Corporate Innovation & Technical Excellence

Leave it to the experts

Great minds may well think alike. But what happens when you bring diversity of experience and intellect together to come up with exciting new ideas?

There’s theory and there’s practice. Both are equally important when it comes to developing new and innovative solutions to technical challenges. That’s what makes KAEFER’s expert networks so special – there are people who excel in both areas and, unique to the company, there are opportunities to perform practical tests in dedicated laboratories as well.

KAEFER’s Corporate Innovation and Technical Excellence (CIE) department is responsible for organising and leading the meeting of experts from around the organisation. The goal is to develop, evaluate and promote so-called Best Applicable Technology (BAT). This helps KAEFER achieve technological leadership and provide clients with innovative solutions. It works not by demanding innovation at all times from everyone, but rather by creating a culture where ideas are nurtured, and creativity is fostered. The experts are encouraged to share knowledge, scout for new technology and trends and engage in exchanges with their colleagues.

Mind over matter

That’s the theory, but what does it mean in practice? Sometimes the simplest ideas have the greatest impact. On the Mission River bridge refurbishment project in Australia, a clever bit of engineering devised by the expert network led to substantial material savings. By upgrading existing sandblasting machines to eliminate waste, it was possible to save tens of thousands of Euros in costs for the entire project. This was only possible thanks to the involvement of team members in the expert meetings and approaching the challenge from as many different angles as possible.

Another example is in liquified natural gas (LNG). The pipes that transport LNG to engines as fuel or for processing are extremely cold. -163 degrees centigrade to be precise. This means that ice can form in critical locations where there are moving parts, such as valves, for example. To counteract this, the expert team developed a solution that was as simple as it was brilliant: as the pipes are housed in places with normal ambient temperatures, with a trick the environment was used to stop the freeze around the areas where it matters. This is a solution that works as well on a cruise ship as it does in a processing facility and brings great value to clients.

Going beyond technology, there can be benefits to productivity by using the expert network as well. The Al Ghanim insulation project in Kuwait was a prime example, demonstrating a perfect interaction of LEAN and technical excellence. This combined approach was able to reduce the number of man hours per square metre of insulation fitted from 4.9 to 2.1 in a matter of three months. It was achieved by collectively discussing and implementing an action plan that optimised technical specifications and streamlined working processes on site to make them more efficient.

Isn’t it great when things just work?

“Now that the expert group has actually become a group it will be easier to call a co-expert or write an e-mail to ask for help or advice. I would not have done this before,” said one insulation expert. A fire protection expert found that the network “contributes to the effect of eliminating borders and functioning as one”. A surface protection expert said that the meetings “increase my ability to gain experience and knowledge in fields where my country has "weaknesses" and increase efficiency.” This anonymous feedback was gathered from across the organisation and goes to show that the concept works and brings about the desired benefits.

Head of Innovation and Technical Excellence Thomas-Peter Wilk is pleased with the progress the expert group has made, “we try to solve things with ingenuity and intelligence rather than simply throwing money at a challenge,” he says. “Also, it’s about acknowledging what doesn’t work as much as it is about praising the projects that did work. It can take a lot of courage to report things that didn’t run particularly well, but I think we now have a culture in which we can learn from our mistakes and use the insights to do better.”

Yes, we can

There are currently 83 experts, nominated by their respective Managing Director, across the areas of insulation, surface protection, passive fire protection, access technology and non-destructive testing. They’ve become close-knit and trusting, with a collaborative ethos. They may not currently be able to meet up face-to-face, but that doesn’t stop them from working together to find ground-breaking technology and new ideas. There’s a positivity to exploring what’s possible and beneficial for the future. KAEFER’s very own group of experts takes this spirit to heart and will be the first to tell you so.

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