Innoboard: There is no consistent definition of innovation. Every industry and every department perceive it differently. How would you define innovation with respect to Anton Paar GmbH?
Dr. Ronald Henzinger: Innovation indeed is a term that is used and misused on many occasions. At Anton Paar we keep things simple – as simple as possible, but not simpler. So I stick to the definition that invention costs money and innovation makes money.
Anton Paar was founded in 1922 as a one-man locksmith’s workshop. Today, as a globally active high-tech company, we are technology world market leader in several of our business areas by bringing together engineering and simulation expertise with high-precision manufacturing capabilities. Therefore, innovative ideas in our company often are born at this interface.
Our best innovations did not just improve features or the quality of our products, they did much more: they have been game changers that altered whole systems or processes. Only after passing these high entry barriers, it was possible to provide really high customer benefits.
According to your opinion, what are the three key success factors for innovation management?
1. curious, smart and dedicated colleagues
2. curious, smart and dedicated colleagues
3. curious, smart and dedicated colleagues
To be serious now: innovation is about people and comes from people.
Secondly: you need an open minded, transparent corporate culture that allows and rewards innovation, as well as flops that are inevitable.
Thirdly: you need a simple method to identify and kill unsuccessful ideas at an early stage.
What do you think about the following statement: “Innovation is not limited just to products, but it includes all departments within the company”.
I fully agree to this statement. If you look into highly successful companies, you always find competitive advantages in their business processes, not only in their products. Products that are more successful than standard are invented, designed and manufactured according to business processes that are faster and more effective than standard.
Processes have to be simple and logical, you need clear and transparent responsibilities and you need to enable people to actually take their responsibility and act as entrepreneurs. To keep the simplicity, you have to continually re-invent the processes and assess the necessity of its parts, an approach we call “systematic garbage collection”.
What are the major trends that will influence your business in the next 5 years?
There are several trends intensifying that increase the customer benefit of laboratory precision equipment:
Some of them are obvious like portability, miniaturization, shortening of measurement time, increase of accuracy or energy efficiency.
The trends of the second class are much more exciting because they enable us to ask totally new questions in the experiment and, therefore, get much stronger answers than in the past:
These are highly time- and spatially-resolved measurements and as a kind of royal class even a combination of different measurement methods investigating the same area or volume of the sample at the same time.
The third class of trends is related to the operation of lab equipment: The future will bring us instruments that are really intuitive to operate – and that means individually intuitive, because every single person is different -, instruments that are much more stand alone “decision makers” than todays “data suppliers” and instruments that are capable of exchanging information with the world outside and of doing self diagnosis and data interpretation on a much higher level than today.
How do you react?
We carefully assess the applications of our customers and develop a deep understanding of the benefit that our instruments provide to them.
Regarding the operation of our instruments we watch the progress of so called enabler technologies and adapt them at the right time. Our goal is to provide not only the world’s highest precision, but also the most convenient and efficient way of operation.
To summarize, we re-invest since years about 20% of our turnover into research and development, so our pipeline is filled.
What is your personal goal for this year regarding innovation?
To help to create the environment that enables even more innovations than in the last years and to get stumbling blocks out of the way.
About the author:
Ronald Henzinger is with Anton Paar since 2011 and responsible for the division Research & Development. He has 25 years of professional experience mainly in the automotive supplier industry in Germany, Austria and the United States, including Siemens, SiemensVDO Automotive and AVL. Ronald Henzinger held several positions in research & development and general management as managing director.