At its inaugural Innovation Forum held in Eskilstuna, Sweden, in August, Volvo Construction Equipment details the international press its culture of creativity and inventiveness, which permeates every phase of product development, from design through production, as well as its bright vision for the future.
Volvo Construction Equipment's inaugural Innovation Forum showcased the company's inventiveness. Six work stations looked at the role innovation plays in drivelines, emerging market engineering, design, Volvo CE's core values of quality, safety and environmental care, Tier 4 Final/Stage IV compliant engines and the technology of the future. Journalists were also given a tour of Volvo's Eskilstuna production campus to learn more about how operational excellence contributes to innovation within the company. "Innovation is in our blood at Volvo CE," says Anders P Larsson, Executive Vice President, Technology at Volvo CE. "It's infused into every part of our design, development and sales and marketing processes. The event provided us with the opportunity to explain our newest innovations to journalists - including our range of Tier 4f/Stage IV engines and new concepts.
"We also wanted to change the way people see Volvo by demonstrating that innovation doesn't always have to mean more complex new products - it can be a relatively simple change that makes machine maintenance easier for customers, for example, Larsson adds.
A culture of innovation
Though a new event for Volvo CE, the Innovation Forum builds upon a similar event that took place in 2011. Now set to be held on a regular basis, the forum presents Volvo CE as a dynamic company whose culture of innovation sets it apart from competitors. While other companies may place an emphasis on technology, Volvo's innovation model is intertwined with a company culture of working with energy, passion and respect for individuals - known as the Volvo Way. Volvo innovation focuses on customers' needs while nurturing and developing the innovative abilities of every employee through a bottom-up approach: no matter their roles, everyone's input and ideas are valuable.
Drivelines and Optishift
When Volvo begins the development process for a new machine, it looks at it as a complete system - not just as individual components. Customer needs are always at the forefront of engineers' minds, as are factors like reduced fuel consumption, return on investment for customers, durability, operability and reliability.
The drivelines and Optishift work station, led by Global Director of Driveline Systems Gunnar Stein, focused on the fuel-saving innovations. Volvo CE is currently working on long-term projects. This included a look at concepts that could help wheel loaders of the future move 50 per cent more material using the same amount of fuel.
Emerging market engineering
Despite its Swedish heritage, Volvo CE is today a global company - and it's only going to become increasingly more so in the future. One of only a few truly worldwide players in the construction equipment market, Volvo CE makes products for all customers, regardless of their location. Tommy Streipel, Director of wheel loader platforms, talked about the wheel loader product line and how it is tailored to different markets. The new L105 wheel loader, geared specifically towards customers in China, is a prime example of this.
Innovation in design
Innovation isn't just about the technical elements of a machine. For Volvo CE, good design is also about the way people experience things with their senses. Emotional capital is an important element of design. In a recent survey, one machine operator said that working with a Volvo CE machine makes his job seem less brutal - demonstrating that design can have a profound impact on how operators feel about their working lives. Design isn't just about form but also about function; if a machine looks good but isn't useful, that isn't design - it's just style.
Design Director Stina Nilimaa Wickström spoke about what design is and how Volvo CE works with machine design elements - both inside and outside. She also unveiled some of the company's new design concepts.
Innovation in core values
Volvo's core values are quality, safety and environmental care. While many competitors also claim these values, only Volvo has had care for the customer at the forefront of every product it has made since manufacturing its first car in 1927. And while many competitors have recently become more concerned about sustainability, environmental issues have been on the Volvo agenda since the company held its first environmental conference in the late 1960s.
For Volvo, sustainability is about all three core values working together in harmony, and historically, quality, safety and environmental care have been at the heart of its innovations. Global Communication Strategy Manager Arvid Rinaldo explained the heritage of Volvo CE's famous core values, as well as the role they play in Volvo innovations today.
Tier 4 Final/Stage IV engines
The result of a joint project with Volvo Trucks and one of the largest development projects in the Volvo Group's history, Volvo CE's Tier 4F/Stage IV compliant engine line will begin appearing in the company's machines in 2014. Peter Engdahl, Manager of engine performance discussed the US's Tier 4 Final and the EU's Stage IV emissions legislation that prompted the change, before he introduced Volvo CE's innovative new fuel-efficient technology. Peter also gave a behind-the-scenes look at product development for the new engines, including the rigorous testing and validation process that took the engines into the world's harshest climates.
Innovation doesn't always have to result in huge changes. It can sometimes be something small that doesn't cost much but that helps customers work more efficiently. Jenny Elfsberg, Director of emerging technologies, introduced Volvo CE's culture, vision for the future and its innovation models.
While all companies see themselves as innovative, Jenny explained the innovation in Volvo CE's DNA. Because it is ingrained in the company's culture, Volvo CE gives everyone in the organisation the opportunity to share their ideas and, if approved, to run the projects they've dreamed up.
At Volvo CE, innovation takes place in every corner of the company - including the factory. Journalists experienced a tour of the Eskilstuna factory led by Jocke Höök,, Internal Communication Manager, to see first-hand how innovation takes place in production and how it contributes to the company's overall culture of inventiveness. They also attended a session on innovation in manufacturing led by the general manager of Eskilstuna Operations, Ivan Obrovac, and Manufacturing Research Manager Mats Jackson.