LADOUX, France—Michelin is working hard to bring its innovations to the market more rapidly, according to one of the three managing partners of the tire maker.
Speaking at an event designed to promote Michelin's innovation culture, Didier Miraton said the company is establishing teams specifically to focus on market needs. The teams are multidisciplinary, bringing together people from engineering, research and development, marketing, and finance to solve customer needs on a short time scale.
At the beginning of 2007, the company launched a project to cut in half the time needed to bring products to market, said Miraton, who with Jean-Dominique Senard is a non-general managing partner working with Michel Rollier, managing general partner. He said about 20 to 30 percent of projects have come in on the reduced timescale since then, and by 2010, the tire maker expects to finish more than 80 percent of its projects in the shorter period.
Miraton said the impetus for this has been Michelin's Japanese customers. They demanded more rapid turnover of the product offering.
“The world was changing, so we needed to increase the rate at which we renewed our offer,” he said.
Within each team, the members are working on fewer projects and each program is driven more by deadlines than cost.
“I do not look at the budgets, I look at the milestones of products and projects over time,” said Miraton. “For R&D the main thrust is the power of innovation and reducing the time to market. We have no consideration on cost, as such.”
The executive said when “you reduce the cycle and go faster, usually you save money that you can reinvest.”
Michelin hasn't been historically slow in bringing innovation to commercialization, Miraton said. It's just that now it has to be done at a faster pace.
Miraton said sometimes it isn't easy persuading engineers to really listen to what customers are saying. He said this requires a close market intimacy and also a special mind-set to be very candid about changes in the market, and to respond to those changes.