The first 100 days in the Krones Innovation Lab

The Krones Innovation Lab has been up and running since August. The idea of relocating this lab from Neutraubling to Regensburg meant the green light for a new, different mode of working inside Krones AG. The Techbase as an office building provides an ideal work environment for this. We, meaning five students with highly disparate specialisms, plus the Lab Manager, have an opportunity here to experience start-up culture all day long. Whether this is in mutual feedback with the other tenants or over a small table-football match in the lunch break: here innovative solutions are crafted by creative teams – the actual office involved is immaterial.

Currently, we’re all working together here in a small team on a shared project. The Krones Innovation Lab can be comprehended as a creative innovation island, on which new ideas are trialled or implemented within a minimised timeframe. The project ideas that are handled in the lab can be submitted by any Krones employee. The decision as to which idea is adopted for a lab project is taken by the Innovation Lab Council. The basis for every project is an analysis of the business model concerned. Depending on the goal involved, we then develop mock-ups, click dummies or software prototypes – as you will already have noticed, even our terminological framework is far removed from the group’s everyday phraseology in Neutraubling.

Since we want to not only try out new ideas, but also test new working methods, in the Krones Innovation Lab we use agile project management and design thinking. It very quickly became apparent that here in the team we were going to come up against definite limits when using classical project management methods. After we had drawn up a very detailed network plan with the associated start and finish dates for particular task packages, we realised after just two days that our plan wasn’t going to work out, and we had to rethink everything again. To ensure improved coordination of our working methods, we hold daily stand-up meetings, so that every team member always knows exactly who’s working on what remit and what the current status is. Weekly meetings are held to decide who will be handling which work packages. There, too, the new task packages are drawn up, and the next steps (known as the “sprint”) are planned. The weekly review enables us to react promptly and effectively to results or changes, eliminating the risk of spending weeks on misdirected development work.

A huge range of different disciplines are represented in our team, from medical technology, then mechanical engineering, production and systems engineering, all the way through to information science and business management. All in all, it’s a very diverse crew, who could hardly have been more disparate in terms of their individual specialisms. But this is precisely what makes our Innovation Lab so special. In this short time, we’ve already tackled issues like business model canvas, lean start-up or agile project management. This means that everybody can learn something new here, and benefit substantially from working in the Innovation Lab.

Our verdict after the first 100 days here in the Innovation Lab is a very positive one. There are lots of challenging tasks and exciting issues themed around digitisation, Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. At present, we’re still occupied with how best to utilise 3D printing in Krones AG’s spare parts operations. So we’re already looking forward to the next projects and will be reporting on them for you here in the Krones blog.