Precast concrete products date back to the Roman times when molds were used to produce concrete aqueducts and culverts. The process was applied to modern manufacturing starting in 1905 when a Liverpool, England engineer, John Alexander Brodie, began producing building panels out of precast concrete. Mr. Brodie was also the inventor of the soccer goal net. So, the industry is steeped in innovation historically but... can it still be an innovative industry?
Real innovation is actually contrary to the misconception that it is about radical change. It is continuous, incremental change. And it is mindset more than capability.
It is a crucial mindset, however, because those who are not willing to change are left behind in a changing world. On the flip side, those who embrace innovation become market leaders.
Here are five characteristics of innovation that we see in our customers. They:
1: Engage with customers
This does not mean just asking customers what they want. (As Henry Ford said: "If I asked the market what it wanted, it would have said a faster horse.") It means working with customers to solve their problems. By definition, this is an interactive process that requires creative thinking over time (i.e., innovation) and it creates customer relationships that are the bedrock of competitive advantage.
2: Think creatively, not habitually
"We've always done it that way" is not an acceptable answer for innovative companies. Our customers who excel at innovation apply the same creative thinking to their internal operations as they do in helping to solve their customers' problems.
The push back to this is often "But we need to have standards in order to be efficient." Absolutely. It's no coincidence that very innovative companies embrace Lean Manufacturing because it is a system that is highly concentrated in standards for simple tasks so that employees can apply more time to solving larger problems with creative thinking.
3: Foster an environment that welcomes input
Innovative companies view their employees and external stakeholders as sources of creative problem solving. The more minds at work, the more innovation that can be produced. This is especially valuable for innovating every-day processes in addition to the bigger challenges. Employees feel appreciated and empowered... which produces a virtuous cycle of more innovation.
4: See technology as a useful tool
Technology is a tool, not the master. Innovative producers apply this understanding to their advantage. Technology applications like BIM, GPS tracking,RFID tagging and other information technology resources are reducing costs and enabling concrete manufacturers to produce more for less and provide customers with new sources of value.
5: Are always improving
Innovative companies see themselves as constantly evolving and are always striving to be better than they were before. They ask: "What else can we do to be more productive? What other ways can we provide more value to our customers?"
Concrete producers that think this way are often favored vendors of contractors who engage in Lean Construction practices, a system that demands continuous improvement internally and throughout the supply chain.
Yes, the precast industry is old and mature. So, can it mix with innovation?
We see it every day.
Our purpose at Idencia is to offer asset tracking solutions that improve productivity throughout the construction value chain. Our subscription offering applies RFID and bar code tracking to products from the time of manufacture through end-of-life. As a cloud-hosted product tracking system that is seamless between manufacturers, contractors and asset managers, Idencia adds information value to all, eliminates redundancy and saves time. If you would like to learn more, click below.