ITD, Innovative Company of the Year finalist, unveils top ideas of 2016
The Idaho Transportation Department was honored as a 2016 Innovative Company of the Year finalist by the Idaho Technology Council Oct. 25 in Boise. No other state public-service agency has ever been a finalist in the category, typically reserved for private-sector firms.
"This award shows that a government agency can be just as innovative as the private sector and move at the speed of business," said Director Brian Ness. "By finding better ways to do our jobs, we put the focus on the customer and serve the citizens, not ourselves."
Pictured left to right: Josh Sprague (D6 Innovation Steward) and Director Ness at the Idaho Innovation Awards ceremony Oct. 25.
The centerpiece is an employee-driven effort branded "Innovate ITD!"
"Empowering our employees to make decisions where the work is being done has made us a more efficient and effective organization," he added. "No one knows how to do a job better than the one who is actually doing it."
The innovative-company honor comes on the heels of ITD's internal 2016 "Best of the Best" competition, which spotlights innovations in each of seven categories central to the department's overarching goals: safety, mobility, economic opportunity, customer service, employee development, time savings and cost savings.
"This program honors all the dedicated employees who come to work each day and think about how they can do their job a little bit better than the day before," said Charlene McArthur, ITD's Chief Administrative Officer and champion of ITD's innovation program.
"If you rely on the brains of just the leadership group, or a few key employees, you can do some good things," she added. "But when you tap into 1,500 minds and hearts, there is no limit on what you can achieve."
Since the program began in 2014, ITD has:
• Received more than 620 ideas from employees
• Implemented more than 424 innovations
• Generated savings and efficiency improvements of more than $2.1 million
• Realized more than 70,000 contractor and employee hours saved
• Created nearly 165 customer-service improvements.
The savings in time and money are being used to maintain roads and bridges and provide better customer service.
Here are the seven category winners in ITD's Best of the Best 2016 - Watch the video
In the Safety category, ITD's south-central Idaho office automated a way to pull delineator posts out of the ground faster and more safely, with less damage to the post itself. The activity can be unsafe for the person holding the chain, in multiple ways, and often bends or breaks the posts.
An upgrade to ITD's statewide 511 traveler advisory system was selected in the Mobility category. Now, drivers can learn how long the morning commute could be delayed with just a couple of mouse clicks. A new feature added to Idaho's 511 traveler services allows users to find out how long current events may delay their drive. If a delay is detected, the system automatically modifies the event to show how long it is. It updates every 15 minutes until it returns to normal.
A sliding girder installer was used in the north Idaho office to complete repairs to the 56-year-old I-90 Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge in just three weeks this spring. The winning innovation in the Economic Opportunity category allowed the repairs to extend the life of the bridge. The innovation also helped reduce the closure by months, which allowed traffic to resume using the bridge much sooner. The repairs also saved around $161,000.
An idea borrowed from automobile parts suppliers and incorporated in District 6 was selected as the winner in the Customer Service category. ITD's eastern Idaho district came up with the idea of a "cores bank," with used parts stored on pallets at the district yard until vendors have the space to store the parts at their facilities. The arrangement saves time and money for ITD and for vendors. Vendors pick up the cores from every few weeks, saving ITD delivery costs. In turn, allowing ITD to store the cores frees up valuable warehouse space for the vendors.
An idea among all ITD district trainers to bring instruction for traffic control supervisors in-house was the winner in the Employee Development category. ITD used to have to schedule around the availability of outside instructors. The new course provides better flexibility and could save up to $150,000 over the old system. It has improved the quality and the availability of training and allows employees to develop in leadership and instruction roles.
Under Cost Savings, the winner is a stainless steel truck chassis protector. Each winter season, salt falling from the spreader unit onto valves and vital parts was causing widespread corrosion and failure. District 1 came up with an inexpensive solution – stainless steel plates that cost $400 per truck in a one-time expense, but save about $900 per unit annually. It's a one-time cost of $400 vs. a potential savings of $13,500 over the truck's life, multiplied by 52 trucks, equals an overall savings for those 15 years of more than $680,000.
And finally, the winner in the Time Savings category is a Simplified Seal Coat process championed by our southeast Idaho office, with inspiration from north-central Idaho. The idea involves standardizing seal coating, which every district performs many times each year to safeguard road surfaces. Depending on the number of seal coats, preparing the packages used to be 4-8 week process. With an appendix created in the simplified process, that can be reduced to just hours. The appendix lays out quantities and locations, tells crews when and where to chip seal, fog coat crossovers, avoid bridge decks, and more.
"In terms of improvement, we have really only scratched the surface. ITD will continue to transform by engaging employees, listening to customers and stakeholders, and finding new and better ways to deliver services," McArthur said.
One of the department's goals is to grow the innovation program.
"When we began in 2014, our innovation program here at ITD had about five-perent employee engagement," McArthur said. "The next year it grew to 15 percent. Now we have 38-percent engagement, and the early numbers for this year show that figure continuing to rise."