Innovations are an important part of the activities of SSAB Merox, focusing on sustainable development. Innoman’s experts introduced new working methods based on lean thinking to be utilized by the teams of Merox, with the aim of establishing a lean business model.
A process description was drawn up for the basis of the change in Merox’s innovation business, and two teams crossing functional boundaries were compiled on the basis of it. Representatives of product development, sales and production from several places of business in Finland and Sweden participated in those two teams. Innoman’s experts coached the teams for the new working method. The aim was to create a new kind of corporate culture for the organization, by applying ’learning by doing’ methods in accordance with the Innovation Path model developed by Innoman.
–We achieved the goal, and the next aim will be to have the new working method spread in our organization also to outside of the innovation teams. We gained a number of new ideas in every workshop, Marko Mäkikyrö, the CEO of SSAB Merox, tells us.
The project and the new innovation business concept were introduced to the steering group of Merox in January 2019. The steering group took up a very positive attitude to the matter.
–The management of Merox and the personnel involved in the process were committed to carrying out the change from the very beginning of the project. This is the first prerequisite for the successful implementation. The second prerequisite is genuine change, i.e. after the development process you are not allowed to return to the old operating model, but instead, you’ll have to adopt the new one to be part of your daily work. Permanent change is our aim in all development activities, and it has been a pleasure to follow the success of Merox in this work, tells us Innoman’s Pekka Berg.
Arto Ranta-Eskola, D.Sc. (Tech.), who has been for more than 20 years in the managerial duties in R & D & I activities in Rautaruukki and SSAB, participated also in the training as a representative of Innoman.
–Merox has a critical role in the production chain of SSAB. The company ensures that production side streams will be taken care of in manner that the storage sites allocated for them will not ever become full. In case this happened, there would be disturbances in the production, and in the worst cases, even interruptions. Merox has focused on this core task, and less attention has been paid to the systematic search for new product ideas and business models, Ranta-Eskola says.
-In the course we focused both on the development of a management model for innovation activities and on the systematic mapping of new business opportunities. The participants were really committed to the work, and I was very delighted to see that significant steps forward were taken in both tasks. Therefore, I’m looking forward to see how the launched pilot projects proceed, Ranta-Eskola continues.
To get rid of withholding information and doing alone
A concrete change took place especially in the working methods of teams that developed into the direction of lean thinking: to work together crossing the boundaries of job descriptions and teams when necessary. When working in the new way, the final result is the fact that the job will be done by the same personnel more effectively and in a smarter way. A more flexible and agile operating mode will speed up product development.
–No team of any size can nowadays afford to withhold information or manage on their own. There are so many factors to be taken into consideration, particularly in innovation business, that cooperation crossing boundaries is a precondition for effective operation. At the same time job satisfaction will improve, when you appreciate other persons’ skills and you don’t try to do everything alone, Mäkikyrö says.
Simo Isokääntä, responsible for R & D activities in SSAB Merox, who also participated in the process, for his part, points out at the importance of developing innovation systematics:
–Previously we did not have an operating method where ideas that had come up would be systematically developed. Training brought us preconditions for creating such an operating mode. The projects that we discussed in the training and were related with products have advanced now well. At the moment we have reached a point where we won’t develop ideas any longer only internally, but instead, we have included discussions with our clients in projects, Isokääntä tells us.
–We have had established principles for innovation activities including cooperation with universities; we, however, have not written down any innovation strategy. Based on the training, our views on the need for an innovation strategy came up, and in all likelihood it will lead to measures to create an innovation strategy, Isokääntä continues.
A suitable combination of research data and practical doing
Marko Mäkikyrö from SSAB Merox had participated in coaching organized by Innoman for the first time already several years ago, and when the need to develop the innovation activities of Merox came out, Innoman was a strong candidate for a cooperation partner. Especially the unique combination of academic knowledge and practice-oriented help to carry out the change appealed.
–Innoman’s consultation work differs from that of many other consultants in a way that it has a solid foundation in researched data, however, being at the same time very practice-oriented. For this reason, the cooperation got a hearty welcome from our teams, and there wasn’t for example any resistance to change. The support provided by Innoman for the change and continuous development was particularly important to us, tells us Mäkikyrö, Doctor of Science (Technology) also himself.