Multiple Solutions for Packaging Processes

Published Jan-20-10

A series of confidential solutions to help Greif take advantage of new science and technologies for its processing systems.

Greif, Inc., United States

The Story:

Multiple Solutions for Packaging Processes Greif is a global industrial packaging products and services company with a presence in more than 45 countries. Due to an intense phase of restructuring involving mergers and acquisitions, and hot on the heels of a lean-type business model innovation had taken a back seat. Company bosses realized that needed to change and having heard about open innovation approached a knowledge broker with a series of confidential challenges.

Open Innovation Solves Sticky Problems

About two thirds of the company’s business is in packaging, but processes for this side of the enterprise were based on technology that hadn’t changed much in a number of years.

Whether from new basic science or other industries Greif wanted to see what new technologies were out there that they might not have personal experience of, but would be applicable to their processes. The overarching aim was to achieve cost reductions and efficiencies.

Access Great Minds

David B.Fischer is Greif’s Chief Operating Officer and he was convinced that open innovation was a good avenue for a company without large R&D capabilities. He had read interviews with the head of R&D at Procter and Gamble and was seduced by the thought of being able to access some of the great minds around the world to help the company solve some of its problems. An internal brainstorming session identified five challenges and they approached NineSigma and sent out five RFPs (request for proposals).

“We got 61 responses,” Fischer told one interviewer. “ About half of those were not on target and of the other half two thirds were right on target with 10 being very interesting , but not something we could follow up at the time. But we did follow up on some, and came up with some pretty cool ideas.”

How to Make the Most of Open Innovation

Greif has learnt a lot from its experience with open innovation and Fischer believes that the key to getting desired solutions is to be found in how the challenge is framed in the RFP process.

The COO says it’s all about asking the right questions and focusing in on right area, but without putting in so many constraints that you don’t hear all the options. And neither must it be too broad, he cautions, otherwise what comes back could be way off target.

Once Greif received the submissions the next stage involved following up on the most suitable ideas with capital investment.

The competitive nature of business forced Greif to venture outside its walls to stay ahead of the game. According to Fischer the company has reaped the benefits because of this approach: “In our business with a thin margin to get ever-improving results we have to look beyond our own internal capabilities, and often times we cannot afford to staff and resource those kind of R&D capabilities on an ongoing basis. So we have to selectively use them in a time and space that makes sense for us. The efficiency from investment is there for companies like ours.”

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