules that can cut at different wavelengths and on a variety of materials
* Heat stamp
* Rotary and punch press cutting
Diagnostic Equipment for Process and Product testing
* Seal testers- Do your seals hold too strongly?
* Optical Comparators – Can you measure critical measurements on multiple parts?
* Hi-speed Cameras – Can you record the process on a machine, then review the process at a low speed to scout out potential issues?
4. Choose a hybrid approach.
This can work in a variety of ways. You may choose your own measuring equipment for prototypes, for example, then hire a converting company to conduct your Proof of Principles.
No matter which approach you take, have to be willing to invest in the labor and machine time to make it happen. Can you afford to take you machines offline to test a new prototype? Are you willing to have your line go down for hours to validate a process? Are you willing to invest in the team to make it happen? Which leads us to the next big question…
How will you cost-justify all this?
There are multiple variables to consider. From a machining perspective alone, you have to balance short-term vs. long-term costs. Do you buy a flexible machine that could be for multiple types of tests or do you buy a less expensive lab testing machine for one specific product?
As you run your analysis, factor in these two essential metrics: Labor costs and storage costs. If you’re not producing a product as efficiently as possible — for example, maybe your run requires three passes on a machine instead of a single pass — you could be paying extra for production and storage.
Your investment in an Innovation Infrastructure — no matter which choice you select from above — requires definition of the present. How much are you spending on the current state, and what is it worth to your company to take the next step forward?