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Northern Opportunities: A Pretty Good Deal
Ryan Gilmore was frustrated with high school and considered dropping out. Then he learned of the dual credit programs offered by the Northern Opportunities… [read more]
Open to Everyone
Nicole Schartner says she is glad to be in the Power Engineering program at GPRC (Grande Prairie Regional College) Fairview Campus not only because she… [read more]
Fort St. John: Energized & Ready to Roll
Priding itself on being a family friendly community, Fort St. John still manages to find plenty of room for industry and business. “There’s tons… [read more]
Education Expands its Role
With an increased labour shortage looming, governments and educators in the West are scrambling to find measures to offset what could be, and in some cases… [read more]
Long term planning.
Sound planning is an important component of business success. Many businesses plan between one and five years ahead with some assurance but beyond year five, uncertainties often make reliable planning problematic.
Uncertainties include the vagaries of the business and commodity cycles, shifting markets and foreign exchange rates, changing consumer trends and environmental standards, a tight labour market, estimating reserves and depletion rates for non-renewable natural resources, disruptive new technologies, or end of product cycle/demand for your services. The inability to predict these uncertainties frequently means that business plans do not extend into the long term, and the firm has no process for effectively analysing opportunities and evaluating trends. However, tools do exist to aid in long term and very long term planning. Perhaps the most useful of these is called Foresight.
CRI and the Foresight Process
In the Autumn of 2011, the Centre for Research & Innovation led an exercise in very long term planning for the Peace Country. The process started with the drafting of a question that defines the planning horizon, the stakeholders and desired outcomes. The CRI’s question was: “By 2050, what must the Alberta Peace Country offer its citizens, stakeholders, industries and global markets to be socially responsible and economically prosperous?”
The CRI then invited approximately 40 participants to identify the trends in a workshop setting. In all, 20 trends were identified (full list available on the CRI website). From the list the delegates agreed that Geo-economics and Regional availability of appropriate knowledge and skills are the most important to the region.
The next step was to create four scenarios around these critical uncertainties. The scenarios described four possible outcomes: (1) the best possible situation, whereby the region is the beneficiary of favourable geo-economics and appropriate knowledge and skills; (2) the worst possible situation, whereby the region faces unfavourable geo-economics without the right knowledge and skills; (3) a situation whereby the region has favourable geo-economic conditions but lacks the knowledge and skills to take advantage of these conditions; and (4) a situation whereby the region has the right knowledge and skills but the geo-economics are against us.
The 40 delegates then divided into four groups to develop these four scenarios. Delegates needed to debate the constellation of trends and circumstances required for the full development of each scenario by 2050. The process also required the creation of a timeline describing those circumstances. The end result was a ‘story’ that described the trends and events which will unfold if the scenario comes to pass.
Nobody knows which scenario will unfold, but it is certain that geo-economics and knowledge/skills will have a substantial affect on the region within the next four decades, and the four scenarios will likely capture many of the future possibilities. Managers who are aware of these scenarios will be in a better position to recognize trends as they develop, and to appropriately respond to opportunities and threats.
Gary Christopherson, is an adjunct staff member to the Centre for Research & Innovation.
The Peace Country is a remarkable region! The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has identified Grande Prairie as Canada’s most entrepreneurial city for two years running – 2010 and 2011. Industry Canada tells us that the region originates 40% of patent inquiries within the province of Alberta, despite having only 5% of the population.
The Peace Country has done spectacularly well with innovation voucher awards from the Alberta government. So what does this mean for the Peace Country? The Peace Country economy is based on three primary industries – agriculture, forestry and energy. Typically, the region adds little or no value to its exports. Our products are therefore subject to the swings of the commodity cycles. Commodity sellers are defined as price takers, meaning we have little control over our revenues.
To increase profits we must reduce expenditures and increase efficiencies. The pursuit of efficiency has often been the focus of our regional industries. Their success is part of the reason why resource extraction in the Peace is among the most efficient in the world.
This efficiency has come at a cost, however. Smaller resource companies and farms are merged into larger ones. Most communities have struggled to maintain their population. Decision making has become centralized.
In future, it is likely that the biggest economic gains to be made in the Peace Country will come from adding value to our resources, and in developing the ideas, which we have in abundance. This diversification will shift the economy from one based on commodities and price taking, to one based on differentiated products where we can set prices.
