Besides aspects of social and environmental sustainability, it is essential for NORMA Group to secure its long-term economic success. The basis for this is profitable growth, which we measure above all through the key figures of Group revenue and adjusted EBITA margin. (Annual Report) Only if we can continue setting ourselves apart from our competitors will we be able to maintain customer satisfaction and our market position.
Innovations also form the basis for more environmentally friendly products, in electromobility, for example. (Environmental impact of products) However, they can only be achieved if NORMA Group creates an innovation-friendly climate in which its employees can develop new ideas and foster a culture of innovation. With its organizational structure at all levels and at all sites, NORMA Group has a significant influence on whether this can be achieved.
Innovation Roadmap forms the basis for Research and DevelopmentOur research and development department is tasked with identifying and evaluating innovative technologies worldwide. The basis for the content orientation of our research activities is our “Innovation Roadmap.” It focuses on global megatrends such as resource scarcity and climate change, but also on specific market requirements for specific products.
The basis for this is our continuously high financial and personnel investment in research and development (R&D). Engineered Joining Technology (EJT) R&D spending in 2018 amounted to EUR 30.5 million (2017: EUR 29.4 million). This corresponds to 4.5% of the R&D ratio in terms of EJT sales. 365 people worked in product development and R&D at NORMA Group last year (2017: 344).
Measuring our performance on internal key figuresThe key indicator according to which we manage and internally evaluate our research activities is the number of invention applications in the Company. An invention application takes place as part of an internal, formalized process upstream of the external process of a patent application. We have set ourselves the goal of achieving at least 20 new invention applications every year. This figure was 32 in 2018 (2017: 33), which again surpassed our target of 20 applications. Information on patents and patent families can be found in the Annual Report.
In a structured process, we also consistently collect and evaluate ideas reported to us by employees. Subsequently, ideas are prioritized in a ranking. Environmental aspects also play a role in idea management: in evaluating our ideas, we focus, among other things, on their significance for reducing emissions, combating water scarcity and increasing energy efficiency. It is particularly important to us that not only many ideas are generated, but above all that they are of high quality: we evaluate quarterly the average rating of the top 10 ideas in our Company. As with the number of invention applications, the number of ideas submitted is regularly reported to the Management Board. As soon as we discover that this value is dropping, we take countermeasures such as creative training or cross-departmental workshops. .
Creating cross-departmental connectionsClose collaboration between different departments such as R&D, product development and application engineering is essential for developing new products and technologies. We have institutionalized regular exchange meetings at the local, regional and global levels to optimize this. In addition, the various teams continue to train each other in new technologies and projects.
Innovation Scouts deployed at all sitesThe basis for innovations are our employees’ ideas. In addition to our employee suggestion scheme, we encourage our Innovation Scouts to build on this. Daily work does not often provide enough space to pursue creative and new ideas. Our Innovation Scouts therefore provide all employees with a platform for gathering ideas, pursuing them and appreciating the creativity of our employees.
In general, Innovation Scouts distinguish themselves by their many good ideas. In addition, they serve as multipliers for employees who have ideas and create connections with our research department. Innovation Scouts are not tied to a particular department. Everyone can be innovative, whether in production or development, purchasing or the HR department. At Innovation Summits, the Scouts have the opportunity to exchange at the regional level.
Innovation Councils bring expertise togetherIn order to further boost certain issues of particular relevance, NORMA Group has also set up Innovation Councils. These are made up of managers from different departments and regions and aim to gather knowledge about radical and disruptive trends in the company environment and to develop strategies for them. Innovation Councils are created on a temporary basis: after the strategy development phase, these are transferred to the operative work processes. Over the last few years, electromobility was the focus of an Innovation Council . The resulting e-mobility strategy was validated, among others, at 2017's Stakeholder Roundtable with external experts.
Innovation partnerships with customers and research institutionsNORMA Group works closely with universities, research and development institutes as well as customers, suppliers and other partners worldwide. This allows us to gain additional resources and expertise in the development of our products and to be able to immediately pick up on global trends, seamlessly translating them into new technologies and product ideas. This in turn allows for rapid marketing of product innovations.
CEO Award recognizes outstanding innovative achievementsIn recognition of achievements by individuals or groups within NORMA Group, we award the Innovation Excellence Award once a year. It recognizes, for instance, process optimizations, higher earnings contributions, better product quality, competitive advantages and higher environmental friendliness. The Management Board decides annually on the best ideas submitted by employees.
In 2018, the jury received more than 40 proposals from all regions. Out of the seven finalists, the project “Cooling System for E-Truck” emerged as the winner. Within only four weeks, the team had developed the prototype of a cooling water system for a truck with a purely electric drive.
In addition to the Innovation Excellence Award, NORMA Group initiated the Corporate Responsibility Award with the objective of increasing awareness of Corporate Responsibility within the Company and stimulating innovation in that area as well. (Awareness of CR within the Company)