May 11, 2021

A century of turning insights into innovation

When digging in the RFS archives, we found a factory workers contract from 1907 which got us thinking about not how the company has changed in the last century, but how it has stayed the same. Britta Ferner, RFS Global HR VP tells us more about RFS’s history and how 100-year-old values are still at the heart of the business.

Britta Ferner, Global HR VP

29. Bonuses for useful ideas
All employees and workers shall be given the opportunity to contribute to the improvement and economic utilization of the factory and its equipment. To this end, bonuses are granted for useful ideas and suggestions that can be put to practical use.

The suggestions must relate to the perfection and improvement of products, the improvement and simplification of production methods, the avoidance of unnecessary expenditure and the saving of time and labor. All suggestions are carefully examined by the plant management and, if they are useful and can be implemented, they are awarded a prize. The amount of the prize will be determined by the plant management exclusively at its own discretion.
Hanover May 23, 1907

This is a real excerpt from one of our 1907 factory worker contracts which offered bonuses to employees that were able to come up with innovations that could be implemented for the benefit of the business and its customers. It’s a really interesting piece of RFS history to see how from our inception, innovation was not just the remit of one team, but a core value for every employee. 

In the century since, plenty in the industry has changed; we’ve seen the advent of the internet and wireless technology, seen the birth of self-driving cars, and even put our technology up in space, but innovation and invention are still at the core of what we do at RFS. 

Rewarding innovation 

There are two key initiatives that ensure this value is front and center for our teams across the globe. Firstly, we award the Hackethal prize every year. Named for the company’s founder Louis Hackethal, who is famous for designing and patenting the first insulated telephone wire, the prize rewards an individual or team within RFS that has demonstrated true, industry leading innovation. This year the prize has gone to our Microwave Antenna team for its work on the TowerBooster antenna which simplifies microwave backhaul over longer distances. Previous winners include the DragonSkin cable and Active-Passive Antenna and are all real examples of RFS creating a product that is industry leading and solves real problems faced by our customers. 

In addition to the annual Hackethal award, we also have the Eureka prize. All employee suggested innovations are collated before being shortlisted. The top innovations are then shared with RFS’s global teams for voting and the top 5 awarded prizes. To give an idea of the scale of employee driven innovation at RFS, in the last 2 quarters alone, 327 ideas have been implemented. From tiny tweaks to production processes, to systems that help our customers better plan their infrastructure, it all works to push RFS to be a real leader in the industry.  

Standing the test of time 

Beyond rewarding our teams for their innovative thinking, the spirit of these awards has been a core value at RFS for another reason. No one understands the challenges of production, implementation, or our customers like those who are in the field or on the production lines day in, day out. Every employee within RFS has a unique perspective on what we do as a company and how we can do it better. So, by encouraging those insights to become innovations, we are constantly able to improve how we operate – making the 100-year-old initiative one that we will keep within RFS for years to come. 

To hear more about some of the innovation driven by RFS employees across the globe, get in touch with Britta Ferner, Global HR VP.