Sustaining competitive advantage in the medical technology sector in the west of Ireland through workplace innovation
Fitzgerald, Kevin Peter
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This research examines the impact of workplace innovation on competitiveness in the medical technology sector in Ireland. Workplace innovation is the adoption of new work systems in organisations, including process or administrative changes, which lead to positive outcomes. The research methodology consists of a broad pilot study of five companies, and an in-depth case study of a large multinational company, resulting in the development of a number of key findings. Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma are currently the means by which the studied companies are innovating in their workplace. A Workplace Innovation Life Cycle has been developed, which provides a means for companies to benchmark their Lean and Six Sigma efforts based on the Product Life Cycle model. An approach to workplace innovation is described. The case company utilises a work system encompassing a bundle of Lean and Six Sigma practices. An innovation ‘gear train’ model is developed, which describes the drivers of workplace innovation. A Champion is required to drive improvement teams, management and operators towards workplace improvement. Outcomes from workplace innovation implementation include increased throughput and reduced inventories, increased productivity, while yield levels remain relatively unchanged. Workplace innovation has allowed these companies to become more flexible and thus in a position to respond to market changes. However, innovation in the medical technology sector can be characterised primarily as ‘low road’, resulting in marginal but continuous improvements, through cost reduction and sales increases. High road approaches aim to develop and expand the business through innovation and higher value premium products. There is a need to develop high road innovation, to ensure continuing competitiveness, prosperity and growth for the sector.
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