Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
Weekend edition August 11, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Pilot Company’s “Innovate 23” seeks ways to improve efficiency, customer experience

More than 200 team members across six departments, nearly double the number in 2022, competed on 15 teams with nonprofits being the immediate winners.

When many people consider innovation, they immediately think of start-ups.

Why? Well, for starters (no pun intended), successful new businesses are usually created around a problem that is not being addressed in the market and frequently offer an innovative solution. That said, innovation also clearly occurs in large enterprises as we experienced firsthand during the reporting out session for the Pilot Company’s recent “Innovate 23” held on the campus of the University of Tennessee (UT), Knoxville.

“To remain a leader in the industry, you must continue to evolve, and our teams work around the clock to find new ways to integrate and enhance technology to improve the experience for our guests and team members,” said Mike Rodgers, Chief Technology Officer at Pilot Company. “The ‘Innovate’ hackathon pays dividends in the solutions developed for our company and the energy it builds for our team. Additionally, our teams compete for local nonprofits focusing on STEM to help invest in the next generation of IT (information technology) professionals.”

More than 200 team members across six departments, nearly double the number in 2022, competed on 15 teams that focused on how new technologies could make internal operations more efficient and/or improve the experience of customers. A new layer added for 2023 required that solutions must incorporate artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, closed-circuit television (CCTV), or cameras and edge computing.

What was the reporting session like?

“Innovate 23” started as a hackathon over two days that encouraged creative, collaborative, and proactive problem-solving. That was clearly evident from the enthusiasm exhibited by those who reported out for their teams as they addressed challenging issues ranging from fraud through skimmer devices at the gas pumps to maintenance alerts for showers used by truck drivers, AI to help with dispatching of tankers, and food ordering and curbside delivery.

During the “Shark Tank-like” session that concluded “Innovate 23,” there were short presentations about the problem each team addressed and the recommended solution, followed by rapid-fire questions from Pilot executives including Rodgers and Founder Jim Haslam.

In the spirit of the philanthropy for which the Pilot Company and the Haslam family are known, local nonprofits were again the beneficiaries of the hard work undertaken by the 200 individuals. A total of $45,000 was distributed to local charities, $15,000 more than in the past.

The winning “Innovate 23” teams in order, the problem they addressed, and the benefitting nonprofit were:

  • Active Skimmer Detection – $15,000 for the Wesley House;
  • Food Ordering and Curbside Delivery on a Digital Channel – $10,000 for the L&N STEM Academy;
  • Mobile Fax Service on myRewards Plus – $5,000 for UT Knoxville’s Women and STEMM;
  • Modern Shower Maintenance Alerts – $5,000 for the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Appalachian STEM Academy;
  • Fuel Inventory Prediction and Auto-Dispatch – $5,000 for The SMART Institute; and
  • New Authenticated Travel Center to SSC Communication – $5,000 for TNFIRST.

Don’t Miss Out on the Southeast’s Latest Entrepreneurial, Business, & Tech News!

Sign-up to get the Teknovation Newsletter in your inbox each morning!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

No, thanks!