This pulls excerpts from our podcast, Inspiring Innovation: Leaders in Manufacturing featuring Kent Lammers. To watch our podcast episode, please visit Inspiring Innovation: Leaders in Manufacturing Episode 6 or subscribe to our channel on your favorite podcast platform.
Polo Custom Products has seen success for over 75 years. Over the years, many things have changed, but the established culture of the company isn’t one of them. Culture is one of the most important elements of any company, and maintaining continuity of that culture brings overall success.
Manufacturing Changes over the Years
While the manufacturing processes at Polo Custom Products have remained relatively the same, the products that we make have changed. We started out with simple products such as checkbook covers, furniture covers, and hospital identification bracelets, and have evolved into much more complex products to fit our customers’ needs. We have added in new technologies that have improved efficiencies and processes that have allowed us to take on more complex projects. While we still do simple stuff, our experienced product development team is really good at designing products with complexity. Our product development team can dig deep in terms of what materials are sealable, what’s cheaper, what’s more sustainable, what’s environmentally friendly, and all those types of things that are important to our customers.
Industry trends have also changed over the years. We are seeing more automation and improved efficiencies. As Polo is an OEM company, one trend we see is the changes in demands of our customers and how to keep up with that. There could be a host of trends in various markets that we serve, and those can be not necessarily cyclical, but more based upon what’s happening in the world. At Polo, we stand ready for all those kinds of different things, whether it be government, medical or any of the markets we serve. And that’s part of what makes Polo competitive, no matter what the product or the need from our customers, it’s a relationship business. Technology can be a help or a hindrance to that. Polo strives to know the customer as well or better than themselves. In doing so, we stand a good chance of riding through the technology and innovation that’s occurring in the marketplace, no matter what market we’re serving.
A Culture of Innovation
Polo Custom Products operates on four pillars of innovation – culture, vision, strategy, and talent. When we were a smaller company, the culture of employees and culture of innovation was easier. The “difference maker” is to be able to maintain that culture no matter how big we get.
Our goal at Polo is to empower all departments to embrace these four pillars, so that from the production floor to the sales team to the leadership is striving for innovation. If a new trend emerges, we will explore it. If our customer requires something that we don’t know how to do, we will learn it. We give autonomy to every department should they want to embrace something new or discuss new processes and that opens the door to a multitude of possibilities.
In one instance, we had a production associate who discovered a better way to produce a product that reduced risk for our customer and eliminated quality issues. This sort of situational awareness from our employees is rewarded. We want our employees to feel empowered to bring their ideas forward that can improve products or processes. Innovation starts by listening to the production teams at all locations. They know the job best, and it’s paramount that we listen to them. They do the job every day. They know the answers better than we do oftentimes.
Process Drives Results
It’s important to adopt organizational changes as new processes and new technologies emerge. Consistency in these processes is important as well, as employees may change shifts, positions, or move elsewhere in their career. Having sound processes and proper documentation ensures that even with personnel changes, consistency is maintained. If it’s random, output becomes random. At Polo, we uphold stringent guidelines on process documentation and validation, as these things are critical in a custom manufacturing environment.
Each department adheres to these guidelines. It’s not just Product Development or Production, but also HR, Finance, Sales etc. Having well-documented processes ensures it will be carried out into the future.
While maintaining guidelines and documentation on processes is vital to success, we are still looking to continuously improve those processes. “If you aren’t continuously improving, you’re falling behind.” Here at Polo Custom Products, continuous improvement is something that we give each department in each location autonomy to define what that looks like. We encourage all employees in the company to look at our processes and best practices and determine if we are doing the best that we can.
The tendency can often be to get something up and running and become complacent in that process. Individuals get the daily processes and routines down, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg on what it can do for us. The key is in “digging beneath the iceberg” to find technologies or improved efficiencies that can maximize our processes.
This is how Polo has stayed true to our values, while still adapting to the customers and markets we serve.
While many things contribute to success, our commitment to a culture of innovation has allowed us to see success for over 75 years. As the manufacturing landscape evolves, Polo remains committed to preserving our core values while adapting to changing market demands and technological advancements. By sticking to these four pillars of innovation – culture, vision, strategy, and talent – we position ourselves for future success by empowering our employees to explore new ideas and embrace emerging trends. At Polo Custom Products, we hope to serve as an example that a company can honor their traditions while still embracing the future.