Innovation projects at IAG and how they come to be
Interview with a project manager
Innovation projects at IAG follow a structured procedure that has proven to be effective during the company’s many years of experience in special-purpose machinery for customised systems. Find out what this looks like specifically in an interview with project manager Maximilian Pfeffer, who has many years of experience and market knowledge under his belt and has already headed up a number of innovation projects at IAG in the past.
What’s the starting point for an innovation project at IAG?
The greater the degree of novelty or innovation of a project, the more important it is to involve the specialist department and their management as early on as the bidding phase. At this early point in time, the project planning is already largely carried out by the specialist department and by the subsequent project manager.
It is during this project planning phase that the task / problem that we, as the special-purpose machinery manufacturer, are to solve is compartmentalised and broken down into steps.
How is this kind of phase plan structured? What instructions do you follow?
The development of a new solution basically follows a step-by-step plan, which includes the following steps:
- clarification and specification of the task
- determination of the functions and basic structures of the plant equipment
- the search for solution principles and their structures
- organisation into practicable modules
- subdivision into available solution principles (tried and tested practical solutions from IAG’s many years of experience) or into functional groups that require new solution approaches
- any preliminary tests for critical functions are clarified with the client and carried out by IAG
- design of the essential modules and assemblies
- interconnection of the modules to form an overall concept for the product in question
During the development of innovation projects, is this step-by-step plan strictly chronological or more agile?
This approach requires an iterative back and forth between the individual segments with preliminary drafts, clarifications with both internal and external technical experts as well as the creation of an overall concept. With accompanying clarifications with the client, the selection of options with a corresponding price structure (value-quantity framework) and the implications on the lead times (delivery times for the client), the project gradually moves toward a greater degree of maturity.
A relatively large number of work steps are carried out by quite a lot of people before a serious cost estimation takes place, is that right?
Yes. The submission of a tender that is ready for order only takes place after all the open points have been clarified and there has been an assessment of the risk from both a technical and commercial point of view.
Eventually, in the ideal scenario, following the client’s final decision and corresponding clarifications in the run-up, an order is then placed for the special-purpose machinery.
So this is when the go-ahead is given and you press the “start button”. What are the next steps for the project manager?
Once the IAG has accepted the order, the project manager in charge of the job must first establish a general overview. Ideally, the project manager has been involved in the project planning phase or the development of the basic solution since the bidding phase.
The project milestone, the “handover from sales to technology”, marks the start of this process within the company. During this transition, the task must be critically analysed once more, and any open points from the preliminary phase defined.
The project begins together with the client as part of the “kick-off meeting”, whereby the details are discussed once more and any questions or open points are defined. To be “on the safe side”, the key elements of the project should be discussed again with the client.
What challenges does IAG face in terms of innovation projects?
The challenge of innovation projects is the subsequent verification and, where necessary, adaptation of the solution approaches and concepts from the project planning phase.
We work our way from the rough outline to the finer points in this respect too. After a careful review of the solution approaches, detailed feedback from the specialist departments as the project progresses, and also as a result of clarifications with suppliers, the assemblies are then constructed. Ideally, the solution approaches from the project planning phase can be adopted.
Once defined, are the client’s specific requirements set in stone?
No, of course not; we need to be flexible here. What often happens is that the client’s requirements are forced to change during the course of the project, and the consequences of this for the costs and lead times have to be assessed and clarified with the client.
Sometimes it also becomes evident that solutions that seemed good and feasible during the project planning phase can then be replaced by “better” ones during the detail phase – of course, this is always carried out in agreement with the client.
Request, bidding phase, project phase and then comes the implementation and construction.
Correct. The conclusion of this project phase is the “design freeze”. From this point onwards, the project proceeds in predefined sequences, such as the drafting, purchase or production of the parts, installation and programming, until the physical completion of the equipment / machine. The conclusion usually consists of the testing and preliminary acceptance of the equipment / machine by the client at our IAG plant.
When is a project deemed concluded? From what point is the company able to celebrate?
The relief on the project team’s faces is visible once the envisaged solutions work during the test run and the commissioning at the IAG plant, and the client is satisfied.