Improve your innovation process

Businesses best positioned to survive and thrive in the highs and lows of economic cycles are those that continue to innovate, regardless of the economic cycle. During tough economic times, innovation can help your business make real gains in efficiency.

Process improvement makes economic sense

During economic downturns, many businesses automatically look to downsizing or budget cuts to keep the business running. Objectively understanding the supply chain process, focusing on what makes customers successful, eliminating waste and activities that don't add value, and implementing other cost-reduction strategies can all help. Effectively managing the cash-to-cash cycle, the order-to-deliver cycle and the supply chain can simultaneously reduce costs and improve business efficiency.

In boom times, innovative processes allow businesses to cope with the influx of demand more quickly and more cost-effectively than competitors.

Lean manufacturing requires innovative thinking

The Toyota Motor Company is one of the best-known companies in the world and excels at continuous improvement. Toyota's highly effective production system, known as 'lean manufacturing', didn't result from a sudden brainstorm but evolved over decades of sustained improvement.

Lean manufacturing is not limited to Toyota or the car industry. The principles of lean manufacturing have been adopted by thousands of businesses across the world as leading practice. Lean principles and the efficiencies they generate are not limited to production but extend to all other areas of business operations, including product and service development, prototyping, testing and service delivery.

The secret? Build your solution from the customer back, and drive out anything connected to complexity.

How benchmarking can help

Measurement and benchmarking – comparing your business's results to a standard – is central to successful implementation of best practices. Internally, it contributes to an open and accountable organisation because it visibly communicates your progress. It also identifies shortfalls and areas requiring attention. Externally, a business obtains a reasonable idea of where it is placed alongside other organisations.

'There's a way to do it better – find it.'

Thomas Edison

Tools to assist in innovation process improvement

Adopting best practices – proven ways to get the best results from having the right processes and technologies in place - doesn't mean attempting to copy and transfer others' success to your journey. Your business, people and culture are unique and so your journey will be unique. It's good to extract ideas from the experiences and challenges of others, but how to apply them in your business will be unique.

Technology can assist in greatly improving business process. Operational applications, such as financial, human resource, supply chain, enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management systems, can improve efficiency, scalability and standardisation of processes.

Other business management applications, such as decision support systems, analytics, dashboards, and performance management tools, can help improve business strategy and decision making.