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Author's profile photo Mark Darbyshire

Every bit of innovation counts

“Innovative” can be a trite word, especially in IT circles. Many companies casually throw it around in their marketing collateral when describing themselves. So I find it refreshing when I see real innovation in action. A good example is Hilti Corporation, manufacturers of power tools for the construction industry. Their track record for innovation touches just about every part of the business – from HR and corporate values to their business model and IT systems.


Let me give you a couple of examples. Part of Hilti’s HR training courses involves each participant going for a ten to fifteen minute walk with another participant one-on-one. They talk while they walk, then switch to a different walking partner so that by the end, everyone has been for a stroll with everyone else. It lets them get to know members of the group in a different way and have a chance to open up without necessarily making eye contact.

Likewise, one of their four corporate values is “courage”, which they define as an attitude of being able to manage yourself, to change, and to look at solving problems in a better way rather than simply acting out of habit. They’ve applied this problem solving approach as equally well to their product design as they have to their business model.  Hilti figured out long ago that their customers don’t want to necessarily own power tools. They want to measure, cut and drill holes in things. So they don’t just sell people tools. They also deliver the required types and quantities of complex equipment and processes to jobsites and customers pay for their use. In these instances, when the job ends, Hilti collects the tools.

They’ve also realised that merging the analytical and transactional world lays strong foundations for business transformation.  For example, it’s not just the simple logistics of a construction site that need to be considered, but also the effective management of key product data. By ensuring they’ve got all the production supply and processes in place, all the necessary goods and merchandise are available in time for assembly on the production line, and delivery on the job site.

Nor do Hilti salespeople need laptops to register a new customer or add a new order. This can be done on their smartphones. In fact, Hilti are looking at transforming the entire sales planning process, moving from an average three days of a Hilti sales person configuring each job and complex set of requirements, to a simple self-service model where customers can design their own processes.

It’s been said that simplicities are enormously complex. That’s why Hilti runs 95 per cent of its business using SAP. Centralised analytics support a single point of access for the 200,000 customer interactions they manage every day. How else could they analyse 53 million customer contacts in seconds rather than two to three hours, increasing reporting speed by a factor of 1,000, or achieve a two second advantage?

With the arrival of IoT, there’s no reason why such forward thinking companies can’t be equally as innovative with service-based outcomes. For example, say predicting when a drill bit will need replacing and how many’ll be needed to complete a job, ensuring new parts are automatically delivered the day before they’re required. Predicting the lifecycle of components could be based not only on the condition of the parts, but also the context in which they’re used – such as left handed versus right handed workers, the amount of pressure applied by different individuals, or damp versus dry or dusty weather conditions.

Applying potential insights like this in innovative ways can help simplify the puzzle of complexity in businesses everywhere. Find out more, and how other companies Run Simple, at Run Simple

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