The Bosch-Siemens Hausgerate Group (BSHG) is a German manufacturer of electrical and electronic consumer goods. Since 1989, environmental protection has been a major focus of the company as it has been a way of harmonizing business objectives with environmental protection. However, the regulatory framework has enacted policies targeted for manufacturers to take corrective measures towards environment protection. In this regard, BSGH embarked on an innovation that would respond to the regulatory measures and ensure that the business objectives are met. The environmental protection policy is aimed at making the production processes environment sensitive as well as correcting the environmental mess done by previous business endeavors through collection, disposal and recycling activities. This innovation is encompassing as it stems from the design of the products to production to packaging to use and expiry of the products. Due to perceived benefits, the company has established improvement performance measures and monitoring program of the project.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the BSHG innovation in a technology management perspective. First, the paper responds to case study questions that reflect the development, management, implementation and monitoring of the innovation. It then proceeds to discuss the lessons that can be learnt from the case study analysis. Finally, there is a comparison of the BSHG innovation with EKATO Ruhrwerke innovation in which we consider the various aspects of technology management. Despite technology innovation being a strategic way of responding to certain organizational problems, the major elements that are concerned include the organizational management structure, strategy and business objectives.
The Bosch-Siemens Hausgerate Group (BSHG) introduced environmental management policy and protection measures due to a number of reasons. First, the company wanted to respond to the environmental concerns stemming from industrial activities. Disposal of used appliances had become a major problem in Europe and Germany in particular. Second, the company wanted to meet environmental regulations imposed by the government. The German government endorsed a new recycling law that imposed strict requirements on manufacturers of electronic and electrical goods and other appliances. Third, the company wanted to pursue its environmental protection objective. Since 1989, environmental protection played an important role in all corporate activities at BSHG.
BSHG introduced the advanced technology by introducing clear organizational and environmental structures in which all departments and employees played their parts in environmental protection. Each and every responsible person was included in the structure. Apart from defining the roles for individual persons, the structure comprised of a hierarchy that involved all employees and included the chairman, steering committee, working groups and environmental department. The tasks were delegated downwards and consolidated at the environmental department.
One of the key barriers to the introduction of the advanced technology was lack of qualified employees and poor communication of the program. The success of the program largely depended on employee commitment. In order to have qualified workforce, the firm offered extensive further education and personal development to the workers. Communication of the program was enhanced through special courses and in-house magazines that reported on environmental activities. Employee acceptance of the technology was also a barrier to the introduction of the innovation which the company overcame by increasing awareness of the corporate guidelines.
The new technology is operated in form of a process that is intended to cover all potential risk areas in regard to environment. The process starts at the product design stage at which the products are made to be more recyclable. This technology continues to the production and packaging of products where wastes are minimized and environmental friendly materials used. The process continues to the working life stage where energy consumption is reduced accordingly. At the expiry date of the products, the technology proceeds to either reusing or properly disposing the products. The process also includes a system that takes back expired products from other manufacturers for disposal. Other systems that the technology operates involve transport pollution, environmental standards for suppliers, application of environmental protection measures and pursuance of stability.
The contribution to performance improvement of the environmental protection technology is measured through an input-output statement that compares various environmental criteria. This includes measuring factors such as emissions, raw materials, packaging, drainage, water consumption and noxious pollutants. In addition, measuring success in designing new products, in saving energy, in reducing and improving packaging, and in integrating recycled materials into new products continue to demonstrate improvement each year.
According to the case study, the effectiveness of the technology is monitored by the central environmental department, by the local environmental advisors and audited by externally certified evaluators (Schilling, 2010, p.172). The monitoring of the technology involves establishing measure and benchmarks within the company to quantify the progress and if possible compare them with other companies. The investments decisions are made in an effort to comply with the increasing environmental laws in Germany, to improve the ecological balance of the firm and so fit with company policy as well as to improve its products. This initiative for new technology probably came from the environmental protection department down the hierarchy.
The advanced technology has direct costs but indirect benefits that have neutralized the costs. These benefits include attaining a positive image through environmental concern, increased employee motivation through more open communication with the firm, and prevention of damage claims for environmental pollution. In addition to that, the technology is a competitive advantage in the market in the fact that the firm is seen as environmentally friendly.
A major lesson learnt from the case analysis is that technology innovation may involve enhancement of an existing process or product. It is not just about establishing completely new products or processes, but also improving on the already existing ones. In categorizing the various types of innovations, Schilling (2005) identified radical innovation and incremental innovation. The incremental innovation which involves making adjustments to an existing one confirms this lesson. Bosch-Siemens Hausgerate Group has been involved in environmental protection activities since 1989, yet the environmental protection program in question is considered as an innovation. The previous activities did not only fail to meet the environmental regulations, but also failed to integrate the relevant elements that can assure a better environment and increase the performance of the business. Being a process, the new environmental protection program is really an innovation.
