Date: 27 January 2022
A+W has been developing market-leading software systems for the flat glass and window industry for more than forty years. We offer practical solutions for all everyday challenges. That's how we help our customers become successful and become even more successful in the future.
We can only do this if we understand our customers' business processes down to the last detail. We're pretty good at that.
But is that enough? Don't we have to look to the future more consistently and constantly re-orient our antennas to detect new trends, technologies, and the industry's changing requirements?
Yes, we must do that, and that's why we're currently in the process of reorganizing our internal processes.
Market leadership thanks to constant innovation
In order to be able to better address our customers' needs in the future, we have established the A+W Clarity Innovations business unit.
But what's really behind the buzzword "innovation"?
We at A+W distinguish three types of innovation: initially, innovations often arise from current project requirements. The customer needs something in the project that doesn't exist yet. So we create it. Of course for this we have to be in constant contact with the customer, otherwise it goes nowhere and nobody is satisfied in the end. If this succeeds – and it generally does – then the world of flat glass has become a little better and more modern, and other customers often profit as well.
However, many of our innovations arise from many hours' experience and expertise from countless projects and days on-site with you the customer. When our employees repeatedly see the same problems and weak points, they begin to think and can often answer questions that you haven't even asked us yet.
In addition to industry expertise, our employees have technical knowledge of the possibilities of new software technologies and devices that didn't even exist until recently. And this also includes the technical intelligence to deploy these devices, outfitted with the right software, to optimize difficult processes and problem solutions.
A good example of this is the A+W Smart Companion. Would you have thought a few years ago that a smartphone would become the most important tool in production to make the lives of employees on the shop floor, in the warehouse, and in dispatch easier and to optimize difficult processes elegantly?
Now it's tangible
So now a new word comes into play, namely initiative – the most important thing that the new A+W Clarity Innovations BU will focus on. Initiative refers to the entire path that an innovation at A+W travels – from the initial idea to the finished solution. From the term 'initiative,' you may gladly conclude that this path will be blazed consistently in the new BU – for there, employees have the freedom to concentrate entirely on new ideas, on through to finished solutions.
"In the beginning," explains Sebastian Dick, Director of A+W Clarity Innovations, "there is an idea. First it is formulated, various approaches are pursued that might lead to the goal. Then we conduct initial discussions with potential stakeholders and pilots. The A+W industry network is key, we make the initiative known on the market."
First, the defined functions are kept on a very high level as features. What should be possible, what should be achieved in practice?
Great acceptance thanks to maximum user orientation
If the initiative has reached this stage, our designers create wireframes. These should communicate an impression of what the final product will look like and how it will work. The application and the goal are therefore much more comprehensible and accessible for users at a glance. The A+W Clarity Innovation developers present their initiative planning and, through discussions with selected users, have the opportunity to adapt the product on which they're working to customer requirements. The industry can have a positive influence on ongoing initiatives and address relevant topics jointly. That's how we learn from one another.
Sebastian Dick: "To develop successful initiatives, it is critical to continually examine new technologies. At first glance, sometimes a new technology alone makes no sense. However, if you set it in relation to the challenges in various business areas of the industry and link the threads properly, something new and unexpected, something fascinating can arise."
For example A+W Smart Companion
We haven't selected the A+W Smart Companion as an example without reason. As a mobile application, it not only embodies state-of-the-art technologies, it is also fit for the future, demonstrating how work at companies is becoming ever more mobile and thus offering opportunities for improved productivity, leaner processes, and the greatest flexibility.
Currently, these initiatives are underway for the A+W Smart Companion:
- A+W SMC Operator
Priorities change in production regularly; then the problem is to communicate and react. How would it be if the system could assign your employees tasks all by itself via smartphone?
- A+W SMC Office
Are you paying a spontaneous visit to one of your customers? Surely you don't want to go unprepared. Gain access to relevant KPIs and inform yourself actively with Smart Companion about the status of particular orders.
- A+W SMC Dispatch
Do you need to print loading lists, distribute them, and mark them up? That was so yesterday; with the fusion of CX Dispatch and A+W Smart Companion, employees on-site have access to all necessary data. Of course the data is also synchronized across the entire system.
- A+W SMC Remote
A smartphone is small and mobile, but sometimes the display just isn't big enough. And a tablet is too big to be mobile without restrictions in daily business. Then just capture a big screen in production! A+W Smart Companion becomes a remote control and provides access to numerous new functions.
- A+W SMC SmartFactory
The current state of your production in your jacket pocket. That's not possible? Of course it is! You can also inform yourself about machine breakdowns, malfunctions, etc. regardless of where you happen to be.
Wireframes have been created for these five new A+W Smart Companion modules. We will present them together with the feature set in a Webinar at the beginning of next year; we'll be inviting A+W customers to attend. If initiatives are presented in the event that interest you, please contact the relevant person.
In the next step, you will become a member of the appropriate "Special Interest Group (SIG)." There will then be further dates that are more like workshops when we will work with you to shape the product. We speak here of Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which is sort of the starting point for the product that contains all necessary functions for a release. From there, the product can grow or be expanded individually on request.
By forming special interest groups, we can shape the product according to users' requirements. You directly influence the development process and thus your future solution. This gives us the opportunity to develop applications that are exactly what the market requires and increase the efficiency of our development.