Successful forge shops rely on innovation from every member of the company, and this is no different from many other manufacturing businesses. After all, each employee typically has more constant contact and intimate knowledge of their tasks than employees “above” them on the company organizational chart. This intimate knowledge often sows the seeds of innovation whether through necessity or simply improving how tasks get done. 

For example, a forge operator may see the need for new safety equipment or develop an optimized forging method. Perhaps maintenance personnel find a new way to quickly change out a hydraulic cylinder. This type of innovation frequently happens, and forge shops need to seize it to help sustain a competitive advantage. There are systems and programs that can be put into place to help capture these ideas and make the most of them. Moreover, we don’t want to see these innovations leave your business.

Many business innovations come from employees during the regular course of their work. Many employees are generally paid only for their work, and they might not be motivated to be involved in extra efforts that can derive from innovations in their work equipment and methods. As a result, there can be an expensive gap between the innovation taking place in the company and the status of the gathering of innovative ideas to improve the company.

"Many business innovations come from employees during the regular course of their work."

One helpful tool for some organizations is easing the process for ideas and innovation to come to light. Some employees are shy about suggesting new things, and we have to find ways around that obstacle. Invite ideas and reward successful innovations that transform the operation and develop your company’s competitive advantage. Acceptance of new ideas from every level can gain buy-in from greater numbers of employees, which then helps boost morale and dedication to the work. Think, too, about whether your forge shop makes it easy for an employee to develop an initial good idea. We certainly do not want employees to scrap valuable ideas because the process is too difficult.

In addition, make sure that good ideas are valued in your forge shop. Celebrate and internally publicize teams and individuals who develop innovations, and make sure employees understand what a benefit it is for the company and the employees on an individual level. Many of these ideas can remain protected within the forge shop, but some innovations may be significant enough to seek patent or trademark protection. Most employees appreciate the notion that the company values their innovations enough to pursue that type of protection when it is warranted. Along those lines, it is often valuable for employees to understand the basics of intellectual-property protection.

Many companies have developed formal and informal systems to report innovations. It is important to enable employees to report any kind of improvement or innovation with respect to the workflow on the forging floor to technical improvements in the forges. This allows the company to capture any kind of innovation and also helps to lower the psychological hurdle that some employees feel when considering reporting their innovations and ideas. Some companies also conduct regularly scheduled recognition ceremonies for the best improvement, where employees can win awards for their suggestions. In other cases, an automatically generated letter or email thanking the innovator can suffice. As you likely already know, the impact of non-financial recognition schemes can differ from forge shop to forge shop, and different schemes should be applied across the organization as needed to encourage innovation in all areas. If a simple mechanism for the employees to report their ideas does not exist, they will often never be heard.

Your engineering team is also a great resource and can be the eyes and ears of the forge shop with regard to the innovations that are developed, particularly on the shop floor. At times, the engineering team can be the first point of contact for any management team that is seeking new innovations, no matter their source.

Your business likely relies on the innovations, ideas and inventions of a wide array of employees. Help keep your competitive edge by encouraging these developments through a notification plan, recognition and appreciation. If the innovators know that the extra work undertaken to assist the improvement process matters to everyone else, and is noticed, a culture of innovation and improvement can be fostered to benefit the company in a multitude of areas.