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Production & EngineeringManagementExpert Information - 11.01.17

MAJA-Maschinenfabrik: Systematic Innovation Management

MAJA-Maschinenfabrik, a customer of proALPHA, is ranked 13th among the most innovative SMEs in Germany. This was revealed by a German study entitled "Innovations-Champions 2016". For this ranking, the Munich Strategy Group (MSG) has evaluated the data of 3,500 German companies on behalf of the "WirtschaftsWoche" magazine.

On a flight to the USA, an article in the "WirtschaftsWoche" magazine caught Joachim Schill's attention. The article covered a family-run business in a small German town on the river Rhine and how it became an innovation driver for a whole industry thanks to ever-new ideas. The company described in the article is MAJA-Maschinenfabrik, which was founded by Schill's grandfather and which is now under his management.

10 Percent of Turnover Invested in Development

This article was inspired by the "Innovations-Champions 2016" study published by the Munich based consulting firm MSG, according to which MAJA ranks 13th among the 50 most innovative SMEs in Germany. This high ranking is owed to hard figures like growth in sales, share of new customers, earning power, number of patents, and the share of expenses for research and development. In addition, the assessment is based on soft factors such as the establishment of a corporate culture that promotes ideas and long-term thought and work processes.

"To stay on top of technology, we invest about 10 percent of our annual turnover in the improvement of products and in the development of new products," Joachim Schill states. An annual growth in sales between five and ten percent over the last couple of years proves this innovation strategy successful. And there's a long tradition behind this.

The Third Generation of the Success Story

When his grandfather, Hermann Schill, founded the company in 1955, it produced circular bone saws and machines for crushing ice blocks. The company was named after an aunt of the founder, Maja, who provided financial support. The breakthrough was achieved already three years after the foundation: the first derinding machine in the world relieved butchers of this exhausting manual process. In 1963, MAJA launched the first flake ice producing machine, whose ice had better cooling capacities than common ice cubes.

Today, Joachim and Reinhard Schill are the third generation to run the family business, and have achieved to continue the success story. The latest innovations include the versatile autonox24 robots produced by the company's subsidiary, MAJAtronic. This highly hygienic machine is not only used in the meat packing industry, but also for packaging coke cans, cosmetics and coffee capsules.

At the international trade fair of the meat industry, IFFA, in Frankfurt am Main in May 2016, MAJA presented an improved version of a machine for the exact portioning of all pieces of pork, beef, veal, lamb, and poultry. "By optimally adjusting all components, we have achieved to further increase processing speed, measuring precision and usability," Joachim Schill explains.

New Ideas Must Not Be Dismissed Without Further Investigation

Since such results are hard to come by, MAJA employs a systematic innovation management. At regular intervals, representatives of the development and sales departments meet up with the board of management to discuss new ideas and to choose the ones to follow up with. "New ideas must not be dismissed without further investigation," Joachim Schill points out. "Every suggestion is worth considering." Of course there might be dead ends or setbacks, but this risk is already being taken into account. "You just need the courage to call off a project in time," the businessman explains.

Trusting his guts has often proven to be the right thing to do. For example, the MAJA flake ice producing machine, which has originally been designed for butcheries, is now not only being used at meat counters in supermarkets and breakfast buffets in hotels, but also in the chemical and medical industry, and even for artificial snow on ski slopes and for snow showers in spa areas.

And in case the cooling system happens to fail in the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bozen, a MAJA machine is there to make an emergency ice bed for Ötzi the iceman to prevent the mummy from disintegrating.

A Stable ERP System Always Has Your Back

To make it to the top tier of the most innovative SMEs, other criteria are also significant, for example a constant increase in efficiency due to innovative processes. For more than 20 years, MAJA has used proALPHA to this end. "If all processes run stable thanks to the ERP system, that's already half the battle," Joachim Schell is convinced.

Because employees can then focus on their actual tasks. "To us, proALPHA is an important tool that always has our back," the CEO says. "And it always provides the latest facts and figures, no matter if I need them for the innovation process or other analyses."

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