Savannah River National Laboratory scientist recognized

Med Allen (left) works with David Nowak with a mass-produced industrial glovebox at Savannah River National Laboratory. Allen came up with the idea to buy the mass-produced boxes, which saves about $220,000 per box.

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ones. Just ask Med Allen.

The Savannah River National Laboratory scientist noticed that mass-produced glovebox compartments have greatly improved in recent years – and are much cheaper than custom-built units typically purchased for the U.S. Energy Department facility.

The devices, used by workers to safely handle chemical and radiological materials, are replaced periodically, and Allen’s suggestion to use mass-produced models turned out to be a good one.

After verifying that the units meet all regulatory requirements, the lab agreed to use them – and will save $220,000 each time a glovebox is replaced.

His suggestion was among hundreds of employee-generated ideas channeled through Savannah River Nuclear Solutions’ SRS IDEAS program each year.

Brenda Kelly, the manager of the employee suggestion system, said the program has accrued about $51 million in “soft savings” since 2008, mainly though improvements in safety or efficiency.

“For example, an IDEA may improve the efficiency of a production process to the point where only two workers are needed on a day-to-day basis instead of five,” she said.

The program was named among the Top 10 suggestion programs in the country two years in a row by the Center for Suggestion System Development. It also earned a recent Performance Excellence Award from Ideas America, a nonprofit group dedicated to improvements through employee involvement.

Allen’s glovebox idea was one of the most significant in terms of savings. For his efforts, he received internal recognition at the site – and a $20 gift card.

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