Establishing a Deep Culture of InnovationFor NORMA Group – an innovation- and technology-based company – innovation is the key to success. Research and development (R&D) consequently plays a decisive role. Through innovation, NORMA Group products evolve and adapt in response to changing circumstances. We also use innovation to introduce improvements in energy and resource efficiency.
In 2014 and 2015, we instituted internal, structural changes in the company to strengthen and expand innovation at NORMA Group. Our objective is to establish a deep culture of innovation, which NORMA Group defines as an environment that uses efficient methods for raising potential in the company and actively shaping the future. Classic instruments such as suggestion systems and innovation awards, as well as a clear, management-driven innovation strategy are being employed to that end. In addition, we are appointing innovation scouts at all sites, and global, cross-functional innovation platforms are being used to share technology and to transfer knowledge.
Extensive restructuring in the Engineering and Product Development divisions was completed in 2015. Over the course of this process, responsibilities for the R&D division were redefined. In the future, they will include a stronger focus on the development and evaluation of new technologies, in particular with respect to new processes, methods, materials, and additional functionalities. The R&D division will also take on the task of identifying potential arising from new fields of application and markets.
Extensive Research and Development at NORMA GroupNORMA Group constantly invests in research and development to further strengthen its market position and continually improve and develop its products.R&D expenses in Engineered Joining Technology (EJT) totaled EUR 28.8 million in 2016 (EUR 25.4 million in 2015). As a share of EJT turnover, this amounts to an R&D rate of 5.4 percent. In 2016, 305 people worked in product development and R&D at NORMA Group (271 in 2015).
Our commitment to innovation at NORMA Group is reflected in the number of our patents, patent families, and new patent registrations. As of 31 December 2016, the Company held 843 patents and registered designs (2015: 727) in 196 patent families (2015: 179). In 2015, we registered 74 new items of intellectual property (95 in 2014) in 23 different patent families (17 in 2014). In order to further improve the measurement of our innovation capacity, we changed to measuring inventor’s declarations per year within NORMA Group from 2017 onwards.
Innovation Partnerships with Customers and Research InstitutesWe are planning to organise more events with our customers in the future, with the aim of identifying potential for innovation and developing innovations together. In the EJT division, we are already working closely with end-customers, as well as with R&D institutes, suppliers, and other external partners. This enables us to pick up on global trends directly and to seamlessly implement them in new technologies and product ideas. This in turn makes it possible to bring product innovations to market quickly.
NORMA Group Values Suggestions for ImprovementsIn addition to supporting our employees and helping them to develop their potential, NORMA Group also encourages them to contribute suggestions and ideas for improvements based on their great wealth of experience. To that end, the company has developed a plan for an internal employee suggestion system.
We benefit from the suggestions of our employees particularly when it comes to the optimisation of our processes (Environment) and improvements to our products (Business Solutions). In 2016, our employees submitted 5,821 ideas and suggestions for improvements.
To recognise the achievements of individual persons or groups who advance the interests of NORMA Group through process optimisations, contributions to higher earnings, better product quality, competitive advantages, or more environmentally friendly outcomes, for example, we have created the CEO Award. Each year, the Management Board selects the best ideas submitted by employees.
In 2015, David Schoumacher and his team from NORMA France took first place in the CEO Award for their achievements. His innovation in the production process of FREEFLEX fluid lines makes it possible to greatly increase the productivity of the process, lower costs, and ultimately avoid supply bottlenecks.
Cooperation with Universities Ensures Long-Term Innovative StrengthOur innovation culture also includes the promotion of young talent – we see this as a long-term investment in our innovative capacity. NORMA Group currently supports three students from the fields of mechanical and electrical engineering at Darmstadt University by awarding them with scholarships.
In addition, we support a junior foundation professorship at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management for an initial period of five years. The research priorities of the foundation professorship are on the areas of production, innovation, technology, entrepreneurship and intellectual property.
NORMA Group has been supporting three students from the Technical University of Darmstadt with a Germany scholarship since the winter semester 2015/2016. Moreover, the specific involvement of these students in our company is planned. This support is being given for three years and marks the beginning of cooperation between NORMA Group and the Technical University of Darmstadt.
By offering Germany Scholarships, the Federal Ministry for Education and Research has been supporting students and freshmen whose careers suggest that they will make outstanding achievements during their studies and careers since 2011. By 2017, up to two percent of students at German universities are to benefit from Germany scholarships.