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Innovation Keeps Corning in a Glass by Itself

Post Time:Apr 19,2012Classify:Company NewsView:376

Over the last 160 years, specialty-glass and ceramics manufacturer Corning Inc. (IW 500: 136) has learned a thing or two about innovation.

For one thing, Corning -- which in the late 1800s developed the glass encasement for Thomas Edison's incandescent lamp -- has learned that manufacturers must be "nimble" in today's cutthroat global economy, says Jim Clappin, president of Corning Glass Technologies.

 

Case in point: When mobile-phone makers challenged Corning to develop a cover glass that would be more durable than soda-lime glass or plastic, Corning came up with its popular Gorilla Glass in about three months.

"That's three months from the thought of making a product to actually introducing it into the supply chain," says Clappin. "That's the nature of the markets that we're in."

 

Launched in 2007, Gorilla Glass today is found on more than 600 million consumer electronic devices, and is climbing toward $1 billion in annual sales.

While Clappin acknowledges that the timeline for the development of Gorilla Glass was "faster than anything we'd ever done to date," Corning's stage-gate innovation process is structured to enable that kind of nimble response.

 

Throughout the innovation process, Corning involves its R&D, engineering, manufacturing and marketing leaders and its customers -- not to mention Corning's senior management.

"I'd say we have at least monthly reviews of our key innovation programs, and [CEO Wendell Weeks] attends every single one," Clappin says.

 

The involvement of senior leaders enables quick decision-making and "ensures that everything gets an intense vetting," Clappin adds.

 

That's not to say that every decision is going to result in a homerun -- or even a single. But over the past century and a half, Corning has learned that "if you're going to innovate, you have to expect a fair amount of failure."

 

"And you try to be smart enough to know when to shoot something in the head, so to speak, so you don't waste your valuable innovation dollars," Clappin adds.

Source: www.industryweek.comAuthor: shangyi

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