I was inspired by our recent interview with Michael Araten, CEO of K’NEX toy company, as part of our ongoing series of Executive Insights™ videos. So I decided to share with you some of the nuggets of wisdom from the interview.
Creativity – at K’NEX they have a process for creating new products and innovations that include consumer research with kids and their parents, a set of parameters for product development that looks at the marketplace and competitors, the inclusion of all disciplines within the company in the creative process, and a search program for new ideas among kids that includes scholarship awards.
Community – K’NEX connects with the community through three-tiers of communication. They connect with kids through a Kids Club, offer parents support through safety tips, age appropriate toy guidelines and opportunities to review their products, and have an education division to support teachers and schools in the use of their construction products with a tie-in to curriculum.
Environment – K’NEX’s manufacturing arm Rodon Group has worked hard to develop many environmentally sound practices including becoming landfill free (all waste is recycled or used for energy production), recycling water and plastic waste, and inspiring employees to reduce waste as well.
Made in America – Over the past 10 years K’NEX has brought manufacturing back to the U.S. to the point that 95% of the product is now produced here. Much of this was done by lowering labor costs, the one advantage that China has had in the past over U.S. companies. In the process, they have also helped start a consortium of local manufacturers to apply those principles to other companies.
Employee Development – K’NEX works with local technology schools to encourage students to enter the manufacturing workforce and provides an internship program that takes students from playing with toys to working to design them. Because Rodon’s manufacturing process is highly automated, the jobs they provide are higher-paying technical jobs rather than assembly-line jobs.
K’NEX is the kind of company that can serve as a model for other U.S. companies as to the right ways to do business. The principles they have developed provide educational products, local jobs, lower impact on the environment and they give back to the community in the process.
If you’d like to hear the full interview with Michael Araten, subscribe to Soundview’s Premium Subscription. This interview is one of over 45 Executive Insights videos that are included in our library.