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Driving the Future of Wind Energy with a Culture of Innovation

June 06, 2019 By Jill Malfero

In February, Mortenson leaders watched as innovators from the Wind Energy team presented their most impactful ideas.

The Wind Energy Industry is changing

The future of wind energy is evolving. Wind turbines are becoming larger, energy storage is becoming more viable and construction is getting smarter by creating lean processes that streamline systems to be more productive. This change is inspiring the wind energy industry to explore new possibilities, collaborate with customers and act to solve problems.

As a leader in the construction industry, Mortenson understands that our customers’ success relies on our ability to innovate. We have grown our capacity to innovate not only with technology, but by empowering our employees to identify better ways of working that save time, money, and make our job sites safer, all with the goal of creating an exceptional experience for our customers.

How Mortenson is pioneering new ways of working

In 2017, Mortenson's Wind Energy team created a program that encouraged all team members, from craft to estimators, to solve a wind construction challenge. In the first year alone, team members generated over 100 ideas. Working in teams, members were given one year and a development budget to create a solution that would improve a safety, quality, efficiency or business challenge. At the end of the year, eight of the best ideas were presented to Mortenson leaders and all where approved for  an additional investment and to be tested in the field.

Because of the success and outcome of the 2017 challenge, Mortenson offices across the nation have adopted this program to encourage rapid change from the bottom up. The Wind Energy team just completed its 2018 challenge and are excited to make the most impactful ideas a reality.

From these experiences, we found three key lessons learned that drove our innovation program success.

  1. First, inspire team members by sharing their stories of innovation across the company. From the incremental achievements of process improvements to industry changing ideas, team members feel that they are connected to a larger movement of innovation. 
  2. Second, engage the process of innovation. By developing a structured approach through our innovation platform, powered by BrightIdea, we can internally crowdsource to collaborate on larger problems our business faces.  
  3. Third, partnership. When our team comes up with new ways of working through our innovation process, we openly collaborate with external partners such as academics and industry experts to transform our ideas into reality.  

A History of Innovation

Mortenson has always been attracted to complex projects that help us grow our capabilities and innovate. In the late 1990’s, we decided to take on the Walt Disney Concert Hall project which was coined the ‘unbuildable’ project by our peers. It was on that project our team pioneered the use of 3D digital prototyping and ushered in the Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) movement in the U.S. construction market. Our project team had to respond in a new way to deliver this project to our customer on budget and schedule. This was a turning point for our organization and we invested heavily in resources to build the capabilities within to scale the use of 3D modeling and VDC across all projects to reduce the time and cost of design and construction. In wind projects, VDC is used for cut-fill analysis and part layout at turbine sites to optimization and improve efficiency and cost.

Today, our innovation program is another way we inspire, engage and partner with our people and the outside world to deliver innovation to our industry.

As wind turbine size continues to trend upward, in the next publication we will share how the industry should be thinking about the constructability of larger turbines, with strategies for developers to anticipate and mitigate impact on their bottom-line.

Wind  Wind Energy News  Lean Innovation