Ideas, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurialism are the raw materials supporting economic diversification. Economist Paul Romer, writes: “We are not used to thinking of ideas as economic goods, but they are surely the most significant ones that we produce. The only way for us to produce more economic value – and thereby generate economic growth – is to find ever more valuable ways to make use of the objects available to us.” Indeed, ideas are the ‘commodities’ of the information age.
This new, innovative and knowledgebased economy will bring benefits to the region. Knowledge-based industries are minimally affected by boom and bust commodity cycles. Wages are typically high and environmental impacts low. Workers are often highly educated.
The goal of the Centre for Research & Innovation is to make the Peace Country the best place to be an innovator, thereby contributing to economic diversification and growth. We help innovators take their idea through the New Product Development process. Steps along this process include generating ideas and idea filtering, developing and testing prototypes, researching markets, protecting intellectual property, obtaining investment, developing market plans, making business decisions and launching the new product in the marketplace.
Peace Country residents with ideas having commercial potential can contact the CRI for assistance. A number of our clients’ products are already in the marketplace. Some have been spectacularly successful. For example, Rhinokore, which has long advertised on the back cover of this magazine, is testament to the innovation and entrepreneurial acumen of Peace Country business.
Gary Christopherson is an adjunct staff member to the Centre for Research & Innovation.
The holidays are back with a vengeance and it’s time once again to spread tinsel as well as good cheer around the office. But what can you give to the busy person on-the go that you haven’t already given year after year? How can you wow your office mates or the big boss without breaking the bank? Well, here are some cool and innovative gift ideas that you may not have thought of.
Smartpens are remarkable little devices that not only transmit everything you write from your notepad directly to your computer or hand-held device but also simultaneously record the audio in the room around you. They’re compact, easy to hold and maneuver and are available for around a hundred bucks.
Smartpens could be especially convenient for busy students or for those taking important notes out in the field or at an important meeting. They can even be used to draw or doodle if the user wants to express themselves in a more creative fashion.
Smartpens look like many traditional pens but are vastly different in that they have a tiny infrared camera right under the pen point that takes moving pictures of what you’re writing. That information is then wirelessly transferred to your computer or other device for later use.
The secret behind the functionality of Smartpens though is the use of special paper and the Dot Positioning System. This system consists of very unusual paper which is covered in a series of, well you guessed it, dots.
Although virtually invisible to the naked eye, the dots are organized in such a fashion that as the pen moves over them it recognizes its exact position and recalls the information recorded there, either audibly or in an LED display on the surface of the pen.
The paper also includes printed navigational buttons, similar to those found on a tape recorder that include the options to record, jump to another point or bookmark specific points in your work for later use. Smartpens even have the capability to translate your work into different languages making this the perfect gift for just about anybody on your shopping list.
Would you say your boss is a…character? Are your office partners unique or even perhaps quirky, in some way? Well here’s a gift that will tell them exactly what you think about them, but in a fun way.
Caricatures are brilliant works of art created from personal photos that capture the likeness of any person or persons, but with a comical slant. So the boss with a passion for golf may be depicted as slicing the ball into the woods with a surprised look and uttering the expression “fore!”, or the manager with a taste for outdoor activities could be pictured fly fishing and uttering the familiar “a bad day fly fishing is better than a good day in the office.” Or even just a picture of the person smiling while working at their desk or on the phone would work nicely. These are simple examples of how the art could be devised but how your quarry is captured and represented is purely up to you.
Caricatures are highly personalized gifts that show a genuine liking and interest in your colleague’s character. Because of this it is of the utmost importance that you select the appropriate photograph from which the art will be created so that the desired traits are highlighted in the art. But be careful! A gift of this nature could be construed as overly critical or inappropriate so when working with the artist make sure and highlight desirable and humorous traits so you’ll still have a job in the new year.
Caricatures are available through various on-line and local sources and can be created starting at around $100, depending on the type of matting and frame you choose for your work of art.
Since the arrival of the chair over 4500 years ago human beings have been striving to improve it by making it more comfortable, supportive and beautiful. Years of research and development and countless hours of sitting have led us to great advances in seating technology and chairs that rival or perhaps even exceed the thrones of the mighty pharaohs themselves.
Although massage chairs carry a lofty price tag (beginning at around $150 and extending into the thousands) they are undoubtedly an amazing and generous gift for the executive in your life.
Some lower-end models offer multi-speed massaging with lumbar support and sensors that recharge the batteries when the chair isn’t in use, while others include features like heated surfaces and remote controls. The upper level chairs, found in the $2000- 3000 range are nothing short of spectacular. Many of these include infrared heat which penetrates deeply into the muscle tissues, and air bladders that inflate and deflate gently massaging your back and legs. Further attributes include foot and calf massage, stretching mechanisms that decompress the spine, a variety of massage programs and even a zero gravity feature that puts you into a virtually weightless position.
Although most of us need to work to survive who says we can’t work in comfort and style?
Winston Churchill said, “why stand when you can sit”.
Obviously, you’ll need deep pockets to spring for the more expensive chairs but wouldn’t it look nice under the tree? And perhaps if you play your cards right, you’ll be able to slip into that cozy chair yourself for a little relaxation time when no one is looking.
Last month’s Tech Talk introduced the first five of Scott Berkun’s 10 Myths of Innovation. In his recent book, “The Myths of Innovation” Scott deliberately sets out to break the mythical ways in which we may think about innovation, so that we can be ‘free to try and change the world.’ What follows are myths six through 10.
Myth #6 – Good ideas are hard to find. It is universally accepted by psychologists and creativity researchers that humans are built for creative thinking. “The difference between creatives and others is more attitude and experience than nature.” This is a point that we emphasize in our Idea to Implementation Workshop at the Centre for Research & Innovation. One of the quickest ways to restore our creative nature in the workplace is to stop the misuse of brainstorming by eliminating the judgment of ideas and all negativity around an idea’s value. Start by simply generating ideas without filtering or denigrating them. Idea-generation processes like brainstorming should be fun.
Myth #7 – Your boss knows more about innovation than you. Why would she? The manager is charged with producing an outcome (product or service) probably with directions to do that efficiently.
In fact, the need for improved productivity is a common story within business pages and is a focus of the AB Government’s efforts related to productivity. But innovation often runs counter to productivity and thus needs to be managed. Berkun suggests five challenges to managing innovation. First – life of ideas: someone must be responsible for the idea. Secondly – environment: someone must create an environment the will “put innovation at the centre”. Thirdly – protection: as Berkun sees it, it is the manager’s unique responsibility to protect the new idea while it develops. The fourth is execution – all steps (i.e. concept, prototypes, production models, market ready product) are necessary. Finally, innovations require funding and leadership to get it there, that is, persuasion.
Myth #8 – The best ideas win. Simply not true. Ask any Apple user; and remember what happened to Beta video tapes. What about Imperial measurement and the Metric system? Need more be said about the QWERTY keyboard and how stuck we are in its use when a number of more efficient key arrangements have been developed? Just because you have a ‘best idea’ don’t expect acceptance.
Myth #9 – Problems and solutions. Burken suggests that problems should be seen as an invitation to look beyond the obvious. While that may seem unnecessary for everyday problems, it may lead to solutions that have greater use than first imagined. “Framing problems to help solve them” usually means time and effort well spent.
Myth #10 – Innovation is always good. Is an innovation good if it solves your problems [and those of your customers] or makes you money? Definitely. But what if it also causes people to lose their jobs? . . . The impact of innovations can be unpredictable (DDT, the Internet). Sometimes their impact is sudden, while for others it takes years. Occasionally, the ‘Law of Unintended Consequences’ prevails.
There they are – The Myths of Innovation.
Not only is his book a good read, but it is full of practical tips on how to be an innovator or an innovative company. The journey begins with the decision.
Dr. Bruce Rutley is the Director of the Centre for Research & Innovation at Grande Prairie Regional College.
Innovation continues to be an important part of the way we need to conduct business. All too often however, we think of innovation as being new technology or technology commercialization – developing that new product and getting it into the marketplace.
Innovation is also different from invention. Relatively speaking, new inventions are few and far between while innovation – the combination of existing ideas or things for new purposes – is more common.
Scott Berkun, in his recent book “The Myths of Innovation” describes what he calls the ten myths of innovation. What follows are the first five myths, and my commentary on each.
Myth #1 – The myth of epiphany. Quite simply, while the ‘eureka’ moment is what many innovators seek, it is most often only the moment when the last piece of the puzzle was put in place. Or maybe it was the original inspiration. But rarely does the finished product appear in that moment. It is only after much hard work that the innovation is complete.
