November 9, 2021
Sometimes ravens provide inspiration for new ideas.
Photo courtesy of Sitka Chatters.

Inspiration Often Arrives Unexpectedly

Thoughts from Tim Fulton, Founder/CEO

Most innovation comes from identifying a need and pondering ways to fix it. This innovation was purely the result of a practical joke.

During much of my career, I worked as a ramp agent in a small fishing community in Alaska. Millions of pounds of fish left the tiny airport annually as cargo in the bellies of 737s. I loaded a good portion of it.

There is one jetway at the airport with the cargo warehouse nearby, and pallets of fish boxes were staged at the line with a forklift. It usually took only a couple of minutes, but that was long enough. At some point, a wily raven figured out that the boxes had excellent eating inside. This was fresh cold water Alaskan seafood, after all. Mr. Raven (for the purpose of this story) told his buddies, and before long, those few minutes were enough for the ravens to greedily rip holes in the boxes and steal bites of the tasty treats inside.

This meant unanticipated scheduling on the duty roster. We had to post someone on the line to keep the ravens away.

Although I wish I could say that the "Scare Raven" idea came to me immediately as a solution, that is not how it happened. There was a mechanic who, for some reason, could never be found when he was needed. On a whim, I cut out a person-shaped profile from cardboard and dressed it in his coveralls. We had great fun with it --- the cutout would show up everywhere reminiscent of, "Where's Waldo?" One day, when it leaned against a pallet of fish, we made a discovery: it kept the ravens away.

As with any innovation, it needed further refining. Scare Raven was quickly modified to 2x4 construction and mounted to a pallet. The coveralls were stuffed, and a popular costume mask was added as its head. It continued to work amazingly well for several years until an airline captain mistook it for a marshaling agent. Thankfully, damage to the aircraft was narrowly averted.

Scare Raven went into retirement based on management mandate. Fortunately, it had been long enough, so the ravens had given up and moved on to easier scavenging. As ravens are clever, we assumed it was only a matter of time before they returned to try again, and I had several ideas in mind when that happened.

Just this year, they did return. And now, there is a new contemporary Scare Raven to do the job. In thinking about the story, it reflects what we do at Ramper Innovations every day: idea, modifications, and continuing improvements to solve problems, adapt to changing needs, and provide superior outcomes.

Thanks to the inspiration provided by ravens.

"Where's Waldo," – credit: Martin Handford, creator

November 5, 2021

We realize an innovative idea is only the beginning. The real challenge is transitioning from idea to reality.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash/Matt Ridley

Inspiration, Ideas & Innovation

Thoughts from Tim Fulton, Founder/CEO

Sometimes inspiration and innovation come to us in circuitous ways. Although I don't necessarily think of myself as innovative --- I tend to reserve that term for someone like Sergey Brin or Richard Branson -- there are many things that motivate me, whether it's for small tasks or for the bigger demands which keep me moving ahead to accomplish longer-term goals.

Even though this was my perception, I began to notice something. In conversations, people often responded with comments, such as, "That's a really great idea!" or "It's clever. How did you ever come up with that?" "Wow. That's an innovation you could take to market."

That's when I realized it's simply part of how we do business at Ramper Innovations. We didn't think what we did every day was especially out of the ordinary, but others did. And, subsequently, it's one of the reasons we chose the name for our company in its earliest days.

We also realized that an innovative idea was just the beginning. The real challenge was transitioning from idea to reality in a way we could benefit the most people while, at the same time, improving processes. This was followed by producing a practical, affordable model that could be easily adapted to multiple settings.

That's what we do at Ramper. Because innovation --- most especially, practical innovation --- is our heartbeat, and it's how we operate every day. We decided to share some of our most fun, interesting innovative moments with you. These will come from a broad range of settings. We welcome your comments and look forward to hearing your own stories of innovation.