You are here

Fast, hands-on, and inexpensive

April 5, 2016

Konecranes Innovation Agent Network bridges the gap between day-to-day inspiration and its capacity to benefit the customer. We take a look at the shift towards the fast, low-cost, high-return development it has enabled.

Konecranes Innovation Agent Network was established in 2012, with 30 designated Konecranes employees – the so-called agents – from different parts of the world keeping actively in touch with customers to understand their needs and identify innovative ideas to fulfill them.

Renewed in 2014, the network is now region-based, with sub-networks in each of Konecranes operating regions. Another noteworthy change is the shift from nomination of participants to an entirely voluntary system, which has proved to be a great motivator.

Konecranes 12,000 employees – many of whom are in close contact with the customer on a daily basis, attending to their daily challenges and needs – represent an enormous resource in themselves. Harnessing their inspiration, energy and enthusiasm is the revitalized network’s key aim, and the results are already encouraging.

Innovating for the customer

There are always open questions at the product platform stage, particularly in relation to new ideas, and the Innovation Agent Network is tailor-made to develop an understanding of the various customer requirements and environments. The network’s agents are Konecranes very own personnel, who, alongside their regular tasks, work as enthusiastic promoters of innovation culture.

Agents fulfill a number of different roles. Some are focused on gathering ideas from their colleagues and helping these innovators to develop their ideas. Strong coaching skills are important here, as the agents act as a communication link between the person with the idea and Konecranes R&D function.

Then there are agents working in service or sales, who are in a great position to clarify customer needs and discuss ideas with them. In a sense, they represent a research body, able to act as a sounding board for innovations. These agents also have the opportunity to find customers who may be interested in deploying prototypes for ideas that have reached an advanced stage.

Finally, there are those with overall responsibility for coordinating activities in their geographical area, who also participate in global network meetings. The way these various agents interact while sharing responsibility for fostering innovation is a great example of one of Konecranes values in action: “Trust in People.”

The power of networking

Toivo Hazanov, a Product Manager at Konecranes, offers a sense of the Innovation Agent Network in action. He has recently participated in a project that resulted from the new way of working. “It’s been a completely new approach for me,” Hazanov enthuses, “and it seems to really make things happen.”

The sharing and development of ideas on Konecranes online innovation portal is a key component of the program. Hazanov checks in regularly to browse the ideas shared there, give his feedback, and take part in the conversation. In fact, the portal is where his current project began its life.

“Our tool for service technicians actually started out as a spin-off from another idea shared on the portal. There was a lot of discussion there, and eventually the decision to proceed with the new idea was made. Following sketches and preliminary design work, we’re now at the prototyping stage.”

Bringing competences together

Toivo is confident that the new online innnovation portal will realize a number of benefits for Konecranes customers. But in the meantime, perhaps the project’s most striking result is the way it has united personnel from a wide range of backgrounds.

“I have quite a commercial perspective,” Hazanov explains, “but we have one guy who has several years of field experience as a service technician in Australia, now does research, and is something of an inventor also. Another team member works as a global technical support engineer – he knows the field well. One other member has been working with RTG sales to ports.

In another project, there are people who work in areas as diverse as IT and HR. The innovation agent team in India, for example, is focusing on the technical development of ideas, as they are part of the shared engineering center there.

The range of contributions also transcends geographic boundaries. Innovation agent teams include Konecranes personnel from China, Sweden, South Africa and the United States, to mention just a few.

The aim is simply to use the knowledge and capabilities of these agents to the maximum extent.

Hazanov believes that this exposure to different points of view is what makes the work so rewarding, which eventually feeds back into his everyday work. “As a product manager for field service tools, it’s extremely beneficial to explore as many new ideas as I can.”

With the Innovation Agent Network in full swing, it seems there are enough new ideas on the table for even the most curious minds.

Expert spotlight

Toivo Hazanov

Product Manager, Konecranes Service Product Management

  • Toivo Hazanov manages field service tools for the service technicians.
  • His main task is to productize special tools for job tasks where commercial tools are not available.