"Innovation" is something we each have to define for ourselves. Some people see innovation as a simple new edit to a pivot table in excel, while others may only take the words of Elon Musk as something truly innovative.
At Kenco, we've spent a great amount of time defining innovation for our company and our employees to strive toward every day. And here's our take: Innovation, for the logistics industry, is the implementation of ideas in order to create new business value. We’re not re-inventing the wheel. We're putting wheels on something that has never had wheels before.
But we've also determined innovation for innovation's sake helps no one. No matter how many meetings we schedule to talk big picture ideas or how many resources we pour into our Innovation Lab—if we do not act, we aren't getting any closer to turning innovation into reality.
Here are the 4 stages Kenco implements when projecting our innovative ideas into actionable products and services that save our clients time, money, and increase efficiency, productivity, and/or quality.
We are so passionate about staying up to date on trends, emerging technologies, new processes, pain points, and ways to transform the supply chain, that we employ people who spend time learning about these things as their day-to-day. Learning what to invest our time and resources in is just as important as the execution.
For direction on what to research, we work with a “design-thinking mode” in mind. What does that mean? We look to alleviate the feeling the customer experiences when they hit a pain point, and then work backward from that point to find a solution that best fits.
Our "design-thinking mode" is what allows to makes sure that every innovation we work toward starts with the customer in mind. And we pride ourselves on taking time to understand the voice of the customer.
Where do they want the innovation lab going? If we can't answer that question, we're not working on the right things.
Education is a two-way street. Both the internal and client teams must be educated equally, but in different respects. Internal leadership needs to be educated on trends, competitors, and industries so they can understand the direction we should be moving with our innovations. It's easy to see the importance of research in this stage, as everything we push to our internal teams comes from our research.
The other aspect of our educational process goes to teaching the clients. We share our innovations with customers so they can better choose what innovations are smart investments for their company's future. Hosting lunch-and-learns, or simply providing clients with a presentation over a new technology or methodology is just another part of the process. In a way, Kenco acts as an external R&D program for our clients.
For example, our Innovation Lab just finished looking into the value of 3D printing. We spent 90 days with a 3D printer, testing its uses and practical applications for various fields and third party logistics. By doing this, and actually having a hands-on experience with the technology, we can give a real answer when we say it's a good investment or not.
We mean business when it comes to creating a serious innovation program. That's why we created a whole division for it and wanted it to be managed outside of IT, as some innovation labs are encapsulated in IT programs. By talking about our lab and innovations, we add value to our customers. Our initiative to make innovation more than just a buzzword in the logistics industry is strongly supported in our validation of project theories and attention to lab projects. We see innovation as a vital part of our business and want to push it past the idea of just "robots in a warehouse."
Once we move to prototyping, our process is about using limited resources and not being frivolous with expenditures to figure out what is possible. In a sense, we're creating our own minimum viable products every time we prototype something.
Making this happen comes down to quick turnaround, and we don't want to waste our time or the customer's time. Ideas move to a proof of concept in just 90-days. This deadline helps us work quickly and efficiently to find improvements in old processes and new ways to tackle tasks.
To Sum It All Up
Successful innovation comes from truly understanding your industry and the pain points—then looking outside your industry for solutions. Taking the time to look at other fields, like manufacturing, and then seeing what can apply to logistics is what drives real change.
Bringing things from outside the industry and applying it to our innovation process is incredible. Our Innovation Lab is all about learning and building innovations that really deliver for the client—because action and results are what matter.
If you're looking for help finding a 3PL that values innovation, check out our eBook, Selecting & Managing a Third-Party Logistics Provider – Best Practices, for tips.