Volvo – the home of bright ideas

Volvo – the home of bright ideas

Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) aims to be the most innovative company in the industry. To achieve this, the business is cultivating an innovation-friendly working environment and enlisting the help of innovation experts.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, innovation is defined as: “The action of innovating; the introduction of novelties; the alteration of what is established by the introduction of new elements or forms.” But Volvo CE has gone beyond this and taken innovation to the next level – innovation has become a company mindset and a way of working. This approach has already attracted attention from outside the organization and industry experts have described Volvo CE’s innovation model – which sets out nine essential factors needed for success – as ‘state-of-the-art’.

“Innovation is at the core of Volvo CE’s business but now we are becoming more conscious of how we innovate,” explains Jenny Elfsberg, director of the emerging technologies department at Volvo CE. “Incremental innovation (where you adapt or improve an existing product) will always happen but Volvo CE is challenging its employees to think ‘outside the box’ and focus on customer needs. Until something brings added value to the customer it’s not classed as innovation. To enable innovative product development we are creating a working climate which encourages all employees to be innovative within their role each and every day.” 

An innovative approach
Volvo – the home of bright ideas

“Volvo CE has the right approach to innovation,” says innovation expert Professor Tobias Larsson. “The company knows that it’s necessary to be continuously innovative in order to secure long-term profitable growth and remain competitive in today’s global marketplace – that’s why it’s looking past the construction equipment industry’s traditional methods of working. Employees now think about how to modify machines and change the way products are used in order to provide added customer value. You just have to look at Volvo CE’s innovative concept vehicles such as the Centaur, which rewrites the rules for articulated haulers, and the radical new excavator design of the Sfinx, to appreciate its advanced technological thinking and world class design abilities. But for employees to be able to think like this, there needs to be a creative climate, one that is ripe for innovation – and that’s where Volvo CE’s innovation model comes in.”

Active innovation
To ensure Volvo CE reaches its goal of becoming the industry’s most forward-thinking company, a suitably innovative innovation model has been created. This sets out what’s needed for success and includes forming an innovative culture, setting a clear innovation process, receiving the backing from management and making sure employees have sufficient time to think creatively.

Volvo – the home of bright ideas

Volvo CE is working towards an ideas culture where employees voice their thoughts and aren’t discouraged by failure. “There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ idea and the best way to discover a really good new idea is to gather as many ideas as possible,” says Jenny. “We can see the progress we’ve made in innovation with events such as our Innovation Jams – where the collective brainpower of the entire company is focused on a single issue, such as fuel efficiency. These events have generated dozens of good ideas which are worthy of further evaluation – some have led to patents and will soon be put into production. Another way our employees are sharing ideas is through Volvo CE Interact – an internal website whose role is to be an innovation platform. When an employee posts an idea on the website other users and moderators can discuss it and help it to grow – interaction is key to innovation.”

Bright ideas
To further embed innovation in the organization and guide Volvo CE’s innovation process, 30 employees have been trained to become ‘iCoaches’. The global innovation coaches have learnt to lead meetings in a creative way which will inspire innovation, they understand how to capture an idea and know how to apply for patents. The team consists of employees from different locations including Sweden, Korea, the US and Germany, with more to follow.

Volvo CE’s first ‘iCoach Days’ meeting was held at the end of last year. At the event external innovation experts shared their knowledge and led workshops about such things as ‘how and why innovation happens’, ‘how to communicate cross-functionally’ and ‘innovation management’. Professor Larsson, who is collaborating with Volvo CE on innovative product development, discussed ‘ambidextrous organizations’ – companies that manage existing solutions while also pursuing new innovations which will define their future.
Measuring innovation 
“There is much more to measuring how innovative a company is than the number of patents granted,” says Professor Larsson. “Volvo CE is assessing its innovation capability and looking at what it can do to increase its innovative performance – ensuring its customers are working in the most productive, efficient, safe and sustainable way. You can’t measure innovation on sales figures – you have to measure it before the product is on the market, in the early phases of concept development. Volvo CE is working in a very modern way and is alongside some of the most innovative companies in the world.”


Side panel:

Award-winning innovation
Volvo – the home of bright ideas
Volvo Construction Equipment’s On Board Weighing system for its F-Series haulers was recently announced a winner in the Intermat 2012 Innovation Awards. The awards aim to reward the most innovative equipment and techniques in the industry. Volvo’s revolutionary On Board Weighing system is available for its Full Suspension haulers and gives an unprecedented insight into machine productivity. The system monitors the input of weight on the machine from pressure sensors and relays this information to load software integrated into the hauler’s electronics.


January, 2012 

Text: Charlie Ebers

Picture 1: Innovation is at the core of Volvo CE’s business, technologies that are in their infancy today have the potential to revolutionize machines of the future.

Picture 2: The Sfinx – Volvo CE’s innovative concept vehicle for an excavator of the future.

Picture 3: Jenny Elfsberg, director of the emerging technologies department at Volvo CE, with innovation expert Professor Tobias Larsson.

Picture 4: Volvo CE’s On Board Weighing System for its F-Series haulers was announced as a winner in this year’s Intermat 2012 Innovation Awards.

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Or contact: 

Elisabet Altin 
Director, Communication Technology           
Volvo Construction Equipment
Carl Lihnells väg                                            
SE-360 42 Braås, Sweden                             
Tel: int +46 470 387809                                 

Brian O’Sullivan
Tel: int +44 207 107 2000