Kevin and I have hammered the ‘Innovation’ fad pretty hard lately. Too often innovation seems to be pursued by companies which have utterly failed in their manufacturing efforts and now plan to invent their way back to profitability. More often, companies package some simple change they make to their products or process in an innovation wrapper and announce it to the world as the most startling innovation the world has seen since sliced bread. Credit must be given where credit is due, however, and when true innovation intersect with lean manufacturing, the results are nothing short of breathtaking. Such is the case with Bemis Manufacturing.
Bemis is a family owned injection molder based out of Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin (a state that seems to pop up more and more as the home of lean manufacturers). Bemis has been on the lean path for several years and, while privately held companies do not publish their financial results, their growth rate indicates that they have been very successful. They make all sorts of things, but their proudest claim to fame is that they are the world’s largest manufacturer of toilet seats.
Most people think that innovation requires advanced technology and microprocessors, and that just about every bit of improvement has been wrung out of the more mundane products in life – like toilet seats. Bemis has shown them to be woefully mistaken, however. They have just rolled out the first toilet seat that automatically closes when the toilet is flushed.
Dropping this amazing, innovative product into their lean manufacturing machine is certain to change bathroom technology forever and the world we live in. It will spur a huge cultural transition. Gone will be the days of women complaining of men failing to close the toilet. No more dogs drinking from toilet bowls. There are many people naively unaware of the fact that every year, an average of four children under the age of five drown as a result of falling into toilets. Those dangerous days are over. The world will be a different – and far better – place.
In the last several months I have read countless articles about innovation and almost all have left me overwhelmingly under impressed. However, this bit of innovation is another story all together. I should have guessed that a lean manufacturer would be the first true innovator among them all. Hats off to Bemis Manufacturing.