Building Grassroots Innovation and Inspiration to Improve the Way We Operate

Gary is one of six recipients of our 2023 Innovator of the Year awards.

Gary Schweizer, director of engineering for our Engineered Wood Products business, is a structural engineer, which naturally makes him a problem solver. He’s constantly looking for solutions, for ideas to re-engineer the way we work. And he’s also an energetic leader, a role model for using our CuttingEdge platform, and someone who inspires others to continuously think about innovation.

“I’m like a basketball point guard,” Gary says. “I’m not necessarily a good shooter or rebounder, but I can pass — which in this case means distributing innovative ideas throughout the company.”

For the past four years, Gary has served as the Innovation Champion for our Wood Products Sales, Marketing and Supply Chain team. Participation in CuttingEdge (an internal idea-sharing platform open to all employees) soared to 68 percent in 2023, and his leadership has inspired others to submit more than 800 ideas in three years. Gary contributed 11 ideas himself, more than half of which have been implemented — including an idea for alternative floor systems he developed with CJ Roberts that is expected to provide significant value after implementation.

Gary also has the highest CuttingEdge engagement index of anyone in the company — hardly surprising when you learn he’s posted more than 1,000 comments to help refine and support other ideas from all over the company since the platform launched.

“Gary’s innovative spirit is both inspiring and motivating,” says Brian Chaney, vice president of EWP & Innovation. “He’s a role model for utilizing CuttingEdge, and he’s known for prompting engagement and supporting ideas throughout the process. He helps inspire everyone around him to problem solve and think creatively about improving the ways we operate.”

For his innovation leadership, Gary was recognized as one of six recipients of the 2023 Innovator of the Year award. Launched in 2021, this annual award recognizes and celebrates employees who are driving improvements and fueling operational excellence through their ideas, actions and the innovative environment they help create on their teams.

Image of Gary and his wife DQ hiking through Zion National Park.

Gary and his wife Denise (who goes by DQ) hike through Zion National Park.


Gary says the innovation he’s most proud of contributing to is our new online Wood Products Specification Center, which makes EWP design manuals viewable on our website. The site provides region-specific information for users, including technical product literature and contact information. It also allows people to efficiently search for things like sales and engineering support, installation guidance, software and more.

While the site itself is an accomplishment, Gary has been excited about the many ideas for new ways to use it, from boosting awareness of technical bulletins to publishing design best practices and more.

“The Specification Center is under continuous improvement,” Gary says. “It keeps reinventing itself, proving that innovation breeds innovation.”

Gary also lauds another “pie in the sky” innovation his team is working on: taking a builder’s electronic architectural drawings and importing them directly into our Javelin® design software, which is used to specify Weyerhaeuser products.

Historically, the input portion of Javelin® accounts for about one-third of the time spent on a design drawing. By automating the process, it will make it easier for customers to choose specific products. Critically, the effort will also save significant input time for Weyerhaeuser and dealer designers, an innovation Gary enthusiastically describes as “game changing!”

Image of Gary with robotic dog Spot at the Innovation Summit at our Seattle Headquarters earlier this year.

Gary with his 'new best friend,' Spot the robot dog at the Innovation Summit at our Seattle Headquarters earlier this year, where Gary received his Innovator of the Year award. 'I believe in making the idea creator part of the solution,' he says. 'It’s part of my job. Sometimes we need to archive an idea because we don’t have the resources or it’s just not the right time. But just because an idea won’t work today, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. I never want the idea creator to be discouraged.'


Gary says he’s a fitness advocate and likes to daydream while he’s walking — which often leads to work-related ideas. Once he gets an idea, he works to enlist support and collaboration with colleagues.

“I have a lot of energy and passion, which I think is infectious,” Gary says. “I naturally latch on to people who think about innovation. And when you inspire them, creative networking happens. That’s what’s so cool about CuttingEdge. When you tag people, you invite their thoughts and ideas. And it all just grows from there.”

But he’s also realistic about possible barriers to implementation. In fact, he has a sign on his desk with a quote from Thomas Edison that reads, ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’ He says this philosophy inspires his ‘keep trying’ approach to innovation.

“I’ve got a lot of ideas that were archived,” he says. “It’s important to be persistent and maintain a positive attitude. You’ve got to be ready for the grind, willing to wait until it’s the right time for that idea, when we have the technology and the resources to make it happen. I believe my best years are in front of me, so I’m always looking for ways to re-engineer myself and my work.”