Deutsche Post DHL has just been awarded the German Industry Innovation Award (“Innovationspreis der Deutschen Wirtschaft”) in the category of “innovative HR concepts” for its Generations Pact, a trend-setting model for designing and facilitating age-based working solutions.
The award pays tribute to the most significant scientific, technical, business and intellectual innovations and was presented for the 32nd time during a festive event. This year, nearly 300 companies competed in four categories for the coveted prize, which is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.
In October of 2011, Deutsche Post AG and the German trade union ver.di agreed upon a trend-setting model which makes it possible for older employees to actively participate in professional life until they reach the age of legal retirement.
Specifically, through the Generations Pact, the “working-time accounts” and a demography fund serve as a supplement to the partial retirement program. Working-time accounts give employees the opportunity to save up a credit balance during the active working phase and redeem it before they enter retirement. The Bonn-based company Deutsche Post DHL offers attractive models – including financial ones – for older employees that allow them to continue working at reduced hours until the age of retirement.
At the same time, the Generations Pact improves employment opportunities for young people: Last year, some 1,300 trainees received job offers at the company, approximately 25 percent more than the prior year. In the summer of 2013, all suitable trainees will once again be offered permanent employment status at the company.
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3D printing has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing processes in a vast number of fields and that includes objects both big and very, very small. The US-based Society of Manufacturing Engineers has highlighted KTH research into 3D printing of nanoscale silicon structures as one of 10 top manufacturing innovations for 2013.
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) connects researchers with industry experts and other resources worldwide, working to spread manufacturing knowledge among its 24 000 members, representing 21 000 companies worldwide, and the broader manufacturing community in fields from aerospace to energy to medicine.
Every year SME honors 10 new and emerging technologies that have the potential to make an impact on manufacturing processes. The 2013 list includes KTH research into 3D printing of silicon nanostructures used to manufacture photonic and silicon micro-sensor products in low volumes at an affordable cost.
Today, producing silicon-based sensors at a micro- or nanoscale requires a full-scale clean-room laboratory, which can cost several million euros. These labs are also rarely suitable for small-scale manufacturing, as the production technology is usually optimised for large production volumes running into hundreds of millions of devices.
The technology developed at KTH consists of an additive layer-by-layer process for defining 3D patterns in silicon, using a focused ion beam, followed by silicon deposition. The layered 3D silicon structures are defined by repeating these two steps over and over, with a final etching step in which the excess silicon material is dissolved away. In the team’s vision of the future, the structure would first be designed in a 3D drawing programme then sent to a 3D printer that recreates the structure in silicon, layer by layer from the bottom up.
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Contactless payments are being promoted by payment providers without necessarily being demanded by consumers. Aimed at displacing cash, which is generally disliked by merchants and financial institutions due to the costs of handling it, contactless payments face strong competition from increasingly popular Chip and PIN debit card payments.
Although contactless cards are the short-term future for low-value payments, they will over time converge with mobile handsets.
Innovators such as Google and Apple have already launched NFC-enabled devices, and other mobile handset manufacturers will follow when acceptance of contactless mobile payments broadens.
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I had the chance, on Thursday December 4th 2014, to participate to a lunch, organised by a French consulting company named Weave. This lunch was led by Frédéric Simottel from BFM Business and Gilles Babinet invited to the lunch. Gilles Babinet is the Digital Champion, representing France to the European Commission. Gilles was the first president of the National Digital Council, French organization set up by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France at that time. As part of this lunch, Gilles Babinet, developed themes of his book “The digital era, a new age of humanity“.
Indeed, in the 18th century, the invention of the steam engine, starting with prototypes, produced in the 16th century, leads to the first industrial revolution. This revolution is characterized by the mass production of products, more and more sophisticated, and makes possible the industrialization of increasingly complex processes, in all sectors of activity (goods production, transport, …). In the 19th century, mining large quantities of oil, and the invention of internal combustion engines and electric motors using electricity produced from coal, results in the second industrial revolution, with power machines, which completely change the functioning of the economy and boosting the exchanges.
Gilles Babinet says that, in the 20th century, the advent of computers in 80-90 years causes the transition to the digital age, the third industrial revolution. The computer starts at the beginning of the 40s, with the radar and after the transistor in the 50s. But the revolution is actually happening 60 years later, in the 2000s, when every employee has a computer and a smartphone to communicate with his business. Again, all means of production are affected: there are no longer produced well without computers to manage production, to drive robots, to compute the accounts of the company or to boost innovation of them. No sector is spared: producing agricultural crops through computers (in tractors, for the weather forecast, for the accounts …) or producing goods through computers (to control robots, to communicate between people a company, to communicate by producing adverts…). Innovation, exponential, through simulation that allows the digital age, is totally boost by the third industrial revolution; This is why we hear so much of it after this revolution.
All sectors, all company departments, all people are affected. Gilles Babinet is exciting; these analyzes are very interesting. Summarizing the situation, we can estimate that currently there is an industrial revolution emerging each century. And it takes time between the emergence of the new revolution and its application in the industry at every level of the company.
It is interesting to imagine what could be the next industrial revolution. I have my idea about it … I think things will start to emerge within 30 years; and it will take 30 years for the fourth industrial revolution take shape. Until then enjoy the 3rd, transform our businesses to make maximum use of capacity through permissent this 3rd revolution and trying to anticipate the 4th.
How companies can nurture innovation and motivate their talents to bring innovations forward?
Each company is destined to get the results it gets. What I mean by this is that poor organization, lack of solid and sustainable innovation culture lead to poor results, and more than before, to a company’s trouble or death.
Smart business leaders shape the culture of their company to drive innovation. Success and constant positive results come from the implementation and execution of strategies, business models, structure, processes, technologies and incentive systems that encourage innovation.
1. Define your company’s mission around innovation
Many companies don’t have a mission statement, but for those which do, often times statements use generic terms, such as “best product in the world”, “best customer service”… They do not inspire employees to innovate. A strong and inspiring vision should be framed around how the company works to change its customer’s world, for the better.
2. Create the structure to allow employees to experiment new ideas with unstructured time
Successful innovative companies give time to their employees to get away from their daily tasks, to work on personal or company projects not directly related to their work. Then tap into this creative process.
3. Recognize employees’s contribution to the innovation process
Some companies offer monetized incentives. It is hard to assign a $ value to innovation; this is good for sales teams. Some companies give annual innovation awards; it is a good initiative for a short term, but it creates more competition than it encourages collaboration and creates emulation.
4. Return to the past
No new idea is completely original. Some concepts may not have materialized for various reasons, but it is always good to look at the past and understand why it did not work out. You avoid future mistakes, you can find ways to better the products (new technology, new process, new skill…). Start-up companies which by definition don’t have a past can look at what’s be done in the industry, what did not find success, and bounce off this to create something new.
5. Pay attention to culture, not trends
Culture is mass ideology – a system of values and beliefs that runs so deep we don’t question it. There’s an American belief in personal invention and reinvention. You see that in social products like Snapchat and Instagram, which allow us to invent ourselves in the moment. They may seem like a trend. But they reflect a deep underlying value.
6. Continuous education
Self-development is the key to employee’s success. In the same system where company should create a structure for unstructured time, those same companies should create time for continuous education. Allow employees to seek new interests, learn and develop new skills.
7. Allow failure
The essence of innovation is that it takes multiple experiments to successfully create new products, solutions, services. Failure is part of the innovation process. When employees are not afraid of failure, they will feel empowered to take risks and be “crazy”.