Els Dumont is the R&D innovation supportive manager at Puratos. Her role is to support the project managers that lead the Puratos innovation processes. Els illustrates the different types of innovation processes at Puratos. 'When I coach people in innovation processes, I always explain it as a T-shirt. It’s the same shirt (methodology) but it has different sizes (processes).'
Puratos innovation funnel
The Puratos innovation processes are based on a commonly used methodology: the stage-gate© innovation funnel. It is a very simple step-by-step system, basically just a way to split the innovation process into smaller phases. This is particularly useful with long-term processes that can take up to several years. Whenever a stage is finished, there is an evaluation or ‘gate’ to pass. At that time, we closely examine the relevance and feasibility of the project. Only if the pre-determined targets and expectations are met does the project proceed.
This phasing is very important to enable Puratos to be able to stop projects that are no longer working, on time. This is crucial because by stopping certain projects we can allocate our resources to the more promising projects. It is also more motivating for people to work on projects that have broad support within the organization.
Three shirt sizes
At Puratos we have identified three types of innovation processes that vary in complexity and lead times.
Size XXL: the full track
The most complex type is the one where we start with a blank page. It’s the Rolls Royce of our innovation processes. These are the most complex projects: each will cost five to seven years to execute and has a high level of risk, both in time and money. The objective is to create the disruptive innovations: the game changers. Products that no one else in the market has. We call these our strategic innovations. For example the Puratos T500, the first complete bread improver. Our first groundbreaking disruptive technology developed more than 60 years ago.
Size M is our middle-sized innovation process. These sorts of projects have an average complexity and take about a year to a year and a half from start to finish. We still follow the stage-gate© principles, but there are fewer gates to pass through.
Size S: customer-driven
This process is applied when we develop a tailor-made solution for one of our customers. We visit a customer, detect a problem or challenge, and develop a product that will ease their operations. This is always an incremental innovation. It's a new product, but based on an existing technology with, technically, only relatively small adjustments made. It’s far less complex than the M and XXL tracks, and a convenient and fast way for us to arrive at a tailor-made solution. This type of process typically has a lead time from three to six months.
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