Myth #2 – We understand the history of innovation. The presence of a dominant new technology is often just the latest step in the development of many versions of that technology. For instance, the domination of VHS over Beta only to be rendered obsolete by CDs which was then replaced by MP3s and so forth. It is easy to be clueless about what came before – just ask a teenager about dial telephone. You know what they say about cultures that don’t know their history.
Myth #3 – There is a method for innovation. Essentially what Berkun says is that innovation starts by starting – it doesn’t really matter where. There isn’t a method as much as “there are patterns and frameworks that can be useful”. Work hard in a specific direction and or hard work with direction change is normal. Many innovations begin with curiosity, driven by the quest for wealth or money, or out of necessity. “While there are no maps, there are attitudes that help.” So, find the paths of innovation that work for you and get help with the others.
Myth #4 – People love new ideas. “Every great idea in history has the big, red stamp of rejection on its face.” So … perseverance is a necessity, but remember, becoming delusional about your idea can be catastrophic to your financial position. Managing your fears, excitement and doubt is imperative while you develop your product. While you may love your new idea expecting that there will be many roadblocks, setbacks and disappointments when you start will enable you to manage those setbacks more realistically. “Frustration + innovation = entrepreneurship.”
Myth #5 – The lone inventor. “Who invented the light bulb? No, it wasn’t Thomas Edison. Two lesser-known inventor, Humphrey Davy and Joseph Swan both developed working electric lights well before Edison.” Don’t think you can do it alone, because you can’t. Managing your help is the secret to success.
Next month, the remaining five myths of innovation as described by Scott Berkun.
Dr. Bruce Rutley is the Director of the Centre for Research & Innovation at Grande Prairie Regional College.
A Heat Trace System That’s Greening Things Up.
In the North, heat is a commodity valued by both residents and industry. While it is easy enough to heat a home, there are locations where heat is needed but not as readily available and providing it comes at a cost to the bottom line as well as the environment.
Cataflow Technologies has a solution. Seven years of development have produced a technology that converts energy from its gas form to heated glycol and electricity. And while there are many potential applications ranging from in-floor heating to RVs, the company is currently focusing on industrial users that need heat for flow lines, pipe lines, well heads, BOP’s, separators, tanks (including production, propane and pop tanks), tank farm manifolds, buildings, battery banks and walkways.
“The biggest thing about the technology is that we’re utilizing a flameless heater and what we’re doing is we’re harvesting the heat out of there and converting it over to a more friendly type of medium,” said Cataflow business manager Delbert Benterud.
“The other interesting thing we’re doing is we’re generating electricity as well so it’s completely self-powering. All that you need in order to utilize this is either natural gas or propane.”
And in smaller quantities than other products, he added. It’s efficiency allows the larger unit burns six litres of propane a day and the smaller one burns three.
One of the biggest advantages in the age of lower emissions and environmental accountability is that “pretty much everything” is burned off. Testing showed close to zero emissions on Cataflow’s equipment. There is an extremely small amount of methane unburned.
“You can run this inside your building safely without it being vented to the outside,” said Benterud.
“When you look at the CO2 emissions of what they’re doing out there in order to achieve the heat trace that they have right now they will vent atmosphere, on average, 2-million cubes a year, which is about 750 tonnes of CO2 emissions, which translates in carbon tax form to $15/tonne.”
The possible savings can amount to $10,000/year – and that doesn’t account for the long -term environmental costs.
Inside the stand-alone heater box, glycol from a reservoir is moved through the proprietary heat exchangers while at the same time, electricity is being generated which powers an electric pump that moves the glycol. The only moving part on the equipment is the DC motor and the flow is even, without high pressure.
At present, models are being built with the focus on heating but in the future, said Benterud, models will be built that produce excess power of 40 and 60 watts initially. When that happens, workers could tie their instruments into that instead of having to have a generator to create the needed power. They newer models are about a year away from being released, said Benterud.
Some units have already been in the field for two years and some have been located in “problem sites” and Benterud said, they have performed “very well”.
“We’re now at the point of CSA approval…and we’re ready to move into production and we’re ramping up to do that now,” said Benterud.
Into the future, the technology could be applied to home heating, commercial heating, RVs and campers. The possibility for those applications is promising, particularly the capacity to generate surplus energy to power batteries and other devises.
The company has also been invited to participate in a McMaster University high efficiency home project over the next two years.
