Let’s define what we mean by innovation and the innovation process. Innovation is the creation of something new and original. The more different it is from what already exists the more innovative it is. However, we need to understand what the innovation is for in order to give focus on innovation as a process. The purpose of innovating may be to:
differentiate from competition by offering customers different benefits.
reduce manufacturing cost and thereby increase margins
increase quality, either by new design, new manufacturing techniques, or even new quality control methods
improve levels of customer service and satisfaction
In short, innovation for manufacturing is about improving the returns on investment and making the companies’ activities more effective.
Any process needs to have an input, an output, and a value added element sandwiched in the middle. In order to have successful innovation these 3 elements need to be fully understood.
Innovation process input
The input of the innovation process is either a need or an idea. It is the seed of thought which can arrive in our heads by chance, or by an idea generating process in itself. It is a preconceived idea which has not been proved out and lives on gut instinct or suspicion. None of this is in any way bad, although it can be difficult for those who like the certainty of facts and figures to accept. That is why the innovation process is required in order to improve the certainty.
Innovation process output
By the end of the innovation process there needs to be much more certainty about what the outcomes of the innovation itself are. The end of the process is also an opportunity to filter the innovations which are not beneficial or are too difficult to achieve. The end of the innovation process is the point at which decisions are made.
Innovation process middle
In order to move from the beginning of the process where there is only a preconceived idea through to the end where decisions are made requires a significant amount of information gathering and this can be summarised in 5 essential ingredients for successful innovation:
Strategy – The innovation needs to be strongly aligned with the corporate strategy, and it goes without saying that there needs to be a very clear and well laid out strategy in the first place for this ingredient to be in place.
Technology – The technology for the innovation must be readily available and understood by those working with it in order for it to be employed. Any development project being undertaken where the technology is not fully established will run a high risk of taking much longer to complete than expected, and this will have an adverse effect on the project costs.
Opportunity – This is the core ingredient and involves understanding the facts and figures surrounding the commercial opportunity. How much will the product or service cost to introduce? How much will the customer pay for it? How many customers will buy it? To help answer these questions, a full understanding of the existing market conditions as well as the position of the market when the product or service is due to be launched is essential.
Planning – A detailed plan is key for a successful introduction of your innovative product or service. The plan is required not only to ensure that all the right activities are done in a timely manner, but also in order to feed back into the Opportunity research so that checks can be carried out to ensure that the customer needs will still exist when your innovation is due to be launched.
Specification – What will it be like and what are the essential elements of the innovation in order to make it successful on the market? Which elements can be dropped due to lack of customer value and which ones are essential if the product of service is going to be successful?
This article has turned out to be much longer than normal but I don’t apologise for that. This is just so important, because without a thorough innovation process as laid out here, the risk of your new product or service failing is significantly increased. However, if you include all these essential ingredients to your innovation process then the risk of failure will be significantly reduced. What is more, due to increased focus provided by the innovation process outcomes, the time to market is more likely to be optimised, leading to lower development costs too.
Enjoy the opportunity!