Innovation has always played an important role at CMC. Rajesh Sinha, head, innovation and R&D, CMC, talks to tata.com about the company’s innovative products, and the processes and initiatives that nurture the innovative spirit of its employees
CMC has a formal innovation policy aimed at promoting innovation across the company. Tell us about the culture of innovation at CMC and how it has been nurtured over the years.
Innovation at CMC is a business necessity. CMC competes in an ever-changing technology market and our survival in the market is pegged at how fast and how well we innovate. The innovation culture within the company can be characterised by:
- A healthy dissatisfaction with status quo, which in turn breeds a culture of constantly adapting and incrementally innovating on what we have
- Passionate teams, which fuel energy for innovation and growth
- Identifying innovators early and nurturing them
- Celebrating ideas
- Fostering reasonable autonomy
- Fast fail, which means that if things do not work out, it is okay to fail
- Diversity – our eclectic workforce creates a blend of ideas
- Supportive leadership that recognises innovation as a strategic lever
What are the initiatives that CMC has undertaken in its effort to foster a spirit of innovation among its employees?
We take multiple steps across a spectrum of processes to foster a spirit of innovation. Some of these include:
- Hiring the right talent
- Ensuring that a certain percentage of the workforce is engaged in innovation projects
- Grooming talent – we have a policy framework that allows employees to pursue higher education to enhance research quality
- Using Tata InnoVista as an annual event to select the best ideas
- Making innovation a key performance goal for 20 percent of the management staff
- Ensuring intellectual property training and encouraging thinking methods such as lateral thinking, Delphi and Six Thinking Hats
- Ensuring tools like business case generator, idea capture, mind map, idea conversion and selection tracking, and account innovation are available to employees
- Enabling e-delivery for distributed classroom training and hands-on lab for delivery of advanced technology in emerging areas to help the workforce adapt to and use the latest technology in their innovation
- Ensuring company-wide recognition for the most innovative project, product and team.
- Instituting special awards such as the Hookrug Award and Dr PP Gupta Award to recognise serial inventors and creative thinking
- Reducing barriers in communication and collaboration across locations, groups and even outside CMC for innovations to work and see the light of day
Tell us about some of the innovative products that CMC has created in the recent past.
Some of the innovative products launched by CMC include those in areas of port automation, transportation automation solutions, general insurance underwriting and claims, open cast mining automation, depository solutions, games and event management, and e-governance solutions targeted at government-to-citizen enablement and digital governance. We also have several products that utilise horizontal technologies, including biometrics suites covering fingerprints and palm prints, and location-based services such as GPS.
We have market leadership in India with our insurance product line – which is considered extremely innovative because it uses insurance domain specific language (DSL) allowing insurance players to design and generate products on the fly, which is very different from other competing products.
Some of our products are:
- Genisys, tailored to the business requirements of the general insurance industry
- MACH and CALM, which optimise container and cargo port operations with innovative optimisation algorithms
- Dynamine, our mining solution, which has innovative scheduling and workload management algorithms as well as integration with GPS technologies
- Nirdeshak, a GPS-based automatic fleet management system used for monitoring and controlling vehicles from a central station
As we move forward, we are seeing increasing use of mobile smartphone platforms, big data-driven analytic suites which can not only answer routine questions but also predict; integration of enterprise social technologies and cloud-enabled models, which allow us to package products not only as a service but also as a platform to have a larger play with these product lines. Many of these are in the pipeline and some have already been implemented. Blue Ocean models allow us to create markets where competition does not exist; we often turn to this model by combining assets and platforms to deliver out-of-the-box innovations.
What are some of the innovative processes that CMC has implemented to improve operations and efficiencies.
We consider it important to distinguish ‘optimisation’ from ‘innovation’. Innovation must yield large payback and a breakthrough, while optimisation in operations yields incremental gains. We enable optimisation through CMMi framework by operating at Level-5. Innovation in operations is achieved by using some of the following initiatives:
- C-agility – transforms ability to agility
- C-profit – targeted statistical analysis-based model for generating options for transitioning low-margin businesses to higher bands
- Co-innovation network – allows us to leverage research, academia, new start-ups, and our wide partner network to improve the delivery success rate of difficult and challenging projects
- CODEX – a cross-functional team that creates tools, processes and framework to provide systemic solutions for delivery issues appearing across the spectrum of projects
- New service / business incubation centre – breakthrough models for Blue Ocean projects or new concepts are incubated through new service offering and new product offering incubation centres for business model testing and uptake before being handed over to the delivery and sales engine
The company recently won the Golden Peacock award for innovation for its Genisys Configurator. Tell us about the product and its innovative features.
The Golden Peacock Innovative Product/Service Award (GPIPSA) recognises the most innovative product as determined by the satisfaction of customers’ long-term unexpressed and unarticulated needs and aspirations in a most cost-effective manner, which is consistent with the society’s goal of sustainable development.
CMC won the GPIPSA for the Genisys Configurator and its associated modules. Genisys Configurator targets the extremely competitive general insurance market. The key innovative features of the product are:
- The use of DSL provides unmatched flexibility. It allows insurance companies to rapidly design new products and change existing products to suit customers in less time than competing software products do
- It can be structured to allow the reuse of components of a product, and specialisation or generalisation of an insurance product
- It also recognises and reuses a common reinsurance module rather than creating a varying, non-standard, client-specific reinsurance solution
- It allows users to leverage best-in-class, browser-based web and mobile smartphone access, with integration to other insurance company systems
Because of its unmatched flexibility, it is used by India’s large private sector insurance companies and is a market leader in India. The product is now going overseas and has seen its first few implementations outside India.
What are the challenges that the company faces when it comes to innovating or adopting innovations?
Given that we are an idea-rich company, we have problems in idea selection and idea conversion. This was borne out in the Innovation Value Chain Study that we had conducted internally. Based on this, we recognise that our current achievements in idea selection and conversion lag behind the best-in-class benchmarks. Systemic interventions are now on to recognise and speed up these processes.
We have launched the ideaX platform for idea capture and selection, and track ideas to realisation using Redmine, which monitors the conversion process.
Has the company filed any patents?
CMC has built on its IP capabilities and plans to file patents this financial year. The IP discovery exercise done last year has given us insight into intellectual property that requires protection through patents.