Small process innovations can create great advances
14 Feb 2020
In this age of disruption, there’s a tendency to regard innovation in terms of monumental, eye-catching change.
It’s no bad thing of course to think big – challenging times demand that we endeavour to do so whenever possible.
Yet we should not ignore the opportunities for the many small wins that can be achieved either.
As Lesley Eaton of SEEPEX points out in our main pumps feature, companies need not obsess about searching or waiting for that ‘next big thing’ to revolutionise their manufacturing processes. There is much they can attend to right under their noses.
It is, she advises, as much a matter of developing an environment in which innovation can flourish; plant the seeds, attend to them and then wait to reap at least a modest harvest in years to come.
Rather than focusing on an end product begin instead with the customer and the work culture, she advises. Or indeed, look at using an existing product in a different way.
Retrofitting and selective replacement affords another opportunity for inventiveness, as Bürkert’s shared experience demonstrates: the firm enabled a client to avoid the prohibitive cost of valve replacement by honing on a particular aspect alone.
As a result, the client was able to retain its original valves and achieve the desired improvements while avoiding changes that would involve hefty amounts of downtime. Elsewhere, SKF used its fibre optic sensing technology to create a commercial load sensing bearing which has resulted in much more accurate strain measurements than have been previously achievable.
By nudging staff to turn their attention to particular aspects of their processes and products, pumps companies are innovating constantly. Sometimes those steps appear modest. But then a multiplicity of small steps will soon constitute a great leap forward.