Academic Partner: School of Engineering
Duration of the Projects: 2018-2021
How can small and medium-sized manufacturing companies focus on innovation initiatives in parallel with their daily operations? SPARK’s Innovate project is developing methods to solve this balance problem and strengthen the companies’ innovativeness.
Smaller companies rarely have the workforce and specialist knowledge to manage innovation in the way that larger companies do. Furthermore, their business-planning cycles are often short. The Innovate project focuses on developing methods and methodologies that make it easier for companies to innovate while day-to-day operations continue to deliver cost-efficient quality. Run in four-month cycles, the project involves our research team collecting data and the participating companies mapping out their own operations.
“One foundation of the project is that the companies coach themselves by crystallising both what facilitates innovation and what gets in its way,” comments Annika Engström, assistant professor in work organisation.
Challenging the logic
Since the start of the project, a clear pattern has emerged in the participating companies. It centres on wide-ranging, unplanned work. Examples of this are aspects such as quality problems, unexpected customer enquiries, resource shortages and machine failures. All these steal time from planned work and reduce the enterprise’s opportunities for innovation initiatives.
“Traditionally, to achieve perfect, planned, welldefined work flows, you seek to plan so that there is no unplanned work. We want to challenge this mindset and develop methods that create space to prevent becoming bogged down in the established planning logic. We believe this is the key to understanding company innovativeness,” explains Annika Engström.
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