Car Industry Technology Fuels Furniture Innovation

Published Feb-06-11

Furniture textiles supplier Gabriel Ltd took advantage of an open innovation approach by looking to the car industry to help it slash production costs.

Gabriel Ltd, Denmark

The Story:

Car Industry Technology Fuels Furniture Innovation Open innovation is one of the most cost effective ways for companies to solve their R&D challenges. Many organizations don’t know what they don’t know and they therefore spend (some would say waste) money on trying to figure out a solution from scratch when it has already been solved by someone somewhere outside of the company. An open innovation platform can conveniently bring solution and solution seeker together.

Tapping into external knowledge

The concept has taken off in many countries and it can have a variety of different meanings. But essentially it’s a way for a company to use external knowledge to solve particular problems and challenges. The external knowledge can come via an open innovation contest or jam, by a provider posting a solution following an internet-based challenge, or when a company looks at different industries to see if there are transferable technologies and/or fixes.

Gabriel Ltd is one of Europe’s leading suppliers of furniture textiles and is based in Aalborg, Denmark. This 160-year-old company sees open innovation as a vital part of its growth and development strategies Not being specialists in everything it has a long history of using the expertise of its partners and collaborators.

Open innovation to help cut costs

Like most organizations Gabriel has been looking at ways of cutting costs without compromising the standard and quality of its products. For a long time it has been keeping an eye on car industry production methods for inspirational ideas to keep costs low.

It came across a fabric electro-welding technology used in the production of car seats by companies such as Fiat in its Punto Grande range and realized that it could be of use to the furniture industry.

This special process laminates the fabric and filler of a car seat rather than sewing together pieces and by transferring it from the car sector to the furniture sector Gabriel has enjoyed a significant reduction in production costs.

This is a clear demonstration of the elegance and beauty of open innovation. Gabriel did not have to go to the drawing board to work out its own solution; it merely borrowed and adapted one that was already in existence, saving itself mega bucks in the process.

Gabriel doesn’t just open its doors to everybody; it is cautious about who it engages with. To make the most of open innovation it only works with those partners that have a clear understanding of the platform and the right competencies for what is being developed. Confidentiality agreements are signed so that all contributors can work freely.

Open innovation advantages

For Gabriel Ltd open innovation has provided it with a number of key benefits:

• Innovation is more efficient
• Former competitors have been turned into partners
• Access to a much larger pool of ideas
• Continuous access to external knowledge
• Although it has not seen a reduction in the speed of development, Gabriel claims that the quality of the results is considerably better.

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