The Austrian Campus in Vienna is a gathering point for innovative companies. Palfinger also rents there. This is where Stefan Kreppel, Head of Innovation at Palfinger 21st, works. He knows that collaboration and co-creation are the hard currency – but there is a crucial twist. Exchanging with startups, innovators and established companies is witnessing a boom in professionalism these days.
Palfinger 21st has been innovating for five years. The constant question is what new skills can be found in the company. There is no fixed dogma: “We are not going to explain to our Palfinger experts what the next generation crane or lifting solutions should look like,” says Kripple. These questions are in good hands and are not the primary remit of Palfinger 21st.
Looking to the future
On the other hand, we definitely have to look to the medium-term future in order to answer questions such as: Will there still be a need for a lifting solution? Will building materials such as movable bricks still be available in this form? “You’re operating at breaking points in value chains,” says Kriebel. Which explains why solutions such as photo documentation of the crane load are also part of the box – or the development of a virtual crane. “We have to create spaces and frameworks for people who feel responsible for innovation,” Kriebel says. We sit together in a greenhouse where it is important to “grow tiny plants of innovation.”
The advantage of this structure is clear interim goals: quickly burying the project if things go wrong, “without creating dead organisms in the organization,” Krempel says. Resources will not be wasted – especially in current economically difficult times. “It can also be very useful to know why you don’t follow through on something, that is, why you don’t immediately put the big Palfinger machine behind an idea,” Kriebel says.
For example, Palfinger did not hesitate for long when it came to a chatbot for service employees and abandoned this project. The decisive result was that “the Asian branch took over the project again three years later and is building on it with its expertise,” says Kripple.
Currently, eight employees at two Palfinger sites – barracks in Salzburg and Vienna – as well as teams of different structures and sizes are implementing projects in the incubator. A year ago there were still 15 projects. The simple reason for this decline is that the projects have reached a level of maturity that makes it reasonable to allow them to move into the organization. The data science team has just joined the parent company’s product development team.
Culturally, different values were established than in the primary organization. Among them: Be brave, persistent, and curious. “It’s important for us to not just take the first shot,” Kriebel says.
“Total coffee aficionado. Travel buff. Music ninja. Bacon nerd. Beeraholic.”