Our History of Innovation

On June 13, 2018, in Corporate, Rogers Corporation, by mdippel

Paper Beginnings

Rogers Corporation was founded as a paper mill in 1832 by Dutch immigrant, Peter Rogers. Named Rogers Paper Manufacturing Company, the business was based in an old two-story powder mill in Manchester, Connecticut. It started out producing paperboard to be used in the thriving textile industry of New England. Less than a decade later, Peter Rogers’ 19-year-old son Henry inherited the business and established something that remains with Rogers to this day: a culture of innovation. Being poised to grow and lead as technology evolves is at the forefront of this culture. In 1841, Henry Rogers did it by improving paper-making techniques and methods for recycling product waste. Today, innovation is a major element of Rogers’ growth strategy, as we explore new platforms and build upon our current capabilities.

Learning and Expanding

Now an advanced materials technology market leader, we have come a long way since our paper-making days. Throughout that journey, innovation has propelled us forward. In the 1890’s, Rogers expanded into the electrical power transformer industry with the new product line of transformer insulation paperboard. The 1920’s brought on MIT graduate and technical director Saul Silverstein who spearheaded great strides in research and development. Along with that was Rogers’ first diversification into non-paper products, FIBERLOY Plastics, the first commercially produced plastics. As the years went on, our innovations continued. In 1958 we introduced PORON® technology, changing and expanding Rogers’ position and trajectory within the polyurethane market. Other examples include our foray into advanced circuit laminate materials, electroluminescent backlighting system drivers, busbars and more.

Innovation as a Strategy

Today, “Market-Driven Innovation” is core to our strategy, and we highly focus on market needs and innovation opportunities. Historically, academia and industry experts have worked separately in developing leading-edge technologies. Our Innovation Centers guide new-to-the-world technologies into useful and feasibly commercialized platforms. To do this, they combine scientific knowledge, education partnerships and industry expertise.

Right On Cue: First Innovation Center Product Brought to Market

Since opening our first Innovation Center in 2014, Rogers Corporation has been collaborating with universities and other industry leaders in the development of new technology platforms. Typically, these are technologies that are three to five years out from being market ready. And the model is working. Only four years later, we are proud to bring to market the first product borne of our Innovation Center concept: MAGTREX™ 555 High Impedance Laminates. These high impedance laminates enable antenna designers to expand the trade-space of their antenna design enabling up to a factor of six reduction in size with minimal impact on bandwidth, up to a factor of six increase in bandwidth with similar size, or a design optimum in between. Learn more about the new MAGTREX™ High Impedance Laminates here and celebrate with us this exciting accomplishment and actualization of our vision. We are proud to continue to use innovation as our motivation for growth and change.

Pat Sweet

Pat Sweet, author of popular engineering career blog Engineering and Leadership.

In honor of National Engineers Week, February 17-23, we teamed up with Pat Sweet, author of popular engineering career blog Engineering and Leadership to address key challenges facing engineers in leadership roles: the technical language barrier, setting and reaching team goals, and making the transformation from being a member of a team to a leader of a team.  You can find more about these challenges in our guest blog on Pat’s website.

What are the best ways to handle these leadership challenges?  Pat explores several solutions in the second part of this blog series, Innovative Leadership in Engineering

Technical Language Barrier

This challenge is as common as it is frustrating for engineers. Do you ever feel like it’s impossible to get your idea across to non-technical folks? You’re not alone. I think it’s a natural thing to have this barrier, though.

Engineering is considered a profession. An integral part of any profession is that members of the profession have knowledge that isn’t common to most people. Engineers know all sorts about 2nd order derivatives, dielectric breakdown of materials, and how to use a strain gauge. Most other people don’t have that knowledge, which makes it all but impossible to speak the same language.

So, what’s an engineer to do? One of the best suggestions I ever heard was from a design professor I had in undergrad. He said that engineers should have the ability to use analogies to get their technical ideas across. If you can translate your technical ideas into common, colloquial language, you’ll be well on your way to jumping over the technical language barrier.

Another idea is to make it clear that if the person you’re communicating with doesn’t understand something you’re saying, that they can speak up. Giving someone permission to ask questions can be a powerful tool, and allows for much better transmission of ideas in the first place.

Setting and Reaching Team Goals

The ability to set and reach goals is critical to individual and team success. Would you ever set out for a road trip without a destination or a clue how to get there? Probably not. Projects are the same way – you need to know what things will look like once the project is complete, and you also need a plan of attack so that you can actually make it happen.

In setting goals, it’s important that they be SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. If a goal isn’t all of these things, it’s just an idea – not a goal. Goals also need to be purpose-driven. If a goal isn’t in line with a company’s mission, or a team’s own sense of purpose, then it’s unlikely the team will buy into it to make it happen.

Attaining goals is much easier if they fit the SMART criteria and are purposeful. You also need to make sure to keep measuring progress against your goals. Every week or so, I find it helpful to look through your goals and to establish milestones for you progress toward these goals 6 days out, 6 weeks out, and 6 months out form now. Each time you make these projections, you should also look at where you thought you would be the last time you evaluated your goals.

The Member to Leader Transition

You may sometimes be thrust into a position where you are required to lead – even though that might be putting you outside you comfort zone. In these situations, it’s important to remember that you were probably put in this position because you’re the best person for the job. You have some special skills, knowledge, or talent that made you a great fit for this role. Let this expertise be your guide.

It’s also important to recall that you’re not alone – you have a whole team of talented people who can help you to make the decisions required of a leader. Sure, you have to make some final decisions, but you have the strength of many brilliant minds at your disposal. Use them!

Closing Thoughts

No two engineers and no two leaders are alike. It’s critical that you use that to your advantage when you find yourself in a leadership position – whether it’s a formal role or not. People who believe in you as a person will be happy to follow you as an engineer and leader. Bearing that in mind, just be you, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an excellent engineering leader.

Join Pat (@engileader) and @RogersCorpHR on Twitter for a live tweet chat about leadership and engineering, Friday February 22, 2013, at 2:00pm EST.  Use hashtag #EngineerLeader to join in the conversation.