Cross-Pollination Fuels Innovation

December 14, 2012 | Mechanical Engineering, News, Publications & Events

My office isn't on the factory floor at Marlin Steel. It wouldn't seem to be in a high traffic area, but it is. Numerous times a day, engineers and plant workers pass by to visit the salesmen nearby to share ideas on solutions on how to build something better, how to produce it faster. Innovation begets more innovation.Everyone exhibits a shared stake in the products that are going out the door.

An interesting piece in The New York Times this morning, titled "High-Tech Factories Built to Be Engines of Innovation," described how economists, engineers and business leaders now say the wholesale separation of research and production overseas helped contribute to the stunting of American manufacturing. "In industries that produce complex, high-technology products," it said, "companies that keep their research and manufacturing employees close together might be more innovative than businesses that develop a schematic and send it overseas for low-wage workers to make."

"Think about how much better we are to have Andy near Tony near the salesmen," said Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt. "The communication and dialogue engenders innovation, a willingness to try things on the fly and react quickly to set backs or challenges. You want more lines of communication close so ideas cross-pollinate faster."

As a GE executive said in the article the collaboration involved in manufacturing, designing, prototyping and producing a product, particularly a piece of innovation, isn't necessarily sequential. It's often a simultaneous process.

As I type this, engineer Jon just entered salesman Jason's office to discuss a solution with a client. That simultaneous process is going on right now.