Ever wonder what happens once you drop your submission into that idea box on the wall of your office building or when a concept proposed by your group gets submitted for review? For most organizations, the process of cultivating ideas and innovation has been haphazard and poorly managed. If one outlying area of an organization develops an innovation or new product idea, it may take weeks for the parent organization to pay attention. As more organizations move to expand their global footprint, most are realizing they lack a single point of reference for managing the innovations and ideas that foster new product development.
PLM software provider Sopheon (www.sopheon.com; Bloomington, MN) has systems that manage the innovation and idea process through to business case approval. “Traditional PLM companies are mainly focused on the more technical level, but our claim to fame is we are focused on the business layer of PLM we call ‘innovation process governance,’” says Bryan Seyfarth, solutions marketing director with Sopheon. The goal is to help companies eliminate the redundancy that’s commonly found in large organizations when it comes to innovation, while also allowing for faster identification of projects and products that will help improve return on investment.
While Sopheon’s Accolade software has been used for a number of years in the consumer electronics, aerospace, home appliance and consumer goods industries, the auto industry is beginning to warm up to the idea of using software to improve the management of innovation, particularly as it pertains to aligning the product portfolio in relation to strategic goals. Users can develop a single database where all innovations are tracked and monitored for progress. So, he explains, engineers and managers are “able to see across their entire product portfolio, across the whole organization, all the projects they are working on and all the products they are planning to release and all the main components associated with those.” Consequently, better decisions can be made about which products to pursue.
Sopheon’s software utilizes the Stage Gate process. It helps manage each innovation through the development process. Once an innovation is entered into the system it has to pass through several stage gates before it is given final approval by senior management for volume production and associated investment.—KMK