“We need to explore that a bit more…as of yet we don’t know everything that will be involved in that but it’s very exciting,” said Benterud.
“I believe it is the way of the future. It’s just a matter of getting things properly sized for the applications.”
Cataflow Technologies is a Grande Prairie company. They can be reached at 780-532-7070 or through their website at www.cataflowtech.com
Quick response or QR codes are making fast work for businesses and consumers alike. Whether used as a tracking mechanism to keep a sharp eye on response rates to marketing, or simply as an express and convenient avenue to your favorite web page, QR codes are becoming more and more prevalent in our fast-paced, everything-at-a-glance world.
So what are QR codes you might be asking yourself? Finding their origins in Asian auto manufacturing and initially employed as a means to quickly scan the contents of a sealed auto parts container, QR codes are a two dimensional series of lines and shapes often resembling a maze found on a coffee shop place mat. But far more complicated than that, these bar codes often contain vast amounts of information that can give businesses and consumers a means to convey and interpret information faster and more conveniently than ever before. In short, QR codes are giving individuals a quick and easy way to read, interpret and transfer information.
Some QR codes are a series of simple shapes and patterns while others are far more complex, some even incorporating a business’ logo into the visual design. It all depends on the goals of the QR creator and the purpose of the code itself. Codes contain vast amounts of information, the larger the code design the more information it contains and each part of it is designed to contain a specific functional element.
For example, part of the design contains data dictating the resolution parameters by which certain devices, such as smart phones are able to scan the code. Information such as this assures that devices are able to effectively read and decipher the information contained in the QR code. This is a particularly important piece of data in lieu of the fact that many QR codes are created with the intention of marketing products or providing web links to smart phone users. Inaccurate information contained in the code pertaining to a given device’s abilities and reader software will ultimately render the code useless.
Another area of the QR code ensures proper positioning and alignment of the information being processed which can help avoid errors in the reading and interpretation of data. While another important element known as the quiet area, a blank region surrounding the graphic itself, which makes it easier for devices to scan and read the information contained therein.
Quick response codes can contain as much as 2953 bytes of information including the content as well as error and correction information. This vast informational capacity can be attributed to the fact that a QR code stores information on horizontal as well as vertical axes unlike typical bar codes. Consequently, Quick response codes can be deigned to convey a wide array of information and serve numerous purposes.
Although QR codes were initially used as a quick and easy means to track merchandise, their compact nature and potential wealth of data has broadened the potential for their use in various applications.
In business, QR codes can be used in any of a number of ways. On business cards, for example, QR codes can be scanned by smart phones to add personal information which would then be saved automatically into the phone’s contacts. Or perhaps you want to provide detailed directions to a remote location out in the field, QR codes can provide all of that and work in sync with a gadget’s GPS capability. Or imagine providing a QR code with your product that links to a video showing detailed assembly instructions.
In the world of entertainment, codes can be printed on posters which give vital information about concert events or restaurant locations. All a user would have to do is to scan their hand-held device over the quick response code to get dates, dinner specials and locations of desirable events. Or perhaps you’re a musician who wants to give potential fans a quick snippet of your new album, QR codes can be used to connect them to a U-tube video.
In Japan, QR codes are already being used to inform concerned consumers of where and when produce was grown. But how about codes used on store fronts or even on grocery carts themselves revealing daily specials and sale items? Truly, the applications for quick response codes are almost endless but what’s the downside?
First and foremost is the obvious dilemma if you can’t afford or don’t have access to a smart phone. Although many hand held devices are quickly becoming inexpensive, the data plans are not. One can easily spend over a 1000 dollars a year on a data plan and many simply cannot afford such an extravagance. As a result there will always be those who are not privy to the wealth of information that is available via QR codes. This reality will need to be addressed by businesses if they want to avoid losing those ever-so-important consumer dollars.
Secondly, there are those who simply prefer the good ole’ fashion methods of print and word of mouth to the more technologically advanced forms of communication. Many of these folks will not be privy to the myriad messages being displayed in code and will simply be unable to see advertising that is intended to sell them goods and services.
So what if you’re an organization with the goal of using QR codes to attract new clients? How do you go about creating your own QR codes? Well, there are services and devices available to help you with this task, some free for the asking while others are quite affordable. Because there is such a broad number of choices in terms of the quantity and quality of content, prices to generate QR codes will vary as well. Ultimately, organizations will need to establish who their target audience is and what they have to gain from creating Quick Response codes before committing to any given device or service.
