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issue: April 2004 Appliance Magazine Special Section: BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgerte GmbH

An Innovation Leader

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Well-known for its commitment to quality, BSH has also been recognized for its approach to innovation. The company was recently named 2003's "Best Innovator" from global consultant firm A.T. Kearney and the German business publication Wirtschaftswoche for its internal innovation philosophies and processes.

The company's global development network, which includes 1,400 developers, follows what BSH refers to as its innovation management system, which is based on short-term (1 to 3 years) and long-term (5+ years) planning tools.

Each product area uses innovation "roadmaps," which detail all the steps involved in the development process, from design through production to product launch. The roadmaps also pinpoint connections and interactions between the company's various product areas. According to BSH, the goal is to provide clear guidance for planning and target setting, but also allow for flexible reaction to variances.

Petra Drotbohm, head of Corporation Technology Coordination and Engineering, is part of BSH's central technology division, which collects and evaluates the roadmaps. "We are looking for synergies in between the product areas," she explains. "Maybe one product area is starting a new technology, and we see that it might be interesting for another area as well, so we go to them and inform them."

An innovation steering committee reviews the middle-term direction of the innovation projects, makes decisions relating to the promotion of cross-product topics, and provides the funds for the development of the selected innovations.

The company's development platform is also supported by a central database that facilitates cooperation on projects across national boundaries and in different continents. This means, for example, that developers in Spain, China, and Brazil can simultaneously create an appliance. As a result, new products designed specifically for local markets are still based on a common technological concept. Also, BSH says the overall timeframe for the development of an entire product family can be reduced significantly by employing its development departments worldwide.

For long-term innovations, the company uses the "Picture of the Future" tool developed by Siemens AG. Working with experts from various disciplines, a group of BSH executives extrapolate global trends and derive scenarios for future development. The purpose, BSH says, is to develop a wide-range technological vision of the future, with entirely new possibilities for the successful application of innovative products and services.

"People are changing; circumstances are changing. So we have to do this to be ready in the market in 10 years," Ms. Drotbohm explains. "The tool is very powerful because it is securing your future - if you do it in the right way."


One of the BSH's most recent innovations is its "dressman" ironing appliance. The niche product was launched in Germany in late 2003. By the end of 2003, the company had shipped more than 3,000 units.

Working as a combination dryer/iron, the appliance blows warm air that dries and de-wrinkles damp shirts, ridding consumers of the time-consuming ironing task.




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