Innoboard: There is no consistent definition for innovation. Every industry and every department perceive it differently. How would you define innovation with respect to your industry?
Dr.-Ing. E.h. Peter Leibinger: There are three possible answers to this question. Firstly, obvious and well known is the definition by Schumpeter that innovation is a new technical solution that successfully establishes itself in the marketplace. Secondly, innovation is any substantial technological novelty or new combination of existing technologies that are the basis for progress regarding the major requirements that a product has to fulfill. In our case, the laser industry, this would be productivity, usability, reliability, etc. Thirdly, and equally important is the definition of innovation as a benefit that the customer actually experiences as a benefit. This can be a small progress technologically, however, small differences in products can yield dramatic differences in customer experience. In such, the “feelability” of the innovation is very important as well.
How does TRUMPF react to the general trends of digitization, connectivity and ’Industry 4.0’?
Industry 4.0 is considered a major disruption by TRUMPF and we are convinced it will bring substantial changes to our products and the way in which they are used. Therefore, we have established ourselves as first movers both in regards to the ability of our products to function in an Industry 4.0 environment as well as our service offerings. TRUMPF is the first capital equipment company to offer its own cloud solution with MES capabilities.
What procedures has TRUMPF established to successfully pursue really novel ideas, new breakthrough technologies or new business models?
TRUMPF’s approach to innovation is based on four principles: First, we are convinced that deep knowledge in a broad range of technologies is essential. Through this we are able to judge, actively pursue and monitor competing technologies. Secondly, selective vertical integration along the technological value chain is an important precondition to technological leadership in one’s field. Thirdly, systematic scouting of technologies and road mapping of technologies that are needed in the future must be performed. Fourth, perseverance is a must. Major technological breakthroughs take many years, sometimes decades, to be realized. Perseverance is necessary in order to be able to deal with this problem.
What particular challenges do you see in further developing new technologies that are related to 3D printing and additive manufacturing?
TRUMPF is offering machines for Laser Metal Fusion (LMF), a laser welding process with which metal powder is formed into finished parts. Vast improvements in productivity, increased process robustness and automatic process control are major questions that must be addressed for this process to become truly competitive in industry.
What are your own personal goals with respect to innovation in the next two years or so?
TRUMPF is the innovation leader in the markets we serve, machine tools for sheet metal fabrication and industrial lasers. In the machine tool field, it is our goal to extend this lead in the next two years, in the field of industrial lasers we equally want to extend the lead but more importantly we want to use the unique technological breadth that TRUMPF possesses to find new applications and thereby to access new markets. Within our R&D departments it is my goal to establish a consistent lean agile research and development process.
Thank you very much for this interview!
About the interviewee:
Dr.-Ing. E.h. Peter Leibinger is Vice Chairman of the TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG and President of the Laser Technology and Electronics Division.
Born 1967 in Stuttgart studied mechanical engineering at the RWTH University in Aachen, Germany. Since 1994 holding partner of the TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG.
From 1997 to 1999, Development Engineer at Ingersoll Milling Machine Company, Rockford, IL, USA. From 1999 to 2003, Chairman and CEO, TRUMPF, Inc., Farmington, CT, USA. Since 2000 Managing Director, TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG.
Since July 2003 President of the Laser Technology Business Division and from 2003 to 2005 CEO, TRUMPF Laser GmbH + Co. KG. In November 2005 Peter Leibinger was appointed Vice Chairman of the TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG. He is Head of the Laser Technology and Electronics Division and responsible for group-wide research and development and for new business fields.
Leibinger serves in several honorary functions.
In February 2011 a honorary doctorate was awarded to Leibinger by the Technical University of Dresden.