When it comes to security, what could be better than real time images of what’s going on and who might be lurking where they shouldn’t be?
Several years ago when pipelines were being bombed, one enterprising small business set about to provide stealthy security that would capture images in real time.
“There’s a lot of challenges with that,” said Eagle Vision partner Cole Busche. “There’s a lot of locations over a lot of country so how do you remotely get an image of somebody doing something wrong?”
The development wasn’t always easy but good research, persistence and dedication have paid off and innovation gave birth to T.R.U. Security and the Talon Reconnaissance Unit.
Since that time they have been successful in developing a product that does just what that want and have recently taken that a step further to create a ‘lite’ version that can be used by homeowners, businesses, property owners – well the list goes on.
One of the motivations, said Busche, is that he was angry that someone making the point that they are unhappy with what an oil company is doing but endangering the public through the means they chose. The problem was personal and so was the solution.
“My partner Ben Haab, he was really keen on it and he did a lot of research and we knew we could do it, we just had to get the right components together and build something,” said Busche.
It had to be low power consumption so it could work anywhere and didn’t need to be on a plant site where there is power. It had to be stealthy and blend in to the environment. It had to be able to see at night. It had to be motion sensitive. It had to remotely provide real-time high-resolution images.
The solar panel that powers the full version was designed so that it would run on the shortest day of the year in overcast skies with enough power to do the job and in fact, Busche is confident that it would run for a month without any sun.
“With some advice from a pipeline security company we built it and we nailed it in my opinion,” said Busche. In part, that was possible because of the skills of main technician Ben Knutson.
Testing in real world applications was very successful, said Busche. “We spent the first month tweaking and then the rest of the time it just ran.”
The original product won the Northern Business and Technology Awards – Technology of the Year Award in January.
“That really got us a huge amount of exposure,” said Busche.
The system senses motion, takes a still picture which is sent directly to a cell phone and a website making images accessible as events happen. Each customer has their own secure access to the website. Customers know immediately if someone is on their location and can respond appropriately but have the option to set the system to send images only during hours of choice.
Initially they were gathering the components and building the systems themselves – a very expensive venture.
They are now able to have the systems factory built and have just completed testing the lite version, which is working well.
“This lite version is really far less cost and it will be targeted at businesses or homeowners…or people who have a remote cabin,” said Busche.
The caveat is that the lite version only works on the Rogers network and so needs to be located in an area where the reception is strong. Those wanting the more robust version can still get that.
“What makes the other version more expensive is that we have a large solar panel, a good large battery pack and a stand and it’s disguised as a key piece of oilfield equipment,” said Busche.
Development of the Talon Reconnaissance Unit, like many other new products was expensive and challenging but it also afforded Busche and his partners a chance to work with new technology in a way that had never been used before, something Busche found interesting and stimulating.
“We’re at a real exciting time and could have these things out in a really short time,” said Busche. He believes it is the ultimate in remote security with a broad base of potential applications. And it is one of the great examples of what a small business can do when they have the determination and skills to take on a challenge.
There are rules and regs and common sense and protocols and any number of other factors that go into safety, but arguably one of the most important is the ability to be proactive. It’s that ability that spurred Randy Hansen into action. Instead of accepting that fall protection was the best practice for him, he designed a piece of equipment that theoretically will take ‘fall protection’ to ‘fall prevention’.
“We’re in the fuel hauling business for Weibe Transport – I’m the shop supervisor and of course fall protection is mandated by OH&S,” said Hansen. “Rather than the traditional approach to fall protection which means everybody tries to catch you after you fall, I found that to be a rather silly way to look at fall protection, I set out to devise a way to prevent the fall rather than catch you after you fall.”
The result was the RAP (Retractable Access Platform). It’s, simply put, a retractable fence mounted on a scissor lift that is deployed to prevent falls. It’s not complicated and Hansen says that in comparison to the more traditional approach of brining in an engineer to deal with anchor poles and cables, his approach has cost benefits and efficiencies the engineered approach does not.
“Typically, a scissor lift is within it’s own right a platform. You can work over the side so you reach over the railing from the scissor lift and do work. In our business, because we work on hatches on top of tanks, sensors that type of thing, we are actually standing on top of our work surface so what we needed was something that creates the corral around us and is not in fact a platform under us.
