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By Markus Häffner I Posted: April 2018
Innovations and their impact on industrial valves
Innovations are one of the most important growth drivers and make a significant contribution to the company's success. For sustainable successful innovation results, a culture of innovation must be created. That should be based on the cultural and organizational skills.

But how can the innovation culture of a company be developed and permanently anchored in the organization? We asked Markus Häffner, Director of Design & Development at the AS-Schneider Group.
Interview – Markus Häffner (Director of Design & Development at the AS-Schneider Group)

Companies are under enormous competitive pressure today. Where do you see the challenges in the field of industrial valves?

Markus Häffner:
In addition to safety, external environmental factors also play a very important role in the field of industrial valves. The author Eva Grieshuber very accurately describes the challenges in her book "CSR as a lever for holistic innovation".

Thus, taking up so-called "mega-issues" creates new risks as well as opportunities, which forces the industrial valves industry to rethink. "(…) Climate change, legislative changes, energy and resource issues, environmental pollution threats to health, social security and economic activity will sooner or later lead to changes in regulatory conditions, changes in relative prices but also in demand behavior." (Source: CSR as lever for holistic innovation; Author: Eva Grieshuber)

Can you give us an example?

Markus Häffner:
A very good example is the ISO 15848-1 which came into force a few years ago. It enables the classification of functional safety of valves with regard to the reduction of fugitive emissions. Increasing energy consumption and dwindling natural resources have led to stricter legal environmental requirements. The industry had to rethink quickly. Suddenly a new request came up.

The ISO 15848, in contrast to the previously used TA-Luft, not only considers the sealing system of the stem, but the entire valve, including the body seals. The difference between ISO 15848 and TA-Luft was very well described by my colleague Tim-Frederik Kohler in his post "Fugitive Emissions: ISO 15848 vs. TA-Luft".

In response to this legal requirement, we have developed an innovative valve technology within the new ISO FE Series. That meets the highest tightness class "A" of ISO 15848-1. With a maximum permissible leak rate of 1.3 • 10-7 mbar • l / s (for a stem diameter of 7.5 mm), class even exceeds the requirements of TA-Luft.

Innovations are thus vital to a company's survival. Is an innovation culture the key to long-term business success?

Markus Häffner:
Yes, absolutely. Without willingness to change and innovations, a company cannot survive in the long term. Too much of the above-mentioned "mega-issues" in the market happen. The new conditions create completely new markets or needs, which must be served promptly.

Targeted customer orientation is crucial for innovation success. We live in a time when innovation and creative solutions are in demand and actively used like never before. This makes it all the more important to introduce a sustainable culture of innovation as an integral part of successful Corporate Social Responsibility.

CSR stands for responsible, holistic entrepreneurial action. Among other things, environmentally relevant aspects, responsibility towards society and the needs of our own employees and customers are taken into account. It is therefore all the more important that innovation culture is actively practiced across all hierarchy levels and departments. Because innovations go beyond pure product innovations. Innovation hides new technological, economic, environmental, organizational or social approaches.

You've just come up with an important approach: "customer focus is crucial to innovation success". Can you explain this in more detail?

Markus Häffner:
We are very happy to work according to the open innovation strategy. In doing so, we specifically open our innovation process to the outside world. Our customers, partners and suppliers are involved in the process of developing ideas and new products and services.

End customers, plant operators, plant builders a.s.o. are the most important source of innovation. Their experiences and wishes provide decisive impulses for new products and solutions. Thanks to the integration, we quickly gain different perspectives, new impulses and a comprehensive (insider) knowledge. Which enables us to respond promptly to the new market needs and environmental influences.

What are you doing to ensure that the internal culture of innovation is lived?

Markus Häffner:
I think we all know the situation: the "hamster wheel day-to-day business" leaves us little room for innovative and strategic considerations. Here everyone has to find the "balancing act" between the operative, less creative daily business and the innovative action. Because existing resources are often limited, the challenge is to prioritize the different issues.

It is important that all employees are involved in the innovation process. The introduction of an innovation culture is a never-ending process. It takes time for people's attitudes and behaviors to change.

Of course, we also support the workforce through various soft facts, such as our comprehensive company health management concept.

But we also promote the innovation process through targeted trainings. For example, an innovation workshop was held in March this year under the motto "Innovation is the key to everything the future can be!". Our colleagues Leo Kaufmann, Dominik Reule, Björn Bofinger, Stefan Heine and Daniel Heinze took part at it. The workshop showed them how to generate and develop innovative ideas, facilitate brainstorming, and even lead the innovation process in groups to contribute to a “culture of innovation.”

Iconic author and innovation expert Peter Drucker famously said companies fall into trouble because the temptation in the existing business is always to “feed yesterday and to starve tomorrow.” This is, of course, a deadly temptation, Drucker explains: “The enterprise that does not innovate inevitably ages and declines. And in a period of rapid change, such as the present, an entrepreneur period, the decline will be fast.”

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