Innovation, noun, is defined by Merriam-Webster as a new idea, method, or device. Innovation is key to advancement and growth in industry and society. Without innovation, there is no progress. Without progress, there is no competition. Without competition, we would likely have inferior products.
The Industrial Revolution saw many important innovations that paved the way for modern innovations. Like the steam engine, the locomotive, telegraph communications, the typewriter, electric generator, photographs, and more. As Industrial Revolution paved the way, the last 50 years have transformed the world with innovative advances bringing us the internet, email and texting, GPS, Photoshop, digital imaging, fiber optics, electric vehicles, DNA testing, medicines, and the list goes on and on.
According to McKinsey, more than 84% of CEOs believe innovation is critical to growth. It also cites that “the ability to develop, deliver, and scale new products, services, processes, and business models rapidly is a muscle that virtually every organization needs to strengthen.”
At Nationwide Industries, innovation is a daily practice. “Innovation means being able to look at things differently, seeing something that no one else has seen before,” said Erik Timothy, director of engineering at Nationwide Industries. “It also means using new technologies to do something that no one else has done before.”
Innovation in Materials
Materials change — generally advancing — throughout the years, and we find new ways to use them and transform the landscape of innovative uses — for example, the use of plastic. Most people associate plastic with everyday items like water bottles and garbage bags, considered reusable and recyclable plastics. In the late 1800s early 1900s, you would never think of using plastic for gate hinges because they weren’t strong enough.
Today, because of the advancement of plastic used in construction — polyvinyl chloride (PVC), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and expanded polystyrene (EPS) — they are used in a wide range of heavy-duty applications. Plastics, thermoplastics (like nylon), carbon fiber, and Kevlar are stronger and more practical than most cast metals.
“We can do things differently, like combining components and complex shapes to create things that you couldn’t do with materials that didn’t exist before,” said Timothy. It’s not only a liberating feeling but also innovative. “It’s world-changing,” said Timothy.
Timothy has been at Nationwide Industries for more than 18 years and in that time Nationwide Industries has amassed 34 patents, 29 of which are still active, with his name on 18 of them. Timothy has a total of 26 U.S. patents. Second to Timothy is David Lord, engineering project manager at Nationwide Industries, who holds 10 U.S. patents, with most of these also filed in multiple countries across the world. There are an additional 4 patent holders across the product development team with most holding multiple patents. “We’re an innovative group,” said Timothy.
Nationwide Industries works with multiple patent attorneys, across their brands, to handle their IP, which includes a long list of Trademarks. Timothy, however, understands the process as he took the patent bar exam, so he speaks both languages. “I work closely with the attorneys and help review searches, I also rewrite claims in applications from time to time,” said Timothy.
The patent process is not for the faint of heart. The application process takes a lot of time to write, and then there is a lot of back and forth before the patent is granted, sometimes as much as three to four years. “I’ve had one patent application take six years,” Timothy added.
Once a patent has been filed, it is “pending.” The “patent pending” status has benefits, such as the public not having access to its content for at least 18 months. Thus, it sends a message to the public or your competition that you have an innovative product (or technology) and can move to commercialization immediately.
A published patent is open for anyone to look at and see what contents. “There are great benefits to keeping a patent pending for as long as possible,” explains Timothy.
The Innovation Process
Each company has its process and attributes associated with new product development and innovation. In most cases, it’s a proprietary process that starts with discovery and moves along through a series of steps, or stages, to determine viability, cost, production, and use.
Within each step, there is a process before it moves, or doesn’t move, to the next step. Typically, a committee of decision-makers from across the company meets and decides if a new product innovation will make it through this pipeline and into the hands of the project manager to push it through to fruition.
Innovation at Nationwide Industries
Nationwide Industries’ “wall of patents” includes 34 patents. Most of the engineering team members have at least one to two patents, which are proudly on display for anyone to see walking through the front doors of our Tampa, Florida facility.
“It changes the perception of the organization when customers see that we have patented products,” Timothy said. “It demonstrates we’re spending our time and money on research and development to make new and better products to make their life better and easier.”
In the 18 years that Timothy has been at Nationwide Industries’ he and his expanding team, and the growth of the sales team, have helped change the perception of the company, from the maker of rote products to genuinely innovative products like the Keystone® Traverse (KLTRV-20), launched in May 2019.
“The Keystone Traverse is truly a game-changing product,” said Timothy. Before the Traverse, installing a standard latch took much more time and a higher incidence of inaccuracy. The Keystone Traverse coined “easiest latch you will every install” makes installation a synch. There’s no need to drill holes through the post. You hold it up, screw it in, and attach the keeper.
In November 2009, Nationwide Industries took innovation a step further by introducing the Million Cycle Warranty. Products go through rigorous testing to ensure they last for as long as a gate will open and close and then some.