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Case Study

Rejuvenating innovation boosts a plastic company's sales

Faced with competitive price pressure, a major European plastics maker needed to revitalize its innovation process to protect profit margins and generate long-term growth. Bain helped PlasticCo transform the way it innovates with a repeatable model that's surpassed portfolio targets and dramatically increased sales margins.

  • min read

At a Glance

  • 3x increase in new innovation opportunities
  • 165% boost in expected sales margins
  • 25% of resources freed up to work on high-value innovations

The Full Story

The Situation

PlasticCo's* leadership was under fire. The company depended on research and innovation to produce sustained, long-term growth by creating high value products.

But its innovation portfolio couldn't keep pace with 2020 growth targets for its business units. At the same time, the company found its market dominance threatened by intensifying competition and the commodization of products that had helped differentiate PlasticCo.

To maintain its market dominance, the company needed to re-invent its innovation strategy, with a focus on overcoming three major obstacles:

  • Missed innovation targets,
  • An innovation pipeline that favored internal ideas and short-term customer needs, and,
  • A plodding stage-gate process that failed to effectively challenge, test and prioritize new ideas and speed winners to the marketplace.

Our Approach

We worked closely with the CEO to transform PlasticCo's innovation strategy, starting with a diagnostic to improve three critical capabilities required for successful innovation:

Identify market needs: We helped senior management understand key macro trends over the next 20 years and the impact of these trends on the marketplace.

Generate attractive new offerings: We used business unit workshops to brainstorm about how to meet current and future customer needs as well as the expected annual returns on products designed to meet those needs.

Prioritize the best ideas: Together, we created a stronger screening process. It prioritizes projects based on a rigorous review of the total market opportunity, technical feasibility, the preliminary business case and the top needs of business units.

Our Recommendations

We recommended that the CEO create a repeatable innovation process for sustained, high profit growth. Collaboratively, we worked with the company to develop new processes and tools designed to accelerate innovation.

The transformed innovation system involves key steps:
  • Determine an innovation's potential sales margin—calculate the value of the market opportunity, the size of the opportunity (the slice of the profit pool up for grabs) and company's ability to capture the profits given competitors' strengths.
  • Rate the feasibility of developing the idea compared to the need, ranging from easy to impossible.
  • Weigh potential profitability against the cost of innovation to identify ideas with the highest value.
  • Screen ideas to ensure they meet the customers' top needs—these should reflect business unit priorities.
  • Focus resources on high value, achievable projects.
  • Embed the continuous innovation process through the organization—we developed an implementation plan for a company-wide rollout.

The Results

With its focused, streamlined innovation strategy, PlasticCo now is able to consistently fill its innovation pipeline with high value projects, speeding development, time to market—and financial results.

The new system prioritizes opportunities and resources, allowing PlasticCo to:

  • Identify almost triple the number of new innovation opportunities.
  • Boost expected sales margins by over 165 percent, with peak margins projected in seven years.
  • Ensure that 25 percent of its resources are freed up to work on innovations that create higher value.

By implementing a repeatable innovation model, we've helped PlasticCo not only meet the innovation gap in its portfolio, but significantly exceed long-term sales targets.

 

* We take our clients' confidentiality seriously. While we've changed their names, the results are real. 

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