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Process Improvement and Sustainability Principles at Ford, ESB, and Solvay

Whether it’s air pollution, water pollution, or even climate change, the major sustainability issues facing the world and its citizens are topics that every business should feel a sense of ownership and responsibility towards resolving.

And with global warming showing no signs of abating (last year was the hottest since 1880 according to data from NASA and NOAA, and this year is on track to be the hottest ever), companies have no time to spare in the all-consuming quest to develop innovative solutions for humanity’s many shared challenges.


Temperature Anomaly Chart from NASA indicating long-term warming trends.

Qmarkets works on an ongoing basis with hundreds of the world’s most innovative companies who use idea and innovation management software for a wide variety of use cases, from new product development to continuous improvement. However, due to a combination of increased regulation, public opinion, and bottom-line cost-savings, one of the most common challenges modern enterprises aim to overcome with idea management is undoubtedly sustainability.

To help you overcome this challenge, we’ve compiled three examples of how leading global companies have implemented process improvement and sustainability principles to great effect.

Ford: Turning Carbon Dioxide into Plastic

With their huge number of employees and substantial bargaining power, global companies, such as Ford, are pivotal forces to ensuring that the kind of sustainable planet that humanity must create becomes a reality. Given that such companies have also, historically, been some of the world’s biggest polluters, the imperative for them to lead the way in driving sustainability is all the higher.

As part of their effort to develop and deliver innovations, Ford began using Qmarkets’ innovation management software in November 2016. Following a successful pilot, involving 9 challenges and input from 5,000 employees, the company decided to go company-wide with its innovation management adoption, and began the process of rolling it out to their entire workforce of 200,000 employees.

One team at Ford has been busy developing is an interesting process for creating motor-grade plastics from carbon dioxide known as polymerization – a world first for automobile manufacturers.

The team drew inspiration for the novel process from the daily miracle of nature by which plants take in carbon dioxide – a byproduct of both gas combustion and cellular respiration – and ultraviolet (UV) light and convert them both into sugar – a process essential to sustaining humanity’s food supply.

Drawing upon the same, sustainable philosophy of converting waste material into valuable production components, the company has managed to devise a process for converting the end product of production lines, in the form of a concentrated waste stream bearing Co2, to some of the most important inputs for their manufacturing processes – plastic that can be injection-molded into almost any biomaterial required for production. This process could help the company reduce its petroleum consumption by more than 600 million pounds per year – making it an innovation with amazing potential for our environment.

Solvay: Innovating Batteries from the Inside Out

The rapid rise in the popularity of consumer electronics (CEs), including handheld devices, tablets, and PCs, has changed the face of modern life, but some of the materials used in modern electronics pose a risk to human health and the environment unless properly disposed of. Scientists are leading the way in pioneering the development of new more environmentally-friendly materials to overcome this challenge. Solvay, a Belgian chemical company which was founded in 1863, has been using Qmarkets to help power its innovation management since January 2015, focusing on continuous improvement and finding more innovative ways to engage their huge workforce of over 60,000 employees which are located around the globe.

Solvay has recently leveraged its longstanding expertise in chemistry to drive forward innovation in the development of lithium ion (or Li-on) batteries – the power sources responsible for keeping many consumer appliances in good working order.

In particular, the company has developed a Soldef® PVDF and Torlon® PAI Electrode Binder to improve batteries’ energy density, life cycle, and overall cost saving for manufacturers as well as specialized lithium salts for electrolytes that can also substantially boost battery life and performance. The advances the company is bringing will have a knock-on effect on sustainability by reducing battery disposals and further boosting recycling rates (obtaining metals from Li-on batteries has a 90% lower ecological footprint than primary mining). These new developments will also form the basis from which new process improvement and sustainability principles can emerge to support Solvay’s productivity objectives.

This example shows how crucial it is for modern scientific organizations to employ a serious approach to innovation, to aid in the discovery of technological breakthroughs which can have a hugely beneficial impact on the environment.

 ESB: Smarter Energy Solutions

Founded in 1927, Ireland’s national electricity provider, the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) has been a Qmarkets customer since 2014. Although the ESB isn’t directly responsible for the development of sustainable technologies in-house, it plays a pivotal role in packaging the best of what’s available in electricity technology and bringing it to a mass-market in Ireland.

It is engaged in many forward-thinking projects aimed towards improving the ecological friendliness of Ireland’s power supply including, in particular, increasing the country’s use of alternative energy sources. The company has built an innovation laboratory, X-site, nested within Dogpatch Labs, an incubation facility in Dublin with the specific goal of having its engineers learn from the agile methodologies and concept development that startups are famous for.

Committed to the belief that a revolution in thought and technology can continue to change the electricity industry, the ESB has used Qmarkets primarily as a platform to cultivate a culture of innovation by sharing case-studies and best practices of innovation with its user-base of over 8,500. This has proven a useful means for ESB to motivate its employees to strive towards upholding and maintaining a company-wide culture of innovation.

Innovation Can Drive Sustainability

These three examples demonstrate the  importance of focusing on process improvement and sustainability principles, irrespective of the industry or geography which a company operates in.

Whether your company is a global giant like Ford whose sustainability initiatives can have a direct impact on the environment, a technology provider who develops industry breakthroughs, or an energy provider who allows consumers to utilize more ethical products and services – you have a pivotal role to play in this challenge. As with all business challenges, the key to overcoming the issues of sustainability is developing a culture where innovation can thrive, fostering employee engagement, and crowdsourcing ideas to bolster continuous improvement. This approach should be taken in a way that transcends borders, languages, industries and oceans – which is why using an idea management tool, such as that offered by Qmarkets, can prove invaluable.

Through continuing to use Qmarkets advanced innovation management software to both rethink existing challenges and develop disruptive solutions to newly emerging ones, companies can continue to serve as key drivers of change.

To find out how you can leverage process improvement and sustainability principles to drive productivity at your company, be sure to check out our continuous improvement page. Qmarkets dedicated continuous improvement software tool, Q-optimize, can help you put these principles into action efficiently, and drive process excellence at all levels of your company. 

Qmarkets Author

Intelligent innovation management software, empowering business leaders to achieve the impossible. Discover the ecosystem.

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