SUCCESSFUL INNOVATION IN THE FLOAT GLASS PROCESS
The case history described illustrates characteristics of successful innovations. Although the manufacture of glass dates back to the ancient Egyptians, centuries elapsed without any innovation in the method of production. The float glass process, which is used by all the major manufacturers of plate glass, was new concept developed by Pilkington in 1954 whereby molten glass is fed continuously on to the surface of a bath of molten tin on which it floats. The production method eliminated waste and reduced the production costs of previous methods.
The breakthrough would not have taken place without Dr L. Pilkington, who was able to transmit his enthusiasm and optimism for the project to his fellow workers. Additionally, he received the support of the companyĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s top management even when costs began to escalate during the development phase. At one time it looked as though the project was destined to fail. Pilkington wrote,
On our first production plant we made unusable glass for one year and two months. I had to report regularly to the board and every month put in a requisition to justify another monthĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s expenditure of Ă‚ÂŁ100,000 [US$179,400]. It was a tremendous credit that they gave unwavering support throughout.
Even though their existing product was under no threat from a competitive innovation, the Pilkington board was willing to encourage innovation for its own sake. Dr Pilkington played a major role in maintaining this support through his relentless optimism. His membership of the Pilkington family was an obvious advantage, as he had immediate access to many of the board members.
In this case, as in many others, it is common to experience difficulties in moving from pilot plant to full-scale production. When the first production plant was constructed, Pilkington notes, Ă˘â‚¬ËśWe were woefully unaware of the magnitude of the problems we were going to face when we reached a mass production scale.Ă˘â‚¬â„˘
Twiss (1992) makes the following observation about Pilkington: Ă˘â‚¬ËśIt is interesting to note that many of the difficulties experienced arose from the absence of a theoretical understanding of the process involved, which followed rather than preceded development.Ă˘â‚¬â„˘ Twiss contradicts the sequential process outlined above which describes innovation as a process that begins with research followed by applied research before development is commenced. He continues, the higher-risk approach where development is commenced before the theoretical base is established often leads to the most successful innovations as well as some of the most notable failuresĂ˘â‚¬â„˘.
The Pilkington case illustrates the deficiencies of a project selection system based on a costĂ˘â‚¬â€śbenefit analysis. The difficulties with float glass development occurred at a late stage in development. A more cautious approach might have delayed the construction of a production plant until the firm had gathered more information about the technology. This might have had the effect of reducing the production costs and delaying the commercial launch. History has shown that the project that took seven years to develop and cost Ă‚ÂŁ4m (US$7.9m) before the first glass was available for sale. However, it was an outstanding success that reduced production costs by one quarter and plant size by over a third.
Save your time - order a paper!
Get your paper written from scratch within the tight deadline. Our service is a reliable solution to all your troubles. Place an order on any task and we will take care of it. You wonâ€™t have to worry about the quality and deadlinesOrder Paper Now