It is sometimes said that your best engineers are the workers running your production lines every day. Most of these engineers don’t have engineering degrees or for that matter college degrees, but they can probably solve some of the biggest problems facing your organization.

If not asked, the knowledge of these ‘engineers’ will be invisible and they will do their required work as directed, but at the very moment they are challenged, the ingenuity of these ‘engineers’ could surprise even Einstein.

Their ability to eliminate waste and make processes more effective, as well as think-up new product ideas and improvements, is mostly due to the amount of time they spend at their given tasks. They literally earn PhDs in those tasks and products, and thus have the ability to identify every possible improvement opportunity.

Unfortunately, many organizations fail to place the challenge squarely on their employees’ shoulders. Their fear of Employee Suggestion Programs, due to the well known and documented problems arising from poorly managed ones, is one of the main reasons they do not formally solicit employee input and thus shut out their greatest asset… their brain trust.

Employee Suggestion Programs don’t have to be difficult-to-manage resource hogs. In fact, today's web technology has given birth to a new breed of software designed for Innovation and Idea Management. The tools contained in these systems place ‘controls’ on the pitfalls and problems associated with the traditional employee suggestion program:

· Web-based suggestion forms which can be routed electronically and thus eliminate the manual transportation of paper based ideas.
· Ideas are stored in a central repository (database) thus making them accessible and searchable by the entire team.
· Live reporting functions make program status transparent to all the stake holders.
· Automated email follow-up of stake holders with open tasks.

Furthermore, these tools have made it possible to bring all members in the organization into the innovation loop – an area previously reserved to marketing, engineering, and management teams. The ability for all members to bring forth their ideas and collaborate with each other is a benefit that no organization wishing to remain competitive can afford to ignore.

Harnessing the knowledge of the ‘best engineers’ is key to making your organization’s current processes as efficient as possible and allowing it to continue inventing its future.