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Good ideas do not necessarily have to originate in a company's development department. A truism that has now proven true once again at WAGO. Meike Beimstroh and Sina-Marie Kluß work in departments that, on the surface, have little to do with pure development work: the former is a product portfolio manager, the latter works as a channel manager for digital commerce. And yet, together they are the idea generators for the new, more sustainable WAGO connection terminal block of the Green Range 221 series, whose plastics are partially made from recycled PET bottles and bio-based residual materials.

Room for innovation: The Kickbox

"Every company that recycles plastics today has to deal with the issues of sustainability and the circular economy if we want to protect our environment. Plastics are made from fossil raw materials, which we will have to use more sparingly in the future," says Meike Beimstroh, explaining the motivation of the two employees to deal with the topic of plastics recycling. The "Kickbox" format already provided a suitable platform for introducing the idea to the company. Participants have three months to push their ideas forward. WAGO's Innovation Manager, Tobias Lehmann, provides intensive support to those who submit ideas. In workshops, participants receive essential knowledge about innovation processes, prototype development, and business models - but can also work on the concrete implementation of their idea at the same time. "It's great that we can also work here on topics that are somewhat outside our daily tasks. The fact that so much trust is placed in us is very motivating and makes us proud," says Sina-Marie Kluß. Incidentally, the offer is aimed at all of the company's approximately 9,000 employees worldwide.

"It gives them an easy way to present and realize their ideas. With the Kickbox, however, we not only promote the ideas, but above all the innovators, thus establishing an active culture of innovation at WAGO," says Tobias Lehmann.

Fertile ground for good ideas

The highlight of the entire process is the day on which the Kickbox participants present their suggestions to the WAGO management. The idea is to exchange ideas at eye level and provide direct feedback. The idea of Meike Beimstroh and Sina-Marie Kluß for the Green Range Series 221 fell unchecked on fertile ground: "With their idea, the two have hit upon an area that has occupied us for some time: How can we expand our service portfolio in such a way that we also address the issue of sustainability and live up to our corporate vision of being the backbone of a sustainable and intelligently networked world?" says Karsten Stoll, CTO Interconnection at WAGO, who subsequently accompanied the project as a mentor. "With the new Green Range Series 221, we now offer a future-proof solution to all those who want to produce or build more sustainably."

The concrete implementation of an idea

For the two idea providers, the hot phase of the project began with the presentation. "Immediately after the pitch, we received a lot of positive, personal reactions. The fact that we were tackling the issue of sustainability triggered a real surge of motivation among everyone," recalls Meike Beimstroh. At the heart of the development was an interdisciplinary project team that was grouped around the two of them. Technology development, quality control, purchasing, sales, product management, corporate sustainability, certification, laboratory and regulatory affairs - many departments were involved. "Everyone on the team was highly motivated and had the will to get the product done very quickly. Without them, we would never have gotten this far," says the actual product portfolio manager. The common goal was clearly formulated: to develop a more sustainable connection terminal that uses plastics from alternative sources and has the same properties, certifications, and quality as WAGO's bestseller: the 221 Series lever connection terminal.

Consumption of fossil resources significantly reduced

This was ultimately achieved with a mix of recycled and biocircular plastics. The green levers of the Green Range Series 221 consist of at least 27 percent recycled PET bottles, while the transparent housing consists of around 77 percent biological residues such as tall oil, used grease and residues from the production of cooking oils. As a result, the consumption of fossil resources is significantly lower for the more sustainable 221 Series in the green version than for its orange sister. At the same time, existing plastics are kept in the cycle. The metal components (spring steel and copper) in both connecting clamps also consist of a high proportion of recycled materials.

Taking the path further

But the process is far from over with the presentation of the green version: "It was very important to us from the outset that the product be further optimized in terms of sustainability. The optimum has not yet been reached. We can and must always improve," emphasizes Sina-Marie Kluß. Karsten Stoll adds: "Our common goal is to save fossil resources and keep plastics in the cycle. The Green Range Series 221 is a first important step in our product portfolio for more sustainability and resource protection - nothing more, but also nothing less."