Setting up innovation process with SECO Tools

Marcel is a Senior Manager R&D Solid Milling at SECO tools and is part of the group that manages innovation within the company. They are just starting out on their innovation journey and wanted to see best practice to learn from as they gear up to invest into innovation. Innovation Excellence Masterclass has reaffirmed Marcel that his current planning process was correct and guided him towards the next steps necessary to successfully innovate at SECO. His biggest takeaway was finding out how to free up people for innovation within the company.

"We have been asking how to free up people for innovation for the last 2 years. I have been given the answer in the last 2 days”

About Marcel:

Marcel is a Senior Manager R&D Solid Milling at SECO tools and is part of the group that manages innovation within the company. Seco is one of the world’s largest providers of comprehensive metal cutting solutions for milling, stationary tools, holemaking and tooling systems. For over 80 years, they have been more than just a cutting tool provider. They develop and supply the technologies, processes and support that manufacturers depend on to maximize productivity and profitability.

My Challenges:

We are currently setting up an innovation function in our company. We don’t have a process for innovation in place yet nor resources assigned. We looked at several events to get some input on how to get started and this Masterclass fitted really well. I work in a quite conservative industry and it will take time for companies to become truly innovative. We recognise that our time is now.

How The Leadership Network Helped:

Having a diverse group of companies at the Masterclass, all at different levels and scales, was a useful way of getting an understanding of different innovation paths one can take. The steps that we have taken so far have been confirmed at the Masterclass, which reassured me that we are on the right track. We have taken it slower than company has expected us to in terms of implementing innovation but I’m glad to see that I was right in thinking that innovation is something you need to embed and happy to see it was worth it. I was also able to get an understanding of what are the next steps we need to take to ensure our innovation efforts are successful.

We assigned an innovation function in the company, one of the VPs, and a small team attached to him. But we have been asking how to free up people for innovation for the last 2 years and the Masterclass has given me the answer. We now have a better understanding as a company what innovation entails, both as a concept and process.


Creating new global innovation function


Having had some time to reflect on the learnings from the Masterclass, it was clear we had to create a new global innovation function to align and reinforce localised initiatives and maximise them. Paulo A Janeiro has been appointed to be in charge of the ideation system, which is an internal portal to collect, discuss and evaluate ideas to allow collaboration from employees. Its aim is to create an exploration space to allow for “baby innovation”.


The first pilots are being finalised and plenty of ideas are being explored around different areas such as digital, IoT, new offers, improved internal processes, reducing waste and improving current product lines.


Innovation in the works


One example of innovation we’re working on is the use of “Amazon’s Alexa” as an interface to SECO product data and specifications. In our houses we use an Amazon Alexa or a Google Home to control everything from our lights to our garage door.  We also use these devices to find out information. As a CAM programmer, a hands free cutting tool assistant would help improve speed and accuracy of information.  What if you could say "Alexa, ask SECO to give me feeds and speeds for a double quattro mill in 4140 steel"?  Wouldn’t that be faster than finding the product on the website or in the catalog, rather then finding your material group, then finding the page or area for feeds and speeds?


One immediate challenge that came with a high number of good ideas available was how to explore them. Regardless of the resources we had available there would always be a finite number of ideas we could explore. Therefore, we had to create and test a new process that combined top-down with bottom-up approaches to explore ideas.


Full speed digital


Digital transformation is one of the key enablers of innovation. In fact, in the future (and near future) digital will be a core competence for all successful companies as the majority of the innovation will be around data: how to collect, analyse and act on it in real-time. This will allow totally different offers and customer interactions.


Next year, we will be focusing on the achievement of the following goals:


  1. Pushing the digital transformation and innovation in parallel;
  2. Fine-tuning the new approach to explore ideas inside SECO.