May 17, 2020

The human key to innovation

Freddie Pierce
4 min
The human key to innovation

Written by Paul Pegg, Vice President of Keystone Distribution Europe

'Nothing lasts forever, so the old saying goes. Its a piece of pop psycholo...

Written by Paul Pegg, Vice President of Keystone Distribution Europe

'Nothing lasts forever,’ so the old saying goes. It’s a piece of pop psychology that is largely true. Some odd products or ser vices remain stubbornly resistant to innovation. And some defunct brands, such as Cadbury’s Wispa, have been resurrected thanks to social pressure and nostalgia. But, generally, unless a company moves with the times, the corporate scrapheap is the likely destination for its products and services.

Just look at the music industry. Vinyl records gave way to cassettes, which were replaced by CDs. But now downloads are hot property. And who would have thought video shops would become the dodos of the film industry? But it turns out people don’t want bulky, inconvenient tapes. They want DVDs. And they want them delivered to their doors — with no late charges.

A look at corporate history will tell you that many of the most successful companies are the ones that innovate. Many of these companies, such as Keystone Europe, have a history steeped in innovation. Our parent company in the US pioneered the mass-produced, individually quick frozen hamburger patty and introduced the concept to the fast food industry in the late 1960s. We also created the boneless chicken nugget, which

revolutionised the way people ate chicken. But it hasn’t stopped there. We have continually refined our products and services, to lead the industry in creating and distributing food to our clients.

Innovation runs deep in the Keystone spirit. It’s in our genes and is an integral part of our way of doing things. Innovation is founded in our people and culture, but it isn’t a given that the next line of new recruits will have the innovation gene. And even if the progeny do have all the raw ingredients for business creativity, without a supportive environment, their efforts at innovation are unlikely to come to fruition.

This is why human resources and people development is so important. We make sure we get the right people and train them well. So, we carefully manage the recruiting and personal review process. We also try to keep innovation alive through prioritising projects and dedicating resources to activities that create value for our customers.

It takes people to make innovation work. Our people are at the heart of our new distribution centre in Hemel Hempstead, which is one of the most streamlined operations in Europe. And we have partnered with blue chip company John Lewis in a nationally recognised ‘job swap’ scheme in order to develop our employees.

In France, we have developed the Control Vision tool which is a computer that combines both a camera and a laser. It scans each single food unit in our factory to detect the patties that are off target. This innovation is unique in our industry. Now, our task is to invent the next big Keystone Europe innovation.

Companies need to create an innovation culture. One way to do this is to develop an innovation award scheme. We have a European Innovation Board to prioritise ideas and allocate the appropriate budgets and resources to transform ideas into innovations.

We’ve created Knowledge and Innovation Communities at each of our locations to present ideas to the Board for evaluation and deployment. And in May 2010, we’re hosting the first annual Keystone Innovation Awards, where we will elect the best innovation from Keystone Europe.

The creative path is never completely smooth. We have to accept that sometimes we’ll fail and we won’t always achieve what we set out to do. We’re developing a culture of managed risk so that people won’t be afraid to investigate something that might turn out wrong. Even something as simple as an ideas box can transform people’s thinking, allowing them to share ideas in a safe way.

Economist Joseph A. Schumpeter said: “The innovators are the people who drive the national economy.” It’s worth bearing in mind when times are tough, because the right people should always be seen as an asset, not an expense.


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Jun 16, 2021

EU and US agree end to Airbus-Boeing supply chain tariffs

3 min
Supply chains embroiled in Airbus-Boeing dispute will no longer be impacted by $11.5bn tariffs imposed on food and beverage, aircraft and tobacco

The EU and US have agreed to resolve a 17-year dispute over aircraft subsidies, suspending tariffs on billions of dollars' worth of goods that have plagued procurement leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Under an agreement reached by European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Tuesday, the tariffs will be halted for a period of at least five years. 

It will bring an end to punitive and disruptive levies on supply chains that have little to do with the argument, which became embroiled in the trade battle. Businesses on both sides of the dispute have been hit with more than $3.3bn in duties since they were first imposed by the US in October 2019, according the EC. 

The US imposed charges on goods upto $7.5bn in response to a World Trade Organisation ruling that judged the EU’s support of Airbus, its biggest aircraft manufacturer, unlawful. A year later in November 2020, the EU hit back. The WTO found the US had violated trade rules in its favourable treatment of Boeing, and was hit with EU duties worth $4bn. 

In all the tariffs affected $11.5bn worth of goods, including French cheese, Scotch whisky, aircraft and machinery in Europe, and sugarcane products, handbags and tobacco in America. Procurement leaders on both sides of the fence were forced to wrestle with tariffs of 15% on aircraft and components, and 25% on non-aircraft related products. 

Boeing-Airbus dispute by the numbers  

  • The dispute began in 2004
  • Tariffs suspended for 5 years 
  • $11.5bn worth of goods affected by tariffs
  • $3.3bn in duties paid by businesses to date 
  • 15% levy on aircraft and 25% on non-aircraft goods suspended

Both sides welcome end to tariffs 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen branded the truce a “major step” in ending what is the longest running dispute in WTO history. It began in 2004.

“I am happy to see that after intensive work between the European Commission and the US administration, our transatlantic partnership is on its way to reaching cruising speed. This shows the new spirit of cooperation between the EU and the US and that we can solve the other issues to our mutual benefit,” she added.

Both aircraft manufacturers have welcomed the news. Airbus said in a statement that it will hopefully bring to an end the “lose-lose tariffs” that are affecting industries already facing “many challenges”. Boeing added that it will “fully support the U.S. Government’s efforts to ensure that the principles in this understanding are respected”. 

The US aerospace firm added: "The understanding reached today commits the EU to addressing launch aid, and leaves in place the necessary rules to ensure that the EU and United States live up to that commitment, without requiring further WTO action."

This week’s decision expands upon a short-term tariff truce announced in March this year. The EC says it will work closely with the US to try and further resolve the dispute, establishing a Working Group on Large Civil Aircraft led by each side’s trade minister.

Airbus last month signalled to suppliers that post-pandemic recovery was on the horizon, telling them to scale up to meet a return to pre-COVID manufacturing levels. “The aviation sector is beginning to recover from the COVID-19 crisis,” said Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury, adding that suppliers should prepare for a period of intensive production “when market conditions call for it.”

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