CREATING A COMPANY STRUCTURE FOR INNOVATION

New ideas are the lifeblood of any successful organization. But it’s one thing to have new ideas, and quite another thing to validate them and follow up on those that are likely to be most marketable and profitable. “You need a structure and a process,” says Alejandro Lomas, Güntner’s Innovation Manager. “If you don’t have one, you can end up wasting a lot of time and money.”

This was the motivation behind Thinkit, Güntner’s unique internal innovation program designed to not only discover new ideas within the workforce but also to streamline the entire ideation process. Within our Future Solutions division we created a tailor-made intrapreneurship program combining existing tools and processes with a new approach based on our long experience of innovation.

“We needed something that fit perfectly with our culture,” says Herbert Schupfer, Head of Future Solutions. “And we ended up creating something that isn’t available on the market anywhere.”

A pilot Thinkit program was established, with entry open to employees in Europe. Although envisioned for 12 people, it was quickly expanded to 20, such was the enthusiastic response from colleagues. Those entering the program were a widely diverse group in terms of age and gender and drawn from many different areas of the company – administrative, technical, logistics and more.

“I THOUGHT OF IT AS AN EXPERIMENT. I HAD A CRAZY IDEA AND I WANTED TO FIND OUT WHAT IT WOULD TAKE TO TURN IT INTO REALITY.”
THINKIT PARTICIPANT HUNGARY- MIHALY SZEL CONSTRUCTOR, GÜNTNER
Innovation new ideas content

Thinkit was launched in May 2022 and the participants began with a two-day workshop before spending part of their working time on their ideas, validating and discussing them with colleagues and potential customers as well as stakeholders. The program had a sustainability theme, so ideas needed to focus on positive environmental or social impact as well as the financial bottom line.

“The program was very well structured, in that it made us think and rethink several times,” says Catalin Cretu, an Industrial Engineer at Güntner’s factory in Sibiu, Romania. “I must have switched ideas about six times.”

At the end of the validation period, the participants came together in Nuremburg to present their ideas to potential ‘investors’ – otherwise known as six members of Güntner’s top level management: Robert Gerle, Michael Freiherr, Gernot Puntigam, Andreas Riedl, Klaus Wittek and Tamás Schwarzenberger.

“IN THE SAME WAY THAT WE WANT TO TRANSFORM OUR STAFF INTO INNOVATORS, WE ALSO WANT TO TRANSFORM MANAGEMENT INTO INVESTORS. THAT MEANS THEY ACTIVELY INVEST BUDGET, TIME AND COACHING IN NEW IDEAS.”
ALEJANDRO LOMAS INNOVATION MANAGER, GÜNTNER

Six ideas were chosen by the ‘investors’ to continue to the next stage, which will involve further research or the manufacture of a prototype. The selected innovations cover a wide range of applications: from saving energy and reducing products’ CO2 footprint to processing units in a more sustainable way, and from increasing the efficiency of evaporators to adopting new materials in our products.

“It’s still too early to say which of these ideas will get to the finish line and become reality, they are huge” says Lomas. “It’s important that they’ve been validated by our process and we know that they are aligned with the vision of our business. The ideas that didn’t move to the next phase maybe didn’t align in that way but they were still important, because this programme is also about embracing failure and learning from it. That means we invest in ideas with the greatest potential market opportunity and impact aligned with our values. We look forward to launching Thinkit on a global scale.”