Michaela from Scott & Fyfe had a cup of tea with Kimberley this month to chat all things innovation.
First up, can you tell us your name and a wee bit about yourself and your business?
My name is Michaela Millar and I am a business development officer at Scott & Fyfe. A 150 year old, employee owned company. The company manufactures and supplies technical textiles to a global market using processes including stitch bonding, warp knitting, coating and weaving for markets including abrasives, flooring, composites and cured in place pipe. Based in Tayport, we are not your typical manufacturer, for our offices imagine a cross between Google HQ and Teletubby land! This is because the company has completely transformed itself over the past five years with a design and innovation led strategy.
What made you want to get into the industry?
I graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone having specialised in woven textile design, and in all honesty I had almost zero knowledge of technical textiles! However, whilst showcasing our work at the annual degree show I met Michelle Quadrelli, Business Director at Scott & Fyfe, and as a result I was offered a 3 month internship. I thought this was a great opportunity to learn new skills and was curious to see what type of textiles the company produced. Whilst at University I was obsessed with pushing the boundaries of textile structures and seeing what they could do. Many of the textiles produced by Scott & Fyfe are extremely innovative and are in markets that I had not even considered utilised textiles, so I was intrigued to find out more.
As an innovative and forward thinking company, who do Scott & Fyfe look to for inspiration?
When looking for inspiration Scott & Fyfe tend to look in unexpected places. For example, Glasgow School of Art inspired the company to approach business in a completely different way through applying design skills and an innovation approach. Also, Scott & Fyfe hire many interns from different areas and locations around the world as each has a fresh pair of eyes and different way of looking at things. This provides a constant inspiration to employees.
From an Employee Ownership side, S&F look to other EO companies for inspiration. Employee Ownership is a great model and we fully embrace it however, it has many challenges so we are constantly looking to share experiences and best practices with other companies. Through the EOA network I was fortunate enough to attend an event hosted by John Lewis recently and on a personal level I was utterly blown away by the level of detail that they go to in order to ensure that employees are engaged throughout all areas of the business. After the event I came back to the office with tons of ideas for our employee forum, as did my colleagues.
What exciting projects do Scott & Fyfe have in the pipeline for the near future?
Amongst many others, we literally have exciting pipeline related projects coming up as we are soon to be launching the Alphashield range of trenchless repair materials for the cured in place pipe industry. This is actually one of the things I love about Scott & Fyfe and technical textiles in general. This product range is for the sewage market. Not a market you would normally associate with innovation but here, our new product range is used to repair pipes without any requirement to dig up the existing pipelines (a process that is often called trenchless technology or cured in place pipe). The product is in simple terms, pushed through the existing pipe, inverted and injected with resin. Once set this flexible, glass knitted liner creates a pipe within the pipe with ultimately better characteristics than the original.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
Definitely the innovation culture and all that this encompasses. Every morning I come into work and see a brightly coloured open plan space with grass on the ground and great areas to work in. It is a very inspiring working environment.
Then there is the way that we actually work and the responsibilities it brings. Instead of sitting in a board room for meetings and being overshadowed by colleagues with a higher status, we use round tables and tools such as mind mapping and dotocracy allowing all employees to have a voice and say in matters. This has applied from the minute I began work here as an intern to the stage I am at today. Coming from a design background I have to say it is fantastic to be able to use the design thinking skills in a business environment.
What advice would you give to other manufacturers in your field?
To consider an innovation and design led approach. We have embraced it over the past five years and will continue to do so as we are seeing real benefits. I am under no illusion that Scott & Fyfe is the most innovative manufacturing company out there, but we are constantly learning and adapting what we are doing and slowly but surely are seeing the company grow and become more innovative.
A key piece of advice I would give to other manufacturers is to embrace failure. There have been plenty of failures since we took on this approach but so long as you learn from them and are ready to adapt then it is not an issue.
What are you looking for from the textile industry currently?
Overall, we would really like to see more collaboration in the industry. It would be fantastic for us to work on more projects with other textile companies. I think there is a huge wealth of experience and expertise out there that companies could be sharing to mutual benefit. In the same strain, I think there could be a lot more textile company / university partnerships developed and this is something that we would welcome.
Visit Scott & Fyfe online
Collaborate or contact Scott & Fyfe here
Michaela Millar interviewed by Kimberley White