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Innovation Made Visible Brings Company Collaboration

Reinforcing the attractions of PTFE through a facility for deeper interaction

[Gore] Newark, Delaware, USA

The well-known breathable, waterproof GORE-TEX® fabric is constructed of expanded PTFE (or ePTFE). Lightweight and strong, the material is the invention of Bob Gore, son of company founder, Bill Gore.

Gore’s business is based on its deep understanding of ePTFE and related fluoropolymers. Since its founding in 1958, the company has grown into a worldwide enterprise. Today, Gore has more than 9,500 associates in 30 countries, with manufacturing facilities in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and China, and sales offices around the world.

The number of business fields has continued to expand, but this also has made it difficult for others to clearly see all of Gore. To respond to this, the company created the Capability Center in 2007.

Here people could learn about everything from the origins of the company to its current activities, in a place created for discussions, employee training, and even events such as the major Gore Innovation Day. The interaction that comes from sharing clearly represents a major value for Gore.

In the Capability Center. The space is divided into booths covering physics, chemistry, biology, electromagnetism, etc.

Heat-resistant, chemically inert PTFE is produced from fluorite.

  • The concept behind the building is a symbiosis with nature.

  • In the lobby, decorated in the brand colors of red, white and black, along with a display of the company’s base of business, its PTFE material.

  • The store registers. The photo in the background is the UK concealed by snow.

  • The company cafeteria. Many people also hold meetings over lunch here.

The location is in a rebuilt Gore factory in Newark, Delaware. The company was searching for a facility that would be the most appropriate place to showcase Gore’s strengths; in fact, this was the first place they considered.

At the heart of it is the Capability Center. Six booths arranged in a circle showcase the properties of PTFE and products which use it, in fields including medicine and chemistry. New business partners shown through the Center are introduced to Gore’s key values, which is intended to further encourage their interest in collaboration.

Apart from these facilities, there is a shop where Gore products can be purchased, a multi-purpose room that can be used for staff training, a cafeteria and office area. It is a place where people from both within and outside the company very naturally come together—it was designed to be a place for the exchange of ideas.

Gore has a non-hierarchical management style, without traditional bosses and managers. “The organization is one in which anyone who has a question can go outside their business field and just make a phone call,” says Gene Castellano, Leader of the Gore Capabilities Center.

Because of PTFE’s unique properties, no other polymer performs like it. It is Gore’s core material for high performance products “We work in small teams where we try to apply an informal management style, and where we share information as much as possible in a face-to-face way, not through databases,” Mr. Castellano says “How people work with each other, and what results they want to achieve, are things that they play a key role in deciding,” he says. There is no concept of ‘boss’ at Gore, but associates have “sponsors” who help maximize their contributions to the company.

Gore also has associates in leadership roles. Leaders emerge based on their ability to gain the respect of their peers and attract followers. There is no assumed authority embedded in these roles. Leaders must seek commitments from others, sell their ideas and explain the rationale behind their decisions.

Performance evaluations are by the associates themselves evaluating each other. All associates have the freedom to take on their own commitments, looking for opportunities that match their talents and interests and meet business objectives.

When an individual feels a closeness to the project, they can step up and volunteer. The Capability Center, he says, “Was an idea that began by one employee in 2004,” Mr. Castellano says. “In 2005 Mr. and Mrs. Gore’s daughter, Betty Snyder, got involved in the Capabilities Center project. I also joined at the end of that year.”

But even with the daughter of the founder in the project, the team had to come to a consensus on the design of the center. Mr. Castellano says that the four basic philosophies of Freedom, Fairness,Commitment and Waterline are very important, as PTFE itself, in guiding the team to create the good relationships needed.

Cable used in offshore oil drilling and other applications. PTFE by itself is soft, but through special processing its strength can be increased.

At right in the photo is Betty Snyder, daughter of company founders Bill and Vieve Gore. She is also one of the founders of the building.

A tapestry in the entrance area with the company’s four principles: Freedom, Fairness, Commitment and Waterline.

Workshop with sponsors.

Once the explanation about the product and its development has been held, a project is divided into the different business areas for development. The Capability Center, however, serves as a centralized base for easy-to-understand explanations of ePTFE for customers, as well as for deeper communications with partners. New business opportunities are also created here, and in-house training sessions are held.

01 Stretchable, porous PTFE

Gores’key product ingredient, ePTFE, possesses a number of key characteristics: it is chemically inert, heat-resistant, an electrical insulator, flexible and friction-resistant. One of the missions for company associates is expansion of the technology—to see in what new areas these characteristics can be used.

02 Windproof, water-repellant jacket

The superior waterproof, durable, breathable and windproof fabric made possible by ePTFE means that it finds use in outdoor products and other areas. “The GORE-TEX® Paclite® series of jackets is a product line created in consultation with mountain climbers,” says Gene Castellano.

03 Medical applications

The hydrophobic, chemically inert qualities of the material were applied in the development of artificial blood vessels and other medical devices, many of which are implanted via minimally invasive, catheter-based procedures, rather than traditional surgery.

04 Rust-resistant guitar strings

The ELIXIR® series of guitar, bass and mandolin strings is also a Gore product.Durable and rust resistant, they hold a top market share. A researcher working on cardiovascular products joined this project during his free time.

05 Computer cables

The flexibility, low-friction and insulating characteristics of PTFE has found use in cables for computers, fighter pilot helmets, industrial robots and other applications. Data transfer volume is not affected by bending of the cable.

06 Development of material for space suits

Gore material is used in work clothing for a variety of severe environments, including fire-resistant clothing, space suits, protective clothing for chemical factories and many more. In space suits, the technology is not used only in clothing material but also communication cables.

From WORKSIGHT Preview Issue (Nov.2010)

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