The purpose of the innovation process is to ensure that the market and technology trends and the business strategy are combined into visions that are further refined into commercial products.
"The goal is to always have projects at both ends of the innovation pipeline. Only the most promising ones will pass the process," says Jari Riihilahti, Director, Technology Management, Metso Automation.
Every link in the chain
The innovation process brings together experts from the different functions right from the start of a development project. If, for instance, a new product is a challenge for the supply chain, the product or the chain is accommodated before the launch.
"The innovation process is a tool for developing the business," says Riihilahti.
At first glance, the innovation process might seem to put a damper on creativity, but Riihilahti turns this notion upside down. He has tracked how the shared innovation process has become a natural part of Metso Automation’s organization over the past 3+ years.
"A process must not be a burden. Management has to allocate enough time and resources to the initial part of the process, i.e. the innovating and planning. The rest of the work is more systematic and straightforward. But that beginning phase doesn’t have the luxury of an indefinite amount of time for brainstorming," Riihilahti says.
Also services from the pipeline
Another goal is to push more and more productized services out of the innovation pipeline.
"Using the innovation process to develop services remains a challenge, although more and more services are being created this way."
Many companies are pursuing business growth specifically through new service offerings. But Riihilahti also points to new, increasingly better products and improvements to customer processes. The more saturated the markets become, the more clear it is that technological development cannot be compromised – on the contrary.
"We are recognized as the frontrunner in technology and quality, and we must continue to lead also in the future. We don’t want to compete on price alone," Jari Riihilahti assures.
Design’s growing importance
Design is an increasingly important part of product development. Designers participating in the innovation process and networking with others spread best practices from one project to another.
Good design is often seen in direct savings, for example, in customer energy costs and in product usability.
Good design has the potential to decrease the amount of materials and the number of parts and to accelerate production. For example, integrating the paper machine’s tensioner and controller reduced the number of parts by more than half.
The most economical part, claim Metso’s designers, is the one that isn’t needed.
Text: Marianna Salin
Illustration: Jussi Kaakinen