Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Two Birds, One stone - Green Innovation

Sometimes, finding the impetus for innovation means asking what can be done to help the world. After all, to create an organization-wide culture of innovation, an unarguably believable and necessary mission statement like, "let's save the world" can come in very handy. Firing employees up about environmental initiatives is exactly what allowed five companies to reduce costs, improve productivity and contributed to being on CIO's (www.cio.com) top 100 list of companies who created value through IT-enabled innovation. Here, two of those companies will be briefly profiled to illustrate how a focus on sustainability can encourage innovation. To read more, see the full article by Levinson (2006), which is linked below.

Goodyear's (www.goodyear.com) experimentation phase with new tire designs has, in the past, meant subjecting tires to the road, over and over, under different conditions, to assess damages. In the past, this meant hours of driving cars around a track to see how tires held up because the math involved in computer modeling this process was notoriously difficult. This slow, expensive, environmentally damaging process has had no alternative--until now. Goodyear has developed a computer modeling system that virtually tests tire designs. The process is faster, cheaper and generally better than the old system. It has reduced the amount of tires tested overall and thus saved many hours of spinning tires that go nowhere. The environmental effect is gigantic because of the reduction in oil, emissions and reduced manufacturing demands. Now Goodyear can do most testing through computer software, which means they get products to market faster, cheaper and with less environmental damage. Engineers can also perform more tests and have developed far more products (see, for instance: LINK). (Levinson, 2006)

JEA, a Florida-based public utility that produces electricity by using natural gas and oil (www.jea.com), put into place an artificial intelligence based on neural nets. The software determines the optimal amount of fuel given current oil and natural gas prices to produce the optimal amount of electricity. It also ensures that emissions stay within government guidelines. Knowledge management greatly assisted this effort, as databases of historical decisions and operating data help to guide the software's decision-making process. The result was decreased operating costs, more consistently staying within emission requirements and dramatic savings in oil and natural gas purchasing. The sheer number of factors involved in the combustion process combined with the need to calculate the highest profit margins when oil and natural gas prices skyrocketed meant that company saved money while being environmentally friendly. The cost was $800,000 and within eight weeks that cost was recovered. Furthermore, the same software will be applied to JEA's water business. (Levinson, 2006)

For full details: Levinson, M. (2006) "Imagination at Work." CIO, Aug 15. Available:

The full list of CIO 100 Award Winners can be found here: LINK

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