Business Center

Spotlight on Innovation: Mike McQueary

Vivi Engen, Process Improvement Intern
October 18, 2018

Mike McQueary

Mike McQueary

Transportation Maintenance I in Region 4

Mike McQueary is a Transportation Maintenance I in Region 4, Frederick, CO, who breathes new life into innovation at CDOT.  In a recent interview with Mike, he described his approach to innovation, “When someone has a problem, all I want to do is fix it for them.” A humble, yet ambitious innovator, he added, “if you want input, by golly I’ll give it to you because I’ve got ideas!”

Interview with Mike McQueary

Why do you innovate?

“Innovation has always been part of my life, it runs in my family,” Mike explained “I grew up in a house where if I wanted something, I had to figure out how to build it.” He continues to apply a similar approach today. When a problem emerges, Mike takes the approach that if “something’s not right, I know there is a different and better way [to do it]”.

This passion has transformed into innovation with the purpose to protect fellow CDOT employees. “Today I innovate to make the lives of my coworkers easier,” said Mike. “We’ve got quite a few hazards out on the job. I’m always looking for anything that I can do to make one aspect of our job safer.”

What is your thought process when it comes to innovation?

“I tend to beat ideas to death,” said Mike with a laugh. “When I’ve got a problem I’m trying to fix, I think about it all the time and put it into every scenario I could possibly think of before I release a prototype.” Mike says his prototype success rate is about 85% when it comes to building innovative solutions for problems at work, and attributes those high numbers to late, sometimes sleepless, nights running the “physics through [his] head about what works and what doesn’t.”

Mike also said he relies on his co-workers, management and his wife for feedback and input on his innovations.

Describe a time when you had to think “outside-the-box” and how did you go about it?  

Guardrail repairs make up a large portion of the work CDOT maintenance crews do out on the road. Mike remembers one exceptionally hot day where he and his crew were out repairing damaged posts. The system they used required digging down by hand to the base of the post, then inserting a screw to pull the damaged post out of the ground. This would often split the entire post down the middle, adding more time to the repair process. Guardrail repair this way was time consuming, laborious, and inefficient. Finally, a sweaty and disgruntled Mike said, “Enough is enough, this is crazy! There has to be a better way to do this.”

“I got to thinking about a Guardrail Post Puller to act like a pair of scissors,” explained Mike. “The harder the loader pulls on the post, the tighter the grip on the damaged post to yank it out of the ground.” Mike’s innovation shortened what was once an eight-hour guardrail project, to a four-hour project. The improvement also “eliminated any chains slipping off, and violently releasing pressure,” he explained.

Why do you feel that innovation is important at CDOT?

“It’s no secret that at CDOT we have limited funds and resources to work with,” said Mike. “We’ve got to work with what we have, and innovate to make it better.” One of Mike’s most recent projects offers a solution to reoccurring and costly plow repairs with a new system that aims to reduce the number of CDOT plow strikes in a season.

Over the last ten years, CDOT has averaged about 100 plow strikes annually, which has cost an average of $6.5 million in plow repairs. In response to the lost money and time, Mike came up with an idea to “design a GPS plow hazard system for all our roads that will link to the Zonar tablets we already have in the plows to alert drivers within 5 seconds of approaching a hazard on the road.” Once Mike’s innovation is implemented, he hopes to see funds that were used for plow repairs to be reallocated “to explore better technology and newer equipment” at CDOT.

Do you have any encouraging words for other CDOT innovators?

“Regardless of how small an idea may seem, don’t let that stop it. That one small idea might complete the puzzle of a larger problem that has needed a solution for a long time.”

For questions or additional information, email Mike McQueary at [email protected]

Learn more about successfully implemented Lean Everyday Ideas here.

Have a solution to a problem? Want to share your innovation? Submit your ideas here.