Staying at the forefront of innovation isn’t just about creating new products, it is about creating new ways of doing things.
In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape the creation of new products is a vital component of success. Creating improved and novel processes can allow some of the magic of an end product to bolster an IP portfolio through trade-secrets, process patents and know-how. It drives better efficiency in production and puts an organisation ahead of competition. Process innovation is a key driver of success.
While process innovation empowers companies to enhance their internal workflows and ultimately, their products, it’s important to recognise that not every business possesses the full spectrum of expertise required for every phase of product development. A lot of engineering theory and know-how is required and the process can become complicated – complexity isn’t an issue if approached the right way by breaking a process into smaller steps. This is where collaboration with specialists can make a significant difference.
From Seeds to Success: Micropod’s Process Innovation
A good example of where process innovation played a key role in the success of the product is Micropod, an award-winning microgreens growing kit that was developed in partnership with Blender. The Micropod system uses innovative seed mats that when activated with water, grow into microgreens.
It’s easy to see the design intent that goes into the final product but what often goes unrecognised is the process innovation behind the scenes, without which the product would not even exist. If we focus on the development of the Micropod seed mat, the challenge was to accurately place hundreds of seeds onto a custom-made organic growing medium to create a proprietary seed mat that users simply put into a tray and add water. Not all seeds are made equal either, we had to cater to a variety of different-sized and shaped seeds and routinely place them on thousands of seed mats in a repeatable and scalable process.
Developing a process like this one for Micropod, is much like designing a product. Ideas are prototyped and tested and the process needs to fit within requirements. With the seed mats, pick and place robots and existing technologies proved unsuccessful for the specific requirements and standards. The mechanical engineers at Blender were able to utilise their problem solving skills and expertise in manufacturing, engineering and technology to develop a totally unique process for Micropod.
Process Engineering for Micropod involved:
- a year-long R&D programme,
- investigating fibre processes,
- building and testing prototype machines,
- design and supply of custom tools and dies,
- developing and supplying a scaled up system to increase throughput.
A seemingly minor aspect of the development process was actually the most critical and it resulted in the creation of a valuable trade secret that has had a profound impact on the success of Micropod.
Collaborate to innovate
Incorporating process innovation into product development is undeniably crucial, but recognising the value of specialist expertise is equally important. Collaborating with experts like Blender can amplify the benefits of process innovation by infusing projects with targeted skills, advanced tools, and domain-specific insights. By harnessing the power of both process innovation and specialist knowledge, companies can elevate their products from mere concepts to market-leading solutions that resonate with customers and stand the test of time.