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Ampacet--Collaboration For Innovation

As companies started using collaboration to keep track of projects, a new advantage appeared—collaboration cut the innovation time.

In the past, innovation was compartmentalized, controlled top-down by a small team of researchers, designers and engineers. Collaboration tools have changed that model. At many companies now, innovative ideas are coming from anywhere within the company. Some companies are even reaching outside the company to suppliers, customers and retired employees.

Part of the reason to bring teams together through collaboration is to make sure the project doesn’t fail. “The global innovation success rate is only 4 percent,” says Dave Lassister, a director at software provider Microsoft Corp.’s U.S. Manufacturing Sector. “That’s why it’s imperative for companies to have better processes in place for large project management.” He notes that large capital projects can fail if they’re not correctly managed.

Ampacet Corp. was struggling with product development. The Tarrytown, N.Y., company—which makes color additives for plastics—runs its research and development (R&D) out of five facilities supporting 17 manufacturing
sites. Each R&D shop ran its own product development structure. The lack of a consistent, shared development structure bogged down innovation.

Ampacet wanted to accelerate its product development cycle through better collaboration, increased process automation and more consistent workflows. While doing so, the company also hoped to reduce product development costs and improve customer satisfaction.

Victor Mimeault, Ph.D., senior vice president of technical and strategic procurement, identified several key performance indicators (KPIs) for managing the R&D process more efficiently. Not surprisingly, most of them involved the use of better technology to support better communication and feedback.

To support communication and collaboration across the five R&D sites—and to include outside stakeholders—Ampacet turned to products from Microsoft’s Office 2007 system, including SharePoint Server 2007. Once all of the R&D shops were sharing information, it became clear which projects were most likely to succeed. Those were then placed first in line. “The solution allows us to improve product innovation by identifying the most promising ideas from around the world,” says Mimeault. “Now, we work on the projects with the highest likelihood of commercial success.”

Mimeault notes that this change will have a profound impact on the company’s bottom line. He estimates that Ampacet will now be able to develop at least 12 to 15 additional new products during the coming three years. As a result, Mimeault anticipates increased revenues of $60 million during those years.

Related Feature - Collaboration Gains Traction in Project Management
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