Teach a man to fish

AUSTRALIA has been chosen as the first country outside of Europe to take part in an exciting pilot program by German company Fraunhofer, designed to help manufacturers become more competitive.

Ten Queensland manufacturers will be involved in workshops held by QMI Solutions designed to train them on Cost Focused Innovation (CFI) theory and tools, which is said to help meet identified challenges, develop new products and new markets.

IKEA is a pioneer of CFI, with the company’s innovative approach to affordable living for young families.
According to Fraunhofer’s Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO) expert Andrew Wagner, research has found similarities between the Australian and European manufacturing markets which is a good indicator for the program’s success.

"We hope that Queensland manufacturers involved in the program are able to ask the right questions in order to identify new customer groups and consumer trends. Queensland manufacturers will now have a better understanding of the customer needs and right sizing products and services with respect to cost drivers and the underlying business model," he said.

QMI will be the custodians of the program and will also be responsible for measuring outcomes in the future. The company told Manufacturers’ Monthly that it hopes this study will foster closer relationships with Australian and European manufacturers in addition to exchanging knowledge for growth.

Fraunhofer IAO experts Wagner and Liza Wohlfart assisted QMI develop a one-day workshop and CFI activities with two local companies, using a series of tools.

"The tools help identify product features and options that reduce cost, but still maintain features that are important to the customer. Finally we look at how to modify the product and add value in an innovative way to satisfy the newly-identified customers," said Wagner.

Involved in the program are Centor, a Brisbane company that designs and manufactures systems for folding and sliding doors, screens and blinds.

"By using the CFI approach, we hope to move our products from a niche to mainstream market, without sacrificing critical performance factors," said Centor business manager, Glen Pacholke.

QMI hopes that by using the tools from Fraunhofer, Queensland manufacturers will be able to take a new approach to growth which will help maintain the future of the industry and wider economy.

The company told Manufacturers’ Monthly once the evaluation stage of the Queensland-based program is over, it will then consider offering the program to other Australian states.

Results for the European study can be found on the Fraunhofer website, www.iao.fraunhofer.de, and the Australian ‘good practice’ study will be available soon.

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