Innovation is NOT continuous improvement

Posted on 2 Sep 2013 by The Manufacturer

The term innovation is being watered down by marketeering and confused with continuous improvement says Brian Palmer, chief executive of Tharsus Group.

Brian Palmer, CEO, Tharsus Group

“In a rush to emphasise their part in the UK’s ‘advanced’ manufacturing revolution and to gain competitive advantage, I have noticed more and more of my peers describing themselves as ‘innovative’.

Unfortunately, more often than not, these companies are using the term as a marketing tool while not truly understanding or applying innovation in their business.

Innovation is the application of new solutions to meet new requirements or existing market needs.  It is not continuous improvement, as some companies seem to think.

Continuous improvement is essential to competitive manufacturing and allows companies to play an important economic role, providing essential products and services that support key industries.  However, it is not innovation and companies should be embarrassed to acknowledge that it is not their mission to be innovative.

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“In reality, there is only a need for a few truly innovative companies, such as Dyson, which can truly disrupt a market and set it off in a new direction.   These companies lay the foundations for a roadmap that others can follow.

That said, it should be highlighted that innovation is not the preserve of the huge, multi-national corporations with huge R&D budgets.

Small and medium-sized enterprises can be market disruptors by being truly innovative.  However, this can’t be done by applying existing, traditional, solutions to their business and products; it has to be done from the ground up with a new and clear approach.

In my business I have implemented the Original Equipment Design & Manufacturing concept, which has not only completely refocused how we operate, but also enabled companies that want to be innovative to collaborate with us to transform their fresh-thinking into new and effective products.

There are a lot of companies who want to bring products to market, but don’t have the manufacturing capability.  Turning to a contract manufacturer who can simply churn out the product is not always the solution.

An OEDM specialist will place innovation at the heart of the development and manufacturing lifecycle process, covering design, testing, validation and technology integration.

Therefore, not only are we, as a business, driving innovation by implementing a new solution to the challenges of contract manufacturing, but also providing a solution for product originators to enable them to bring innovative products to the market faster and more efficiently than most other current methods allow.

Vitally, this methodology also maximises knowledge-based manufacturing, which has to be kept in the UK in the face of increasing global competition.

The UK has a hard-earned reputation for being an innovative manufacturer, but we have to make sure that status is not watered down by companies that are using the term as a marketing tool and simply not creating new solutions.

While their position in the market is not unimportant, only the industry’s true innovators can really secure the future of manufacturing.”