Are innovations proof of entrepreneurial vision?17th of June 2014 Article by Markus Asch
Markus Asch, vice chairman of the management board at cleaning equipment manufacturer Kärcher and president of EUnited Cleaning, writes his latest blog for the ECJ website. He asks how new innovations in the industry can be defined as successful.
Are innovations proof of entrepreneurial vision? Yes, if you succeed in selling them on the market at a profit for a sustained period. Against the backdrop of global competition and ever-shorter product cycles, innovations are now of crucial significance for market position and future prospects.
They open up new fields of activity or enable a company to stand out against its peers. However, they must be long-term solutions and not crisis-driven efforts that serve only to offset fluctuations in the economic cycle.
An innovation is successful if it benefits the person who uses it because in principle a product or solution is seldom used as an end in itself. Instead, the aim is to achieve something or to solve a problem. That is why during the development process it is important, along with the purely technical solution, to bear in mind the broader task and to take the user's surroundings into account.
Imagine that a scrubber dryer manufacturer were to promote a wastewater tank cleaning function as an innovation. The fact that it was an innovation would be of no benefit. The user would not talk to users of his acquaintance about having used something new from some manufacturer or other. Rather, he would say that he was able to clean a wastewater tank after work without coming into contact with the contaminated water.
At present, customers appreciate two things above all - simplicity and regionalism. The product must adapt to the market and not the market to the product, which it would never do anyway.
A vacuum cleaner that satisfies demand on a broad scale in Europe or North America may reach only 10 per cent of an emerging market because of specific features tailored to industrialised countries.
However, if a manufacturer adopts the objective of achieving a high degree of coverage in all markets it must satisfy regional needs by designing equipment on a regional basis.
Uncomplicated design that brings benefit is an art in itself. Manufacturers should realise that customers reject inflated functions because the customer's main focus is not on the machine but on its fitness for purpose.