A spill happens, and quickly, you pull sheets of paper towels off the roll. Maybe you’ve thought about it —maybe you haven’t — but if Bounty is on your kitchen counter, then you know you’re getting a superior paper towel built on three factors: absorbency, strength and softness.
Enter P&G Senior Inventor (yes, that’s his actual title) Paul Trokhan, the unlikely innovator of the ‘Quicker Picker Upper’. In 1982, Trokhan developed a top-secret technology that would change Bounty forever, making it the iconic brand it is today.
“I happen to be very passionate about paper towels for one particular reason: they pose a very difficult technical challenge, and technical challenges are what make technical people happy,” Trokhan said. “In Bounty we did that.”
The technology is complex and not clearly visible to the naked eye. Trokhan says the science within each sheet of Bounty is considerably smaller than a grain of short rice.
“What we do is make very small what we call micro-regions of the towel that are focused on strength and other micro-regions that are focused on softness. Those micro-regions are so small that you as a consumer will never see them. It looks like a uniformed towel, but at the functional level, it’s a very, very different structure on a micro scale,” said Trokhan.
Not bad for someone who had the odds stacked against him.
“I was one of those kids who always got on a report card, ‘not working up to his potential’,” Trokhan admitted. “I grew up in a small coal mining town in Western Pennsylvania. I went to a high school that had 12 kids in my class, and I played basketball. The only reason I went to college was because my high school basketball coach thought I could play basketball in college. He was wrong, but I fell in love with learning.”
It was in college, Trokhan says, that something clicked, and from then on, he got straight A’s.
“The potential was there but I was not applying myself, and it’s interesting that it just takes a little spark to go from where I was to where I ended up,” said Trokhan.
Today, Trokhan holds nearly 250 patents, and another 150 are currently pending.
In his free time, Trokhan enjoys spending time with family, including his five grandchildren, farming and raising cattle, which surprisingly allowed him to hone skills he put to work during his four decades at P&G.
“One of the things that those all share, particularly the farming, is a characteristic of self-reliance,” he said, “Self-reliance has been a critical part of how I’ve approached my work at Procter & Gamble.”
Trokhan retired from P&G in October of 2022, and his contributions have come full circle as he retired exactly 40 years — literally to the day — after developing the technology behind Bounty.
Before he left, Trokhan shared that Bounty’s future is bright.
“It’s almost unheard of for a platform technology to last more than about ten years before it’s displaced, particularly in this fast-moving world we live in now. The technology that makes Bounty Paper Towels is 40 years old, and we project that it has many more years of life, which is unprecedented.”
Despite his accomplishments during his four-decade career, Trokhan is humble.
“There are two kinds of people in the world in my world: there are starters and there are finishers. There are those people who are big picture thinkers who get the idea out in front of others, and there are those who love to wrap those ideas up in neat little packages.”
“If you were to look at my life, you would see countless unfinished projects. I am a starter. And the only way a starter is ever successful, certainly in a company like Procter & Gamble, is to surround yourself with finishers.”
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