“Essentially, you pull the scissor lift up beside the tank, a walkway or platform folds down and it rests on the tank. Now that gives you access out onto the tank, and then a railing system unfolds and that extends out over the tank area,” said Hansen.
A very standard scissor lift with a 30-inch width was chosen so that it was maneuverable in the confines it was likely to be needed in. Other things like this exist, said Hansen, but they are three-wheel extendable ladders, with a fixed platform.
“The problem with that is that it takes another bay,” said Hansen. The RAP allows someone to work in the space a mechanic would pull his toolbox into.
It’s a completely simple and completely different approach that yields a multifunction piece of equipment that, of which one component is or should be a standard piece of equipment, he explained.
After dreaming about the initial idea, Hansen went to his employer who gave his blessing to proceed. Hansen had a welder work up what turned out to be a very successful prototype.
“We went ahead and build two more,” said Hansen. There were then three Weibe shops, each with its own RAP. Safety officers investigated the prototypes said Hansen who reports it was given a safety approval.
An engineer was also brought in to check the RAP out with similar positive results. The engineer, said Hansen, said he could engineer the RAP at which point the apparatus was validated.
The process from idea to manufacture isn’t always as simple as the idea and in this case, Hansen said he found it helpful to have an educated organization on his side when it came to developing his idea, particularly in terms of getting a patent.
At this stage, the RAP has been engineered and is patent pending and Hansen hopes others will see this in the same way he does – as a fully functioning safety innovation.
“We’re prepared now to release a circular on it, of course, presentation is a big part of any game and we want to do that right,” said Hansen.
The experts say that to have continued success in business you need to nurture innovation by building a culture that is open to new ideas. Every business needs a Don Quixote who is prepared to dream the impossible dream. But if innovators are dreamers, are they also problem solvers?
If we agree that the most effective innovators don’t wait for problems to arise but rather fix what isn’t broken and seek to improve on things that have no apparent deficit, then Alberta Einstein was correct when he said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”.
When we choose to explore rather than apply, these are the behaviours and choices that drive innovation. It would also be true then that business is about solving problems. Getting an education and developing professional expertise is therefore about learning how to solve problems.
So if you have a job, it means you solve some problem that business would have if you weren’t there. The ability to solve problems is certainly a high-value skill, and the more difficult the problems you can solve the more value you provide.
But innovation is about much more. Innovation is about providing products and services and capabilities people don’t even realize they lack. Think about the automobile, the airplane, the light bulb, the personal computer, the internet, the mobile phone, WiFi, Post-It Notes, ATM’s and i-Pads. None of these products addressed any widely recognized problem.
Rather than being solutions, these innovations are things that have enhanced our lives, enhancements so dramatic that we would now consider it a problem to be without them. Few of us would want to try to live without computers and cell phones and cars, but until someone dreamed them up and figured out how to make them real, we didn’t miss them.
Innovators do need to solve problems in order to create these breakthroughs. But if they waited for some problem to be recognized before pursuing their ideas, they might still be waiting. Henry Ford famously said that if he’d asked consumers what they wanted (i.e. what problem needed solving) they would have told him a faster horse.
Exactly what problem did Facebook solve? Yet look at its value today. Innovators are those who don’t have time to wait for problems to arise. They’re the dreamers who as George Bernard Shaw put it, “do not see things as they are, “…and say ‘Why?’ but…dream things that never were and say ‘Why not?’”.
Problem solving is essential to innovation, just as it is to business. But if your approach to innovation is to first identify problems, and you’re dismissing ideas that don’t meet that limited criterion, innovation will be slow at best. You need to imagine possibilities beyond those tight parameters or you’ll soon find that you’re falling far behind those who do.
For more information on this article, or to contact The Centre for Research & Innovation call (780) 539-2807, toll free at 1-877-539-2808, email info@TheCRI.ca or visit our website at www.TheCRI.ca .
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In this issue:
• Safety: Bill of Goods or Best Practices?
• Forestry Rebound
Oil sands image linked to cooperation
CALGARY – Oil sands company leaders hope collaborative endeavours will improve their image.
The latest alliance, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), was announced at a Calgary press conference early March.
Talisman announces sale agreement
CALGARY - Talisman Energy announced an agreement with Xstrata Coal to sell certain non-producing, non-core coal properties located in northeastern British Columbia for US$500 million in cash.