Canadian entrepreneurs are forever being told they have to become more innovative. But what is "innovation," exactly? It means a lot more than invention and producing better products. It involves creatively tweaking all aspects of your business—inside and out—to find ways to satisfy more customers, more effectively.
To get an idea of how champions define and generate innovation, check out a recent Fortune magazine article on UPS. It's an interview with Bob Stoffel, who may have the longest title at UPS: senior vice-president, supply chain, strategy, engineering and sustainability. Written by Geoff Colvin, the article explores just a few of the ways UPS is expanding through innovative thinking and bold new customer relationships.
- Partner with your customers: UPS meets regularly with its biggest accounts, using its expertise in transportation, distribution, logistics and customer service to help them find new ways to sell more, reach new markets, and generally "run better, stronger, faster [and] cheaper." UPS has 1,000 engineers working to streamline its customer's supply chains. Clearly, it's much more than a courier company.
- Go global: UPS isn't suffering as the U.S. economy goes increasingly digital, because its global footprint extends to 200 countries. Should China's manufacturing boom fade, UPS is already working with ambitious exporters in Vietnam.
- Turn more of what you know into "what you do: Many people don't realize that UPS runs Toshiba's laptop-repair business in the U.S. UPS helped Toshiba consolidate its network of service centres across the U.S. into one central depot, which reduces inventory costs and speeds up service.
- Cut costs with alternative energy: By embracing diesel, electric, hybrid and natural gas vehicles, UPS has improved the fuel efficiency of its domestic delivery fleet by 10% in the last decade—and intends to repeat that feat in the next 10 years.
- Leverage technology: UPS uses telematics to monitor more than 200 different variables in its delivery vehicles, including location, speed, braking and idling. As every entrepreneur knows, what gets measured gets done. This improves efficiency, discourages bad practices, reduces delivery errors, and saves lots of money. For instance, UPS now changes the oil in its vehicles only when sensors indicate it's needed, not automatically, as it used to do every 6,000 miles.
- Help your supply chain become greener: UPS works with its customers to reduce their packaging. This not only helps the environment; it saves customers money and boosts UPS's capacity. Even now, says Stoffel, "our vehicles run out of space before they run out of weight capacity."
Can Big Brown's innovation success energize your company? Just ask your team. How can we help our customers be faster, more effective and more profitable?