That illusive innovation

Innovation is one of the key criteria for judging the products that are selected as our 150 Product of the Year Finalists. Each year, our screening judges are asked to evaluate the products submitted primarily on the basis of usefulness in plant engineering work and innovation. The dictionary defines innovation simply as "1.


Innovation is one of the key criteria for judging the products that are selected as our 150 Product of the Year Finalists. Each year, our screening judges are asked to evaluate the products submitted primarily on the basis of usefulness in plant engineering work and innovation.

The dictionary defines innovation simply as "1. The act of introducing something new. 2. Something newly introduced." A study by Cheskin and Fitch: Worldwide says that most executives describe innovation as a "solution" that addresses the unmet needs of customers or as "progress" that offers an improvement. I personally like the definition offered by InnovationNetwork: "people creating value by implementing new ideas."

Another recent study on innovation by consulting giant A.T. Kearney emphasizes a number of contradictions when it comes to how companies view their levels of innovation. Kearney points out, for example, that most companies say they're above average in innovation. The study goes on to report that nearly 70% of executives claim their companies are more innovative than the competition and that fewer than 10% admit to being less innovative. Obviously, many companies are not realistically assessing their positions regarding innovation.

The study also reports that "More than two-thirds of survey respondents cite the development of breakthrough products and services as a high priority. Yet fewer than 25% of their innovation projects are focused on 'new to the market' efforts. Instead, the vast majority of the major innovation projects the typical company undertakes annually… can be grouped into three less-than-innovative categories: derivative or minor extensions of the current product line; cost-saving innovations on current projects; and new to the company, but not new to the market."

The Kearney and the Cheskin and Fitch studies agree that much of today's innovation is reactive, driven by customer needs or competition. "Whether the innovation is iteration or a breakthrough," Cheskin and Fitch reports, "what matters is how responsive [companies] are, how focused they are on what matters to their market, and how well they're able to infuse the spark of creativity into everything they produce."

In any case, the market is the most important driver of innovation. Cheskin and Fitch goes so far as to say that "an innovation's success is judged primarily by the sales and revenue it generates and the customer feedback on it."

So we commend to you this year's 150 finalists in our Product of the Year Awards and ask that you provide your feedback by voting for the most useful and innovative. By so doing, you'll not only recognize the innovation in these new products, you'll also encourage more innovation for next year's awards.

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
August 2018
Choosing an automation controller, Lean manufacturing
September 2018
Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me