Joining forces for next-gen manufacturing: foresight-driven innovation explores SCADA and HMI


→ Collaboration in the new innovation team
→ Growing Tool-Kit
→ Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition
→ Human-Machine Interface

As we work more closely with our colleagues in Berlin and Prague, our innovation tool kit grows not only in its size and capabilities, but also - dare we say it? - takes on the space-time continuum. 

Yes, you heard that right - with our Berlin colleagues specialised in strategic foresight, Spark Works brings Human-Centred Design and Innovation expertise, while Rohrbeck Heger helps us to look beyond the here and now - into the future. With their focus on strategic foresight methodology, including trend scouting and monitoring as well as scenario-building, together we not only address current client needs but also identify which future needs may arise.

Most recently we worked together to conduct extensive research on the future of automotive and food manufacturing for a client who is a leader in digitisation and automation. Today's quickly changing industrial scene is evolving due to not only the number of technological innovations, but also the speed at which they arise and are implemented. Companies and manufacturers are adopting modern HMI/SCADA engineering and digital transformation technologies to keep up with the pace of change, meet increasing operational challenges, and remain competitive. 

SCADA, or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, refers to a network of computers and control systems that collect inputs from multiple machines and manages the complex inner workings of a factory. These machines manage the entire production line, from all the pressing, welding, gluing, lasering and painting that at the end, in the case of an automotive company, spits out a new car.
HMI, or Human-Machine Interface, describes the digital screens used in this process. Imagine an airport control tower - this is an apt analogy to explain the control rooms full of such tools at state-of-the-art manufacturing plants.

With our combined forces, the Creative Dock innovation team supported the client in their quest to develop their current product and service portfolio in a rapidly changing industry. The client asked questions such as: 

  • What will our future customers demand?
  • What will they expect from our offerings?
  • What might our business model(s) of the future look like?
  • How can we improve and/or develop our offerings to meet future needs and market demands?

We first explored the field of HMI & SCADA engineering through a combination of desk research and internal interviews with relevant stakeholders to gain a deeper understanding of market dynamics and today’s end-to-end value chain. These initial steps were followed by trend research from Rohrbeck Heger’s existing data and reports, external industry-specific reports, and internal interviews with stakeholders. 

Identified trends and opportunities/risks were later analysed to paint a high-level picture of the future. This resulted in what is called a “reference scenario” which describes what are assumed to be the “most likely” future developments. This, we then stress-tested with ‘What if…’ questions that explored alternative, plausible futures. 

The research culminated in identifying a list of opportunity spaces. After feedback from the client, we took this information and began to implement more actionable and dynamic activities, such as interviews, brainstorming sessions and workshops. 

This new collaboration between Spark Works and Rohrbeck Heger, together as part of the Creative Dock innovation team, provides new opportunities and different perspectives on how to approach every project we take on. Both companies are helping clients in the early stages of projects by identifying the right set of problems to solve, through qualitative user research and testing, as well as futureproofing business strategy. As shown by this latest cooperative effort, merging these two approaches offers an especially robust and extensive innovation portfolio for our clients. 

Emily Phillips
Communication Lead
Emily Phillips is a creative communications and marketing strategist, passionate about content innovation and connecting people and products. She has broad experience building Berlin-based e-learning and healthcare startups, including five years at Blinkist as part of its marketing team. Before that, she worked at Readmill (acquired by Dropbox in 2014), and most recently was part of the inaugural cohort of healthcare entrepreneurs at Vision Health Pioneers. Before her time at early- to mid-stage startups, Emily managed programs at Atlantik-Brücke, a private, non-profit association to promote transatlantic relations.
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