We received this email from a senior leader at a major paper company this week. It is these kinds of notes that encourage us. We have disguised this a bit to keep from revealing the source, we have left the basic message intact:
Jim, I had hoped to make Light Green conference this year but ended up out of the country. I recently moved from mill operations to my current role as supporting innovation in the mills. My quick thoughts (opinions);
· We are trying to exit the thought process that the industry is dying therefore no reason to innovate, just consolidate. I know my company is doing it slowly but we are now spending more time and effort on driving change.
· Project costs have skyrocketed in the US. Capital equipment costs seem to be a normal progression but the adders for everything else are much more expensive in the US than elsewhere in the World. This is driving some innovation in how to complete projects here. I feel another reason for the cost amplification here is we underwrite the costs for construction projects that are not preengineered. Many of our projects seem to be getting reengineered. We lost control of this when we outsourced our engineering. I know you would have many more ideas about this.
· Less pilot trial work is being done. Apparently Chinese do little if any, they buy standard machines. [Major paper machine company] has shutdown their pilot machine (lack of use) so the only real viable pilot for new equipment is [Another major paper machine company]. There are pieces of pilot processes in other locations but it is a challenge to perform machine concepts.
· Misses are expensive - at least in the view of executive management. Some of the strategic focus is missing from corporate plans - it is focused on financial short term focus. With short term focus the prework is not being completed, mills suffer penalties if they try and fail, and the pathway of focus for innovation is not there.
· We gutted technology and especially research components of our companies for several years. Now we a are trying to recover lost time. We also tend to hire young talent with eyes towards management, not towards technical specialties.
· I see the retirements over the next few years to really hurt the knowledge base in these areas also. I do not see the replacements for my Technology peers.
· The innovation investment return cycle expectation is much too short.
· No moon shot thinking. Maybe nano efforts would qualify. I read about more of this thinking from your organization than from paper companies.