DETROIT - Creative insight -and much persistence - has paid off for Prince Automotive Systems.
Prince said its HomeLink Universal Transmitter, a garage door opener that can activate home lighting and security systems, is being offered on 39 vehicles in the current model year as standard or optional equipment. That's a three-fold increase over last year, when the factory-installed device was introduced.
In the 1998 model year, the supplier is looking for another 30 percent increase in the number of vehicles offering HomeLink.
The device looks like an instant hit. But today's success caps two decades of work. In the late 1970s, Prince began to develop an original equipment door opener that could be integrated into a vehicle's interior. Its first real success came only with HomeLink, which has the ability to scan security codes for a number of devices.
RIGOROUS TEST FOR IDEAS
Prince, a unit of Johnson Controls Inc. based in Holland, Mich., takes a new product idea and subjects it to a rigorous test of whether it can be commercialized, said Michael Suman, vice president of marketing and advanced sales. That test may kill off what first looked to be a pretty good concept.
'An idea by itself just laying there is really worthless,' Suman said.
Suman was among the speakers at an innovation forum last week in Dearborn, Mich. The conference was hosted by Automotive News and Ernst & Young LLP, co-sponsors of the Automotive News PACE Awards, which honor innovation in the automotive supply industry. Prince won a 1997 PACE Award in the large-company category.
NEW IDEAS, NEW LIFE
Suppliers need to recognize that introducing a new product is often 'extremely disruptive' and can undermine businesses, Suman said.
But that is necessary to create new life for a company.
'We've always had a tolerance to be able to do that,' he said.
Product and process innovation is a collaborative effort, drawing upon a wide variety of disciplines, said Robert Tuttle, retired chairman of SPX Corp. and one of the PACE judges. It should be managed by a leader who can set clear goals and strict deadlines for moving the project forward, he said.
He said the development effort should only include 'true believers' committed to the project.
Said Tuttle: 'Enthusiasm is a real driver in keeping the idea alive and promising.'
In addition to Prince, other 1997 PACE Award winners were: Rapid Design Service Inc., Gentex Corp., Dana Corp.'s Spicer Transmission Division and Bosch Automotive Motor Systems Corp.
For information on the 1998 PACE Awards, call (800) 816-PACE or e-mail http: www.ey.com/ US/PACE