By building an innovation center at the home location in Künzelsau, Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG is creating space for ideas, creativity and trend-setting products and systems. The 70-million-euro project is intended above all to shorten innovation cycles for products. Construction work has already commenced; the building is set to be finished on the campus in Gaisbach by the end of 2021.
In the future, a total of roughly 250 people will develop products and system solutions of the future in collaboration with universities in Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Innsbruck. The cooperative networking between the developers from Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG and those of several subsidiaries is expected to produce great synergistic effects. The subsidiaries involved include: SWG Schraubenwerk Gaisbach, Dringenberg Betriebseinrichtungen in Obersulm, Toge Dübel in Nuremberg, MKT Metall-Kunststoff-Technik in Weilerbach, and Chemofast Anchoring in Willich.
At Würth, innovativeness is deeply rooted in our corporate culture and change is ingrained in our DNA. Prof. Reinhold Würth, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Würth Group’s Family Trusts, launched the initiative to build the center: “My objective it to always keep the company youthful, in a state of becoming – to prevent us from drifting into a state of being where the accountants and auditors reign supreme, where there is no more forward progress, where things are only administered and managed. It is important to me to prevent the company from drifting into the routine of boredom.”
The new innovation center will accommodate some 250 employees, researchers and developers: yet another milestone in Würth’s company history. “Providing space for the solutions of tomorrow today,” that is the vision for this new working environment covering around 15,000 square meters. Innovation should become systematic here.
Thomas Klenk, Managing Director, Head of Product Management, Purchasing and Export at Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG, explains in an interview the company’s plans to break with routine in the innovation center. Franz Kühmayer, Austrian expert on trends and the world of work from Zukunftsinstitut, clarifies which working conditions stimulate creativity and why the preconditions for innovation have never been better than at this very moment.
is the primary goal Würth hopes to achieve by building an in-house innovation center. Furthermore, the optimal working conditions in the new 70-million-euro building should attract young talent to the company, and keep them on board in the long term.
RESEARCH, NETWORKING, GROWTH
Thomas Klenk, Managing Director at Würth, hopes to bring together different people and disciplines.
The purpose of the innovation center is to demonstrate that we are no longer just a screw dealer from Hohenlohe but that there is much more to Würth than meets the eye. Our customers are surprised time and again when they witness the innovative strength of our company. The laboratories and workshops in the innovation center being erected directly next to our corporate headquarters are intended to open up entirely new possibilities that would have been unfathomable until now. We aim to strengthen our in-house research activities at Würth as well as the cooperation with the own manufacturing companies in our Group. Working within a network in this manner means bringing together different disciplines and people. On the one hand, our own developers will work in the innovation center. On the other hand, we also have numerous Group manufacturers with which we would like to develop products together in the innovation center.
We will collaborate with three universities: with the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT), which is the technical university for the federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, with the University of Stuttgart, and with the University of Innsbruck. These universities will send students and doctoral candidates to our campus, who will in turn work together with our employees and those of our subsidiaries.
We hope to attract highly skilled professionals to the Hohenlohe region with the alluring building and the eclectic research and development environment. The partnership with the universities allows us to reach out to the students directly. This makes it possible for us to identify up-and-coming talent early on, to nurture them and to encourage them to choose Würth.
The most important goal of the innovation center is to shorten innovation cycles. One example: When we introduce a new generation of our ASSY® wood screw, sales increase rapidly by 15 to 20 percent, and continue to develop consistently thereafter. That is why it is crucial not to wait another ten years until the next innovative leap but to shorten the entire process to about four to five years.
We ran the numbers recently: If we assume that there are 300 to 600 billion dollars to be had in our market segment, we are currently still a small player even though we are among the biggest competitors. Thus, there is enormous potential available. We will be concentrating more heavily on this, and the innovation center plays a major role in our endeavors.
THE HEYDAY OF INNOVATION
Trend researcher Franz Kühmayer considers innovativeness an entrepreneurial virtue.
In my opinion, innovation is a notion of longing. It represents our desire to face new issues and capitalizing on them, while preparing ourselves for the future. As such, it is a broad term that is related to the continued development of the entire company and is not just limited to a specific product or type of technology. First and foremost, innovation means fostering a pioneering spirit. Naysayers will always come out of the woodwork since innovation challenges what already exists and can therefore be seen as a source of interference. Understanding innovation as a psychological strain is unfounded in this case. Innovativeness includes a greatly gratifying component, reflecting courage and whetting the appetite for risk, which makes it an entrepreneurial virtue par excellence.
But how is innovation produced? In this day and age, companies have to be open and outward looking. The ivory towers are passé. This means close contact and dialog with customers, within the company’s own organization, including all employees, and partnerships with research institutes. Innovativeness is also a question of our conception of humankind: We are all social and inventive creatures. Recognizing this and initiating suitable methods and steps effectively means supplying oxygen to the company so that it can breathe again.
Thus, bosses who are often primarily busy with supervisory and review work gain extra time to be creative themselves. However, with this comprehensive approach to innovation, simply developing ideas is not enough. This requires the will and the means to implement them.
The space itself is an underestimated factor in this type of organizational development: Meeting places are imperative for this, where lots of people from different walks of life can come together and share their thoughts and ideas. The world is changing drastically. Yesterday has long since been forgotten, and tomorrow is uncertain. But trying new things is easier than ever before thanks to the possibilities afforded to us by digitalization, for example. In a nutshell: We are living in the heyday of innovation.
CHAIRWOMAN OF THE ADVISORY BOARD OF THE WÜRTH GROUP
Long-term corporate development requires clear objectives and well-functioning structures. However, recognizing market trends early on and adapting our company’s strategy accordingly is equally important. Würth’s innovation center is intended to offer space and possibilities for precisely this purpose. We will work together with employees from various other Group companies, customers, and even external consultants and researchers to create new ideas and find creative solutions. Our goal is to expand our expertise further so as to continue offering our customers innovative products and optimal solutions in the future.