Branching out from forestry brings rewards
INNOVATION PROFILE/Coillte/Vodafone:MANY ORGANISATIONS boast about their innovative cultures but few have put in place structured innovation processes in the way that Coillte has.
Best known for its role as the state forestry company, Coillte has established innovation boards in each of its four divisions to gather new ideas and put the best ones into action.
“We are now in our second year of having a formal process to encourage and foster innovation throughout the company,” says group director of innovation Ciaran Black.
“Each division now has its own innovation board and we have established a simple online system for staff to input their ideas. We try to encourage the generation of as many ideas by individuals, teams and groups. We take these ideas and select the best ones using a fairly informal and loose process and progress them onwards.”
He believes this proactive stance sets Coillte apart from many other companies.
“We don’t just wait for ideas – we go out and look for them. If you look at most companies, innovation is always happening in them but we have formalised it and made out a structure on it. We have set targets for our innovation boards and we have also set targets for revenue we want to achieve from products and services which didn’t exist before now.”
This may not sound particularly impressive if you think of Coillte as purely a forestry company but it is far more than that as head of corporate communications Tom Byrne explains.
“Coillte is a commercial semi-state company and our mission is to pursue the full commercial development of the company. Our core purpose is to enrich lives locally, nationally and globally through the innovative and sustainable management of natural resources.
“We used to be almost 100 per cent reliant on log sales to a variety of customers,” he adds. “But there are now four distinct strands to the company – panel products, forestry, land-based businesses, and renewable energy.”
The Coillte Panel Products (CPP) division consists of SmartPly Europe in Waterford which produces oriented strand board (OSB) and Medite Europe in Tipperary which produces medium density fibreboard (MDF).
“Medite is the market leader in its area and its brand has become a bit like Hoover and Biro in terms of its association with the product,” says Byrne. “It is mainly used for things like kitchens and building fit-outs and so on. OSB is more of a structural construction product and is used a lot in prefab buildings. Interestingly, it is now being used as a finished product as well as in a range of commercial applications.”