Over four years ago, we began exploring with Fraunhofer IAO how we might integrate our work in agile strategy with their work in technology and innovation management. Both of us realized that the challenges of innovation, especially for small and midsize companies, were becoming far more complex. These companies do not have the internal resources to develop sophisticated technology and innovation management processes. In addition, almost by definition, their innovation challenge involves complex collaboration.
Two years ago, the New Jersey Innovation Institute, an offshoot of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, approached us about piloting our work in New Jersey. We began this process by working through six pilot projects with Lockheed Corporation. In addition, we launched a cluster in unmanned aerial vehicles, based in Cape May.
Our work with NJII continues. Recently, NJII launched its own Agile Strategy Lab. Last week, our partners at NJII asked us to explore whether applying our Fraunhofer tools to a small manufacturer might provide us some additional insights on how to translate Fraunhofer tools and frameworks to the US market. Here is the brief profile of the company that we are considering:
The company has less than 10 employees and less than $10M in revenue. They perform precision stamping and machining for small runs of unique parts — usually very thin, exotic alloys for defense applications. They are “low” in the supply chain: Tier 2 and 3. Nothing they do goes to an end user. They are generally not equipped for high volume work. They have 8 to 10 tools – either presses or machine tools. Because of how thin the materials are, there is little finishing work. At most, they perform de-burring process. They are not a materials company; they source all the raw stock from specialty suppliers around the word.
We will continue to explore this opportunity with NJII. We are looking for ways to introduce sophisticated technology and innovation management disciplines into smaller companies in ways that are lean, low-cost and agile. Here’s a video we took during our visit to Stuttgart in which we introduced NJII to our colleagues at Fraunhofer IAO: