Economy & Politics

InnovatorsSchüco – East Westphalia in Manhattan

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Germany’s most innovative company: and Statista have filtered 442 innovation drivers out of almost 1,800 candidates. In our series of articles we present a selection of the award-winning companies. Our infographic shows an overview of the complete evaluation

The mail from New York arrived in Bielefeld on New Year’s Day. Over Christmas, the employees of the Virtual Construction Lab, or VCL for short, worked out the solution to a problem for the Schüco company. “We were able to read reports on January 2nd,” says Thomas Haltehof, head of innovation management at the East Westphalian provider of window and facade systems.

Schlenker does not reveal what the eleven-member group, which has been developing software solutions for the headquarters in Germany for almost four years in Midtown Manhattan, does not reveal. Schüco already offers other developments, behind which the young team of architects, engineers and software experts, professional customers, for example programs with which the construction process of facades can be visualized. This facilitates the presentation of projects and later assembly on the construction site.

Schüco does not produce windows, doors and other facade elements itself, but develops systems that are manufactured and assembled by thousands of partner companies worldwide. Most recently, the company generated sales of around EUR 1.7 billion with around 5,400 employees. “As a system provider, we are a decathlete who has to deal with specialists in all individual disciplines,” says Thomas Schlenker, who is responsible for all innovation and digitization topics at Schüco. “We have to recognize and respond to the future requirements of project developers, planners and craftsmen at an early stage.”

At Schüco, each business area drives its own developments. At the same time, the so-called innovation management at headquarters evaluates new technologies and trends. Schüco tries a lot: In a circle with other companies such as Audi, Melitta or their own parent company Otto Fuchs, the Bielefeld-based company exchanges ideas. From Tel Aviv to Singapore, a scout follows trends in the construction industry and sees startups. The company recently hosted an innovation hack where students spent a weekend working out new business models.

VCL is particularly productive. “The troops are constantly bothering us with their ideas,” jokes innovation manager Haltehof. He is particularly proud of an acoustic planning tool that the New Yorkers have perfected. “When approving large-scale projects, builders have to demonstrate that the noise protection regulations will be complied with later,” explains Halthof. So far, the calculations are mostly based on extrapolations and are accordingly inaccurate. The VCL system, on the other hand, delivers results that are precisely tailored to the respective project and take into account all possible parameters such as room size, arrangement of the windows or thickness of the window panes. The best thing about it: Even laypeople get along well with it.

The Bielefeld chief innovators separate 6000 kilometers and a six-hour time difference from their colleagues in the United States, but in Thomas Schlenker’s view the distance has advantages above all: “They are 100 percent focused on their task and think from the user’s point of view.” Their own Engineers in Germany had provided the technical preparatory work for the acoustic tool. According to Schlenker, they would have preferred to send the result to New York “so that in the end it wasn’t just nerds who could serve it”.

The Study on the most innovative German companies was published in 03/2020. Important note: The investigation was carried out before the outbreak of the corona pandemic. Methodology: This is how the most innovative companies were identified
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