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INNOVATION in PRACTICE (Session 2): Process innovations have the potential to change industries

INNOVATION in PRACTICE, the speakers: Nils Gebhardt, Hervé Flutto, Andreas Rülke, Dr. Robert Kirchner
INNOVATION in PRACTICE, the speakers: Nils Gebhardt, Hervé Flutto, Andreas Rülke, Dr. Robert Kirchner

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Having in mind the big innovation cases like Apple iTunes which made music ubiquitous or many others, process innovation could be seen like step-child of innovation: a little boring or even unsexy.

Even though there are very prominent examples of process innovations that changed traditional industry patterns. Such as Dell’s supply chain which allowed an over average growth for years or the German airline Lufthansa, which introduced a new pricing system, which optimizes revenue. Similarly, Airbnb built a company in the tourism industry worth billions of dollars without having any assets, providing a platform for private people and thus heavily competing the traditional hotel business.

Yesterday’s session of INNOVATION in PRACTICE helped to turn the attention to the full potential process innovation could bring to all industries. Andreas Rülke was the key speaker at the workshop at PARK INNOVAARE with 25 participants, including senior executives from the energy business, engineering and specialty machinery as well a biotechnology and the aerospace sector.

Process innovations could lead to significant savings in time and money – and thus change industries

Processes innovation needs specific competencies. But there are also tools and techniques that support companies in applying best practices. Two of the presented frameworks are PACE (an acronym for process and cycle time excellence) and an established methodology for organizations striving for more effectiveness in innovation, and SCOR, the supply chain operations reference-model, a framework which enables companies to better manage their value chain. The financial benefits are high. Process leaders outperform laggards by 34 per cent in cost and by up to 50 per cent in time-to-market to name just two potential results.

Additional two speakers from industry and science shared their experiences:

Hervé Flutto, representing the investment casting company Flowcastings, demonstrated how existing best-in-class digital methods as a process transferred from another industry to the aerospace helped to improve the business: 3D modelling and advanced machining can dramatically shorten time-to-market, lower non-recurring engineering costs and provide customers with the necessary design freedom.

Also Dr. Robert Kirchner presented an outlook on the fascinating perspective of additive manufacturing. As a scientist at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, he is working on 3D lithography applications in the micrometre dimensions which may revolutionize the optical industry allowing enhanced simulation and visualisation e.g. for the entertainment industry.

Engineers need to adopt better social skills

Similarly interesting were the results of the breakout sessions, when the attendees were split up into groups of five in order to discuss their positive and negative experiences with process innovation.

Actually not the technological developments were seen as core success factor in order to bring process innovations up to speed. But the human factor: communication, competencies and commitment. These are decisive for organisations that want to develop their performance to another level. Here large corporations often suffer from over-engineering processes as well as from over-reporting. A chance for smaller companies when they manage to build up processes in line with their growth. And the need for engineers to adopt better social skills was pointed out.

Also digitalisation – or Industry 4.0 to name a current topic – has to pay attention to the human factor: The technology must not „outperform“ those who should benefit from it.

The third session of INNOVATION in PRACTICE, scheduled for August 23, 2016, will be dedicated to "Breakthrough Innovation". For more information please download the information and registration brochure or visit our event page.