Innovation has played a vital role at Kohler Co. since it was founded in 1873. That spirit of finding new and better ways of doing things helps the manufacturer of plumbing fixtures, tile, cabinetry, engines and generators — as well as its successful hospitality business — stay relevant in everything it does, says David Kohler, the company’s president and CEO.
Kohler will deliver a keynote address focused on innovation at the Manufacturing First Expo & Conference on Oct. 30 at the KI Center in Green Bay.
“Innovation is at the center of everything we do,” Kohler says. “We constantly push the envelope on design, function and user experience, which leads us to discovery in all areas of our business.”
The WasteLAB initiative is an example of that innovation, Kohler says. WasteLAB was born out of the company’s incubator program called Innovation for Good.
“We tasked our talented associates in this program to develop ways to reduce waste and reuse materials in our manufacturing process to make a positive impact,” Kohler says. “The team is determined to create meaningful new products and recently launched an award-winning line of tiles called the Ann Sacks Crackle Collection by Kohler WasteLAB, made entirely from waste material like unfired pottery cull.”
As part of Kohler’s appearance at Manufacturing First, he will speak to about 500 high school students from throughout the region. Engaging high school students is imperative to not only the company’s future but also the entire manufacturing industry, he says.
“These students are the future of our communities, our businesses, our world. They will be a driving force in the vitality and success of the efforts we are putting into play today,” Kohler says. “These bright young students will bring new ideas, fresh perspectives and a drive for innovation.”
Like other manufacturers in today’s tight labor market, Kohler has faced challenges finding enough skilled workers, but the company believes supporting educational opportunities focused on manufacturing is key.
Kohler invested in the Kohler Center for Manufacturing Excellence Training and Education at Lakeshore Technical College and, along with Johnsonville Sausage, entered a partnership with the Sheboygan Area School District to create the Kohler | Johnsonville Advanced Technology Center to help expand youth apprenticeship and co-op training opportunities.
“We actively support STEM and lead tours through Kohler facilities, exposing students firsthand to our manufacturing processes, as well as providing opportunities to network and learn from Kohler experts,” Kohler says.
For more information about Manufacturing First, including how to register, please visit manufacturingfirst.com.
Read an article about Manufacturing First from our October issue of Insight.