"One step won't take you very far,
You've got to keep on walking;
One word won't tell folks what you are,
You've got to keep on talking;
One inch won't make you very tall,
You've got to keep on growing;
One suggestion may not win at all,
You've got to keep 'em going.
The Eastman Kodak Company prided themselves on being built on ideas and encouraged their staff to share their own ideas about how to improve the productivity and efficiency of the company. In order to properly facilitate this dialogue, the 'Suggestion Scheme' began at Eastman Kodak Company in 1898. The first suggestion, to clean the windows in the 'black paper slitting room', was received shortly after the scheme was implemented. The suggested was adopted and the employee who made the suggestion was awarded $2.
The Suggestion Scheme adopted by Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd seems to have followed the model proposed by Eastman Kodak Company, and it continued when the company relocated to the Coburg factory site in the 1960s. It is unclear when the idea officially migrated to Australia, but the scheme appears to have begun when Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd was still based in Abbotsford.
Originally limited to staff involved in manufacturing (senior staff from manufacturing were excluded), the Suggestion Scheme was designed to encourage employees to find ways to improve their work processes and for their ideas to be communicated to management. The scheme was administered by a committee, appointed by factory management, who considered the merits of the suggestions and made recommendations about whether or not the ideas should be adopted. The committee also made suggestions for a monetary reward.
In 1972 the Suggestion Scheme was extended beyond manufacturing to include staff throughout Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd, although, it still excluded senior staff. A new committee of staff with experience in different areas of the company, along with a general understanding of the company as a whole, was set up to assess ideas under the new scheme. The committee were assisted by a clerical worker who was responsible for emptying the suggestion boxes and for sending letters of acknowledgement to participants. There were boxes for suggestions in some of the manufacturing department buildings (Buildings 3, 4 and 5), the amenities building (Building 9), the photochemicals building (Building 16) and processing (Building 20).
The chairman of the committee was responsible for sending suggestions on to relevant departments for feedback. Once the feedback had been received the suggestion was then discussed by the committee who made recommendations about whether the suggestion should be adopted and a monetary reward awarded. The amount of the reward was calculated on estimates of savings in money and materials to the company. Former Kodak employee, Roy Porter, recalls receiving the equivalent of $20,000 in 1964 for his invention to improve the printing process for large colour prints. This process was further developed by Eastman Kodak Company and resulted in the Kodak Rapid Color Processor, Model 30. Roy later received a Commonwealth Medal from the Australian Photography Society in recognition of his idea and for his work within the Kodak Camera Club.
It is unclear how long the Suggestion Scheme continued but former Kodak executive, John Mitcham, recalls that it started to decline as the Total Quality Management program gained momentum within the company in the 1980s. John believed this to be partly because the Suggestion Scheme "didn't fit in with the team environment" of the quality program since it relied on individual contributions. The advent of the Office of Innovation in the late 1980s may also have led to declining interest in the Suggestion Scheme.
'Australian Kodakery', No 2, Aug 1968, p.6 (HT 35699)
'Australian Kodakery', No 7, Feb 1969, p. 7 (HT 35706)
'Australian Kodakery', No 14, Nov 1969, p.7 (HT 35713)
'Australian Kodakery', No 33, Mar 1972, p. 3 & 8 (HT 35742)
'Australian Kodakery', No 63, Oct 1975, p. 3 (HT 35779)
'Australian Kodakery', No 79, Jun 1977, p. 3 (HT 35797)
'Australian Kodakery', No 91, Jun 1978, p. 6 (HT 35933)
'Australian Kodakery', No 112, Mar 1980, p. 1 (HT 35956)
'Australian Kodakery', No 135, Apr 1982, p. 3 (HT 35978)
'Australian Kodakery', No 136, May 1982, p. 5 (HT 35979)
Booklet - Eastman Kodak Company, 'Eastman Kodak Company, A Brief History', Rochester HT 30114, p.11
Interview - John Mitcham, Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd, 30 Nov 2017 (HT 53425)
Interview - Roy Porter, Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd, 28 Nov 2013 (HT 35633)
'Kodak: A Magazine for Eastman Employees', Aug 1938, p. 15 (HT 50014-6)