Sifting for golden ideas

For inspi­ra­tion, cre­ative minds need, above all freedom and space to think. In Harro Höfliger’s busi­ness cul­ture, the guide­posts for all employees have been set so that besides the daily busi­ness, there is enough room for inspiration.

Peter Claußnitzer, CTO at Harro Höfliger, care­fully con­siders the con­cept of inno­va­tion: “The over-use of buzz words dilutes their core and degrades them into catch words. Most new prod­ucts are not really inno­v­a­tive. Pro­gres­sive, dif­ferent and worth­while are nec­es­sary but insuf­fi­cient con­di­tions for an inno­va­tion. An inno­va­tion should fun­da­men­tally change some­thing,” Peter Claußnitzer empha­sizes. As a pos­sible example for the near future he names the tech­nology of Linear Motion Sys­tems (LMS), such as Beck­hoff XTS or Mag­nemo­tion linear trans­port sys­tems, with inde­pen­dently driven work­piece car­riers. The reason: “Uti­lizing these trans­port sys­tems essen­tially changes the design and the phi­los­ophy of a machine. That is why their use would be a gen­uine product innovation.”

„New approaches must be intro­duced in close con­sul­ta­tion with the cus­tomer. Because the cus­tomer appre­ci­ates cre­ativity but does not like neg­a­tive sur­prises.“Thomas Weller, CEO

One orga­ni­za­tional inno­va­tion, still in effect today, is the incor­po­ra­tion of a “phar­ma­cist” into the com­pany struc­ture. The resulting “Pharma Ser­vices” depart­ment at Harro Höfliger is the basis for many suc­cessful projects, and guar­an­tees increased process reli­a­bility. The Pharma Ser­vices experts guide the cus­tomers in the selec­tion, devel­op­ment and opti­miza­tion of the processes from product infeed to pack­aging. The first step is the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of active ingre­dient-con­taining orig­inal for­mu­la­tions, and the deter­mi­na­tion of the optimal dosing prin­ciple using a com­par­a­tive product data­base. Uti­lizing test setups, crit­ical processes are ver­i­fied and tested well in advance. Finally, clean rooms make it pos­sible to operate the new system with the orig­inal product under future envi­ron­mental con­di­tions. There­fore, Harro Höfliger not only builds machines, but is fre­quently an inte­gral part of the devel­op­ment phase of new drugs.

(Illus­tra­tion: Bernd Schifferdecker)

Beyond the daily rou­tine, new ideas con­stantly emerge regarding machines, sys­tems and processes. So that they are not lost, Achim Wolf has set up the EIS (Engi­neering & Inno­va­tion Ser­vices) depart­ment at the Allmers­bach im Tal head­quar­ters. Their task is to sys­temize, struc­ture and effi­ciently develop the process from the ini­tial idea to market readi­ness. Thus, ideas with poten­tial for inno­va­tion do not end up in some desk drawer, but are con­sis­tently moved for­ward in a con­trolled process and in mul­tiple phases.

“Most new prod­ucts are not really inno­v­a­tive. A true inno­va­tion should fun­da­men­tally change some­thing.“Peter Claußnitzer, CTO

Inno­va­tion man­age­ment as a sys­tem­atic process, with trans­parent deci­sions and close project con­trol is a building block of Harro Höfliger’s Strategy 2020. CEO Thomas Weller explains: “Our cus­tomers come to us because they know that we, as tech­nology leaders, find the right solu­tion for their par­tic­ular task – even beyond the beaten path.” It is there­fore imper­a­tive that every market trend is rec­og­nized and ana­lyzed at an early stage. How­ever, empha­sizes Thomas Weller, “new approaches must be intro­duced in close con­sul­ta­tion with the cus­tomers. Because the cus­tomer appre­ci­ates cre­ativity but does not like neg­a­tive sur­prises.” The key is the so-called co-inno­va­tion with the cus­tomer. For Peter Claußnitzer this has become the norm at Harro Höfliger: “Many good solu­tions are cre­ated together with our cus­tomers. We moti­vate and encourage each other to achieve excellence.”

(Photo: Helmar Lünig, Bernd Schifferdecker)

More than 1,000 capable cre­ative mindes

Achim Wolf man­ages the inno­va­tion man­age­ment team at Harro Höfliger. A con­ver­sa­tion about tasks, chal­lenges and successes.

What respon­si­bil­i­ties does your team have, Mr. Wolf?

We are the first stop for an idea to become reality. After all, our com­pany now has well over 1,000 pro­fi­cient cre­ative minds on the pay­roll – everyone can come to us with his or her sparking idea. First, we ensure that no flash of inspi­ra­tion is lost. After all, there can be a real inno­va­tion behind every idea.

Do you also ensure a con­trolled process?

In four steps, we channel the flow from idea to inno­va­tion. First, an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary team exam­ines the fea­si­bility of an idea. The inno­va­tion steering com­mittee uses this expert opinion as a basis for whether or not an idea is pur­sued as a project. If in the next step,  the project suit­ability is con­firmed, the steering com­mittee decides whether and in which appli­ca­tion con­text the idea should be fur­ther devel­oped. Next, it is deter­mined which machine can be used for a new tech­nology, or for which target cus­tomers the inno­va­tion can be considered.

How do you pro­vide sup­port to the orig­i­nator of the idea along the way?

In the classic role as a coach, we clear the way. We set pri­or­i­ties, pro­vide the nec­es­sary resources, and ensure con­tin­uous com­mu­ni­ca­tion regarding the project status. With full sup­port from man­age­ment, we can also iden­tify other employees who can func­tion as pro­moters at the appro­priate time. Last but not least, we make deci­sions trans­parent and ensure close project control.

Are there exam­ples in which inno­va­tion man­age­ment has already proven itself?

The XTray, a uni­versal con­cept for the delivery of sur­gical sutures, is one example. Like­wise, our Dis­c­Filler – a table unit that can be used to fill up to 60 cav­i­ties of a disc with inhala­tion powder in one dosing cycle – is the result of our ded­i­cated inno­va­tion management.

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Photos: Janine Kyofsky, Tom Philippi, Bernd Schifferdecker