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Insights into Innovation Management from Experts

“To translate customer requirements into successful products.”
Dr. Frank Maile brings 20 years of business experience into the MBA classroom and was always involved in Product Development and Innovation Management. This year marks his eighth semester of teaching Innovation Management at Pforzheim University’s MBA program. Dr. Maile is currently the Director of the Business Unit Coatings & Plastics at Schlenk Metallic Pigments GmbH. He said that his responsibility is, “To translate customer requirements into successful products.” Schlenk AG is founded in 1879 with its HQ located in Roth, near Nuremberg. A family enterprise, Schlenk AG is a leading international manufacturer of metal powders, pigments and foils.

Through the course, MBA students learned how products are developed, designed, tested, implemented, and commercialized. They were introduced to product development process, design thinking, and product-life cycle. Guest speakers gave students exposure to diverse perspectives of innovation management in different industries. The first guest speaker, Ulf Trabert, from Gabriel-Chemie Group, presented the importance of individualization and differentiation through developing innovative products.

To give students a firsthand opportunity to see how product development process looks in the industry, Dr. Maile organized an excursion to MAHLE Behr GmbH & Co. KG, located in the Stuttgart area. The Director of Chemical Processes and Material Laboratories at MAHLE, Dr. Oliver Mamber, graciously hosted the students through an intensive tour. The agenda included:  

• MAHLE’s products and innovations
• Job opportunities at the innovative company
• Tour of the prototyping lab, corrosion and durability testing labs, product and design validation

MAHLE started as a piston-producing company, and now it is the leading international development partner and supplier to the automobile industry. It provides both “push” and “pull” innovations to meet customers’ needs and to address megatrends. The tour ended with an exciting presentation about product life cycle assessment by Dr. Harsch, Managing Director at LCS Life Cycle Simulation GmbH, and how it impacts business decisions about innovations.

Dr. Maile taught the course using innovative-interactive teaching methods. Students worked in groups to discuss criteria for a good design, compared past design technologies from Walkman and CD-Man to handheld computers, and they even designed their own candy bars to position themselves with current competition. The course ended with a Design Thinking workshop and group presentation on Innovation Management topics.

It is always a pleasure to welcome Dr. Maile back to teach the Innovation Management. He, along with guest speakers, provide great insights into the world of innovation in various industries.

Text: Hellen Phan-Lesti, MBA Class of 2019, MBA Office
Photos: MBA, Dr. Maile