The other lesson learnt is that some innovations would require a centralized organization in order to succeed. As a matter of fact, well-developed procedures and standards can ensure that the company makes better development investment decisions and is able to implement programs quickly and efficiently (Dodgson, Gann & Salter, 2008, pp.165-171). In this respect, formalization or the degree to which the firm uses rules, procedures and other documentation to structure the behavior of individuals or groups becomes very important. BSHG is committed to formalizing its standards and procedures when structuring the environmental protection management. All the responsible persons have clearly defined roles and responsibilities that they adhere to. The chairman, steering committee, working groups and the environmental departments all know what is expected from them in regard to the innovation.
The value of technological is largely determined by the degree to which stakeholders can understand it, access it and integrate it within their lives. Rainey (2006) insists that deployment is not just a way for the company to increase revenue from the innovation; deployment is the central part of the innovation processes itself. Here, strategic timing becomes the key driver towards success and acceptance of the innovation. An organization that fails to implement an innovation when the stakeholders are ready for it, fails just like a company that implements an innovation without proper research of the marketplace. BSHG implemented the environmental protection innovation when most of the stakeholders were prepared for it. In addition to offering environmental education and awareness to the employees, the government and consumers were expecting the company to be more concerned about the environmental degradation. This timing ensured that the firm adheres to regulations and simultaneously enhances employee motivation and customer loyalty.
Finally, the case analysis reveals the relevancy of managing a technology innovation process. Proper management does not only guarantee the success of the innovation, but also ensures that the cost of the processes is maintained at the minimum. The proper management will involve minimizing the development cycle time, involving the stakeholders, and the establishment of development process metrics (Schilling, 2005). In the environmental protection program, BSHG maintains a parallel development process in which activities overlap in order to reduce development cycle time. As the firm designs new products, the expired ones are collected from customers and manufacturers for recycling, and this is done simultaneously. The company also involves its employees and suppliers in the environmental protection program. The performance improvement is measured through various criteria and monitored by the central environmental department.
The Bosch-Siemens Hausgerate Group and EKATO Ruhrwerke technology innovations exhibit a number of similarities. Both of them are processes rather that product innovations. In the technology management perspectives, processes innovations are oriented toward improving the effectiveness or efficiency of production. BSHG innovation involves environmental protection activities that are focused on making recyclable products and recycling the expired products as well as disposing them properly. Similarly, EKATO innovation is aimed at improving the production process by restructuring the company’s organization in order to streamline the management functions with the workforce. Therefore, the objectives of both innovations were to align the corporate goals with the organizational activities in order to solve the escalating problems.
Another similarity emerges in the organizational structure established to spearhead the projects. Both processes were implemented through team working. While the EKATO structure had several teams, the BSHG had only two categories of teams, though all the teams were task-oriented. The teams were composed of employees who had prior experiences with the companies. The employees were prepared for the innovation through the acquisition of the relevant knowledge. In the case of BSHG, the employees went through courses regarding to the environmental protection while for EKATO the employees underwent organizational training. Communication in both cases was also enhanced to ensure employee acceptance of the change.
However, there were many differences between the BSHG and EKATO innovations. One of them involved the extent of the organizational change. EKATO innovation involved a revolutionary change in which the organization was restructured completely. A decentralized structure was adopted in which decision-making process become more flexible. Team leadership took the central role during team development and the tasks thereafter were delegated by the team leaders. In the case of BSHG, the structure was centralized. The chairman of the project was the overall leader and project decisions formed a bigger part of his responsibility. Task delegation was hierarchical and flowed downward from the chairman all through to the work groups.
The other difference involves the nature of the innovations. The EKATO project was radical in nature meaning that it was completely new (Rainey, 2006, p.424). The company embarked on a revolutionary change where the physical structures, organizational structure and business concept were completely transformed. In addition, the human resources had to undergo an extensive training that instilled a new way of thinking about the project and the company at large. The outcomes were also a complete change of the organizational culture and behavior. On the other hand, BSHG embarked on an incremental kind of innovation. In this case, the firm developed on a project that had been started with increased vigor and a new focus. The environment protection program entailed the integration of all relevant business activities such as designing, production, packaging and distribution. In this manner, the firm appeared to have extended on an existing project that was underperforming.
Dodgson, M, Gann, D M & Salter, A 2008, The management of technological innovation: strategy and practice. Oxford University Press, London.
Rainey, D L 2006, Sustainable business development: inventing the future through strategy, innovation, and leadership. Cambridge University Press, London.
Schilling, M A 2005, Strategic management of technological innovation. McGraw-Hill Irwin, New York.
Schilling, M A 2010, Strategic management of technological innovation. McGraw-Hill Irwin, New York.