Agility and Design Thinking - SFS

Agility and design thinking at SFS

Jennifer Weitbrecht
21.09.2018
2 pictures
4 minutes

We’d like to use today’s article to provide you with a brief insight into the approach and strategy adopted by our sponsor SFS intec GmbH. SFS is an innovative company that employs cutting-edge approaches in the development of innovations. Johannes Feldmann, Managing Director at SFS, reveals the company’s strategies in this interview.

It’s all about the right interaction

WingMag: What is the priority and focus of the SFS Innovations department?

Johannes Feldmann: Two factors essentially shape the innovation process at SFS: working closely with our customers and maintaining a clear focus.

Focus, in this context, means that responsibility for day-to-day operations, organisation, routines and processes has been taken away from our innovation specialists, as it is precisely these tasks that consume ‘innovative’ energy. The Innovations team needs to be able to concentrate fully on new developments and be free to develop new solutions.

In doing so, we pay particular attention to the perfect interaction of both areas – customer development management and innovation management.

How can we best serve you?

WingMag: Why do Customer Development employees spend so much time with customers at their offices?

Johannes Feldmann: The Customer Development department is still relatively new. In the past we simply had a Customer Service department, which acted reactively: staff waited for customer enquiries and then answered them. Customers’ needs were not continually tracked or followed up. This approach works well in stable economic times that are somewhat less affected by economic cycles.

However, we have learned that customers’ demands have changed. Today it is essential that we proactively analyse customers’ needs: small but fast innovations have become increasingly important. Admittedly aircraft programmes have long lifecycles, but even so, many minor innovations often occur between major changes and require a fast reaction time. Our strategy has therefore developed towards more proactive, fast action.

Fast innovation – perfect products?

WingMag: “Fast innovation”, at first glance, does not sound like mature, well-engineered solutions. How can you guarantee quality even with fast reaction times?

Johannes Feldmann: Of course we would like to develop perfect products for our customers. But what does perfect actually mean? Our understanding of a perfect product is clearly geared towards the customers’ requirements, effectively preventing “over-engineering”. We develop products on the principle of “as good as is needed”, taking into account four points: “Design to cost – The desired quality is based on the customers’ requirements regarding functions, material and so on. Functions – We develop precisely those functions asked for by the customer. On-schedule delivery – the duration of the innovation process is based on the customers’ specification. Security of supply – just-in-time delivery of the exact required product.

Speed counts – Rapid prototyping

WingMag: What does the SFS innovation process look like?

The initial design solutions then evolve through a series of innovation loops. We work with agile methods and proactively obtain feedback from our customers. As a technologically independent solution provider, we are capable of reacting significantly faster than the competition in many areas. (Editorial note: You’ll soon be able to read more about this in a future article).

In practice, our Outside-In approach leads to a process that is both innovative and interactive – for SFS as well as for our customers. We initially only develop products up to a certain level of maturity. As soon as we reach this level, we proactively contact our customers and involve them in the design process for new developments. This ensures that prototypes evolve with the joint input of customers until they are ready for production – throughout several innovation loops.

The latest SFS Aircraft Components prototypes

At the end of the interview, Johannes Feldmann opens up his laptop and shows us the two videos that we have included below. They show two of SFS’ latest innovations, which are currently at “prototype” stage. Just the right point for involving customers in the process!

Thank you for the interview Mr. Feldmann!

Pictures © SFS

by Jennifer Weitbrecht

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