Mini-Innies come to D1 to invigorate innovation          

As part of the statewide movement to enhance the innovation program, D1 innovation steward Jerry Wilson recently formed a team to help district employees submit innovations and share them with other districts.

Called the Mini-Innies, the district-based innovation team will help stewards serve the district by promoting the innovation program.

“The innovation program empowers employees to change their work environment for the better,” Wilson said. “We’re changing our culture from ‘we’ve always done it this way’ to ‘maybe it’d be better to do it this way.’”

Innovations often improve the working conditions of those who submit their ideas, and D1 Mini-Innies aim to make the process easier for employees.
Wilson says employees can submit innovations on ITD’s intranet by selecting the click to innovate button, which brings employees to a simple form. The form asks innovators to describe and estimate the impact of their ideas. Innovators can also indicate if their solutions can be “Times 7,” or utilized by other districts.

Now D1 employees have five more mentors—business manager Drue Hatfield, district records inspector Jenny Klein, TSEL Nathan Herbst, TTE Chris “Junior” Williams and public information specialist Megan Sausser—to help them through the innovation process. To truly reach all areas of ITD, Wilson ensured that each new member of the innovation team represented a different section within ITD.

One of the goals of the innovation team is to cultivate more engagement in the program, by sharing recent submissions within the district.

Operations employees from the St. Maries shed recently presented an innovation that not only enhances the safety of crews replacing signs but also increases the efficiency of the process.

Maintenance foreman Ross Farrell said the Peterson Hill crew came up with the innovation they call a sign catwalk (pictured left).

“ID-97 needed all but four signs replaced this year to be compliant with retro reflectivity standards,” Farrell said. “This is very time consuming. The guys came to me with this idea, and I told them to go ahead and build it.”

The crew designed the catwalk so it attaches more securely than a ladder to a maintenance vehicle and can be easily stored when driving from location to location to replace signs.

Before this innovation, a crew of two could only replace two to three signs in one day. Now the same crew can replace as many as 25 signs in one day, Farrell said.

Farrell estimated that the innovation will save 200 hours of work every year for his team.

“The district has fallen behind in getting signs in compliance with retro-reflectivity standards,” Wilson said. “Anything we can do catch up is a big deal, especially since we don’t have a sign crew up here anymore.”

Wilson said now that the sign catwalk has been uploaded to the innovation page on the intranet, other ITD employees can review it and other submissions to judge its applicability to their duties—and hopefully multiply benefits across six districts.

The sign catwalk is just one example of the innovations that advance ITD’s practice of stretching state dollars and its mission of developing employees. With the help of the D1 Mini-Innies, Wilson hopes that more employees will participate in the program.

The Peterson Hill crew includes Gary Haynes (pictured above), Blake Charles, Paul Kennon and Russell Carper.

Published 01-12-18