Managing innovation: Microsoft forum showcases tool, processes for successful product development

If you had an idea for a new product that you were sure would bring your employer significant revenue, would you know who in the company to contact about getting that product to market? If the answer is no, you’re among the majority of people employed by manufacturing companies that want to be innovative but don’t quite know how to pull it off.<br/>


If you had an idea for a new product that you were sure would bring your employer significant revenue, would you know who in the company to contact about getting that product to market? If the answer is no, you’re among the majority of people employed by manufacturing companies that want to be innovative but don’t quite know how to pull it off.

In fact, a recent study out of New York-based Accenture found 55 percent of management teams in large corporations profess a commitment to innovation, while 59 percent of CEOs support the concept. But only 41 percent of companies are satisfied with the frequency at which they bring innovative ideas to market, and only 36 percent are satisfied with the time it takes them to turn an innovative idea into an actual product.

These numbers have prompted Microsoft to start multiple initiatives—both internal and external—to foster innovation within corporations. They involve development of a formal process and the use of Microsoft technology—all of which was on display at an Innovation Management Forum held in October at Microsoft’s Richmond, Wash., headquarters.

In addition to highlighting Microsoft’s own innovation initiatives, the forum featured outside speakers—some of whom exploded myths about what it takes for a company to be consistent innovator.

For instance, Daniel Chow, senior executive for process & innovation performance with Accenture, said his study of the innovation process has shown that industry laggards tend to subscribe to the long-held myth that innovation results from creativity and chaos while leading companies develop the processes, structures, tools, and training necessary to deliver innovation.

He pointed to breakfast food manufacturer Kellogg as a leading innovator, noting that it has an executive-level position “that is accountable for enabling and delivering the organization’s innovation capabilities, with success being measured by outcome-based metrics.”

A desire to support structured innovation programs underpins Microsoft’s efforts in this area, including its sponsorship of the Innovation Management Forum , according to Don Richardson, Microsoft’s worldwide solution director for innovation management.

Microsoft’s innovation initiatives include:

• Creating an internal organization known as the IDEAGENCY, which Microsoft employees can tap into to shepherd innovative ideas from concept to market;

• Working with partners in the independent software vendor community to develop solutions that support innovation processes in specific vertical industries; and

• An Innovation Process Management (IPM) initiative to help manufacturers understand how Microsoft collaboration technology like SharePoint and Microsoft Project can support corporate innovation programs.

Simon Floyd, worldwide industry technology strategist of innovation with Microsoft, performed a demonstration of how a company might use the Microsoft collaboration tools to develop a formal innovation program. The demonstration started with a fictional engineer employed by a sporting goods manufacturer. This engineer had an idea for developing a ski helmet with a Bluetooth headset attached so skiers would be better able to contact rescuer parties in the event of an accident.

The engineer opens a portal application and enters his idea into a system the company has established for capturing new ideas. There the idea is viewed by a person higher up in the organization who has been assigned to sort through ideas and present promising ones to upper management. Once this person approves the idea it is passed into another area where people from other departments—including marketing, purchasing, and manufacturing—can comment and offer suggestions for improving its potential for success.

A major part of the process is ensuring this product will help the companies meet strategic business goals, such as expanding into new markets or increasing the company’s share of an existing market. The key to making this all happen, Floyd says, is ready access to the collaborative technology platform to everyone who’s giving input to the product development process.

Daniel Rasmus, director of business insight for Microsoft, says processes supported by Microsoft technology help manufacturers “think beyond industrial era economics” when it comes to new product development, and that is essential for companies that wish to maintain leadership in this age of global business.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.