Behind every great team there is a great leader. Our Innovation Team is no different except—as we previously hinted—the title “leader” is a bit of a misnomer; a “facilitator” would be a more accurate description. Our facilitator (aka “the Baker”) guides the problem-solving process naturally rather than framing the problem to a particular type of thinking. By avoiding these mental roadblocks, ideas and discussion can flow freely.
Introducing Juan…our heralded Innovation Specialist and Coordinator. Juan has been one of our Label Experts for close to 10 years (!) and is the de facto facilitator to the Innovation Team. We caught up with him to talk about identifying some unique labeling problems, guiding a group discussion, and fostering success at EIM.
So Juan, what is one of the most memorable labeling applications that we’ve solved in the past?
Thanks for having me! One interesting project we worked on involved a manufacturer of jet engines that needed to put barcodes on large, integral parts of their motors. There were a lot of conditions to meet: the label couldn’t have adhesive, it couldn’t be ripped or be easily torn by hand, it had to be thermal transfer printable and most especially – it had to fit different parts and come in several sizes (anywhere from 18” to 45”) but they only wanted one label product. We wound up designing a plastic tag with perforated sensing slots that allowed for an easy tearing to the length they needed. Now these motor parts are being used in US military F-18s around the world. Read More…
What made this particular problem so interesting?
Some of the criteria that needed to be met were contradictions – durable, yet easily torn by hand, several sizes, yet all on one roll. Creating a label that would fit all of these conditions with the flexibility of on- demand printing took quite a creative solution and was certainly challenging.
Can you recall an inquiry that we simply could not fulfill?
A customer came to us looking to label plaster dental molds. We had plenty of products for bonding well to dry molds. However, when the molds are submersed in a water bath, the plaster gets reconstituted and the label easily comes off the surface. It’s like trying to stick a label to a snowball. (We will keep our eyes open in case a new material or adhesive is invented as this is a tough application and we may find similar needs down the road.)
What is one of your latest challenges?
Labeling/tagging sharks (as in fish) was a challenge. These sharks aren’t alive; they’re specimens stored at a museum. But the curator wanted a way to tag them that would not be intrusive to the fish, because some are over 100 years old. The tags also had to be very durable, since these sharks are packed tight in a huge tank filled with ethanol and have to withstand not only the chemical but also the sharks bumping into each other (some fish had really abrasive scales). If a tag fails and falls to the bottom of the tank, they lose vital information and it can be hard to retrieve. The museum is currently conducting a long-term test with one of our recommendations.
Is there a particular process you like to adopt for Innovation Team meetings?
I try to keep away from structured meetings – I feel it fences-in peoples’ thoughts and doesn’t let them think outside the box. Once I get everyone’s input, I’ll put together a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) for the project that sets our schedule and assigns duties/tasks to those involved. So there is more structure on my end really, rather than the meeting itself.
How do you like to conduct, or “lead the discussion” when this meeting of the minds happens?
There really isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” process or structure when it comes to facilitating our meetings.
The project can be anything from developing a new label concept for a customer to re-aligning market segments within our own organization. I try to prep ahead of time to suit the particular subject and make clear the objective, so our meetings can be as productive as possible. All I ask is for everyone to show up with a clean slate and no preconceived notions.
So, think you have an ingredient list that even the crafty Label Experts can’t bake? Need something truly innovative and unique?
Submit an Information Request today and see if our innovation meeting of the minds can put YOUR mind at ease!