Innovation

Innovation

PeopleFlo’s innovation capabilities include a set of processes, techniques and tools designed to generate ideas and convert them into high-impact innovations.

Ideas

Thinking big. The process of creating high-impact innovation starts by thinking big.  Only by raising the bar to seemingly impossible levels and across all key success factors, can we generate ideas that lead to big product line breakthroughs. We set demanding objectives with clear constraints for product performance, product cost, quality, delivery, speed-to-market, flexibility and sustainability.

Front-loading. The best opportunity to create extraordinary innovation comes early in the development process. PeopleFlo front-loads the development process with a set of tools and techniques designed to foster innovation while the design space is open and fluid.

Idea generation. PeopleFlo’s idea generation process plays a key role in creating turnkey product lines that stand out in many ways. Our structured yet flexible idea generation process contains three primary activities – research, brainstorming and visualizing – that are applied across a wide range of development activities and throughout all stages of product development. Our research activity provides a framework for acquiring the knowledge necessary to generate ideas in the industrial product and complex production environment. Our brainstorming activity fuels the idea engine. And our visualizing activity involves creating visuals – sketches, pictures, and engineering drawings – to represent ideas in full view so new ideas are inspired through cross-pollination.

Iterations. The path that leads to high-impact innovations is not linear. It requires a balance between fast, straight-ahead execution and important learning and discovery activities that often result in circling back before moving forward. We believe this iterative and incremental learning process – especially when it involves sharing early ideas and prototypes with customers – is essential to effectively develop ideas into important innovations and also to flush out design uncertainties as early as possible.

Prototypes

We are passionate about making prototypes – tangible, three-dimensional product or production prototypes we can touch, pick-up, take apart and put back together. Making prototypes brings ideas to life in inspiring ways by opening up new possibilities that lead to unforeseen innovations. For manufacturing innovation, making tangible prototypes is particularly important because products are highly engineered and production processes are complex.

Within two weeks of a project kick-off, we make conceptual prototypes to shape product design ideas and enhance the understanding of strengths and weaknesses. These conceptual prototypes are created from materials like foam, cardboard or other inexpensive quick-build materials. As the product design advances through a deliberate series of iterations, we continue to build prototypes but with more refined features and materials that converge toward the final design. For example, a recent turbomachinery project started with foam prototypes, evolved into aluminum and ended up with a functional prototype built of stainless steel.

For PeopleFlo, building production process prototypes just as important as building product design prototypes. As a result, we create production prototypes that include everything from workholding fixtures to complete production cells.

We believe that the path to manufacturing innovation involves a balance between using our brains and getting our hands around product and process designs. And we have discovered that our brains and our hands work together in powerful ways.

Environment

Manufacturing innovation needs a certain type of workplace. It needs a greenhouse environment so ideas can sprout in abundance, thrive and transform into important product design and production process innovations. For highly engineered products combined with complex production processes, an environment that fosters innovation is indispensible.

Innovation lab. PeopleFlo’s innovation lab, located in Chicago, IL USA, provides the right mix of elements to foster innovation. It provides a physical environment to co-locate cross-functional teams with all the activities associated with designing products and building production processes into turnkey product lines. It provides an open and highly visual environment. Stand in one place and see project goals, product design alternatives, prototypes and even machine tools cutting steel for functional prototypes. It provides the flexibility necessary to keep projects dynamic and coherent. Just about everything associated with a project is on wheels and movable. Project spaces can evolve into different shapes or expand.  And our innovation lab provides a creative space to foster an essential culture – to make things.  A wide range of raw materials are on hand – clay, foam, paper, cardboard, aluminum, bronze and steel  – to bring ideas to life in two or three dimensions.