The Boots Suggestion Scheme

The collection, evaluation and implementation of ideas within the manufacturing areas of the factory buildings at Beeston (Nottingham) and Airdrie (Glasgow) goes back many years although records were only kept from 1986, when individual factory arrangements started to come together as a cohesive suggestion scheme. By 1993 this had been launched as a single scheme into the now familiar format of AIM (All Ideas Matter) on a single in-house software package run centrally from Beeston. The scheme had a ‘traditional’ rewards format with £25 Encouragement Awards, an Intangible Awards scale and Savings Awards (up to £15,000) based on a percentage of first year savings.

Up to 1992 the scheme format was ‘traditional’, with ideas being submitted on paper into a suggestion box. The collection of ideas then evolved with the introduction of ‘fold and post’ forms that use the company’s internal mail. Further technological advances were made possible by the purchase of an off the shelf ideas tracking software package. An in house Intranet Website was then introduced to add to the publicity & promotional options and provide up to date information for evaluators and submitters. This now allows both submitters and evaluators to have direct access to the software for submissions and for decisions on adoption. As a consequence paper usage has dropped considerably. Paper input is steadily being supplanted by on line input to the software database via the Intranet site and contributions via home e-mail.

In 2003 the pressures on the manufacturing areas increased and ‘Lean Manufacturing’ policies were introduced. Management saw that rewards for ideas cut across the way they wanted to effect lean manufacturing and the suggestion scheme was modified to remove most of the cash awards.

Up to this time the retail part of the company, Boots The Chemist, had resisted the introduction of a suggestion scheme. However, 2003 saw the arrival of a new CEO from ASDA who asked for the creation of a Stores Suggestion Scheme. Because at the time the company was downsizing and cutting costs, the scheme was set up without any rewards and rolled out to cover the whole company. Whilst a no reward scheme was well received in the new areas (without any expectation of reward), in the manufacturing departments the scheme died. However, to put this in perspective, at its peak the manufacturing scheme served around 5000 staff which is now little more than 1000 whilst retail staff number in excess of 60,000.

Since 2004 original retail scheme has expanded with the merger with Alliance Unichem and the merger of Boots Opticians with Dolland and Aitchison. Boots already had a strong recognition process, run by HR, and this has allowed AIM to evolve in a wider ideas arena. One of the key tools for our stores is their Intranet (MyStoreNet – MSN). Through this, ideas can be submitted and the opportunity was taken to also handle ‘feedback’ from that same source. The random nature of feedback, that the subjects mirror those of ideas and as we have used the same software has allowed us to exploit synergies to extract more ideas, reduce handling and provide better support for our colleagues most of whom are out in our stores.

The suggestion scheme is open to everyone, employees, contractors & in-house partners (eg IBM) in over 2500 locations, stores, warehouses and our two support offices at Nottingham and Feltham. There is an ongoing evolution of the scheme as it ‘infuses’ itself into the business. Short term projects and development often involve the scheme as a means to get creative input and through this and other activity the profile is kept high.

Whilst manufacturing ideas regularly brought in high tangible savings the nature of the retail environment keeps values low. What has been identified is that the existence of a route for colleagues’ ideas is in itself a major factor in colleague satisfaction. Management also value it as a means to improve communication, safety, working conditions, environmental impact and a greater overall involvement of each employee in the future success of the Company.

The scheme is also a model of low cost. Without rewards or expensive advertising the running costs are low, giving an ROI in excess of 5:1

For nearly 20 years Boots has been a member of ideasUK and has sponsored a trophy in the Annual Ideas Competition. We have notched up successes in poster competitions and ideas competitions and currently sponsor the Customer Service Trophy in the ideas competition. The evolution of the scheme has been done, not in isolation, but with the awareness of other schemes around the world through the association. In effect membership has varied frequently between taking and giving; taking advice and benchmarking with others and then sharing our experience for the benefit of others.

For more information contact:

Andy Beddows

Suggestion Scheme Manager

D90 East F08
NG90 1BS
0115 959 2653


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