If your company is looking for options that can lead to explosive growth and a tighter team culture, taking part in a Silicon Valley immersive innovation program is a great way to uncover synergies and brainstorm growth opportunities.
This is what the International Vitamin Corporation has decided to do. IVC has grown through a strategy of acquiring market share. And after making two successful acquisitions, the company now has production facilities in China, the US, and the UK, as they wanted to unlock additional growth. However, the leadership of IVC realized that developing their own cultural innovation strategy could be more cost effective than continuing to acquire more factories. After visiting Silicon Valley and engaging with startups and leading tech companies, IVC learned several lessons for internal innovation that they can take home and apply to their business.
“We visited Silicon Valley Innovation Center as an exercise for opening our minds to learn how we might innovate and disrupt our business. And I would have to say, mission accomplished. The mindset of Silicon Valley is unlike anything I’ve experienced in my 40-year career. Every place we visited had this intellectual and business-oriented approach to problem solving and innovation.”
Richard Connor, Chief Quality and Scientific Affairs Officer.
The participants had an opportunity to visit and have in-depth discussions with Silicon Valley experts from Naiss, Plug and Play Tech Center, Jabil, Oracle, UL, Google, HP, Black Swan Data, Amazon, Tesla Motors, and witness the latest innovations in the areas of:
● Supply Chain Demand Forecasting
● Manufacturing Innovation with 3D Printing
● Cloud Computing and Data Analytics
● Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
● Personalized Medicine Based on Analytics
Here are some key takeaways from the program:
1) There are two different approaches to innovation – evolutionary and revolutionary
IVC global senior team meeting at Oracle
After the second day of meetings, Eric Bauer, CFO of IVC, realized that there are two very different kinds of innovations his company had to undergo. He called the first one evolutionary. These are incremental changes that provide considerable assistance to stabilize and make existing operations more efficient. One example of an evolutionary change would be to get all the company’s systems working together. This is not a unique challenge for IVC. During the three days, we found out that even HP and Oracle struggle with the same challenge. A revolutionary change would be more like making an entirely new product line. In the case of IVC, we learned of the growing opportunities in personalized products.
2) Evolutionary technology is readily available for production forecasting
Demonstration of InControl production management at Jabil
Like many companies we meet, one of IVC’s greatest challenges is properly forecasting the future production and ordering the proper amount of supplies. When a company doesn’t have an accurate forecasting methodology, very often they over order supplies and overproduce, because they don’t want to miss an order when it comes in, especially when the order comes in from a large buyer like Walmart or Costco. Fortunately, there are many solutions currently available on the market that address this problem. Oracle has supply chain management software that runs 15 forecasting methods to your supply chain and selects the one that fits best. Jabil, an advanced contract manufacturer, displayed a large “war room” full of large screens that showed the real-time activity occurring within their complex supply chain using their proprietary InControl software. And, Throughput is a startup founded by data scientists and ex-Big 4 consultants that uses predictive analytics to make your forecasting tighter.
3) Revolutionary technology is being developed to transform businesses through personalized products
Virtual Reality at HP
The IVC team regularly discussed the need for the evolutionary change that better supply chain management would bring, but also the need to take advantage of the immense growth potential of revolutionary technologies like how data analytics and advanced manufacturing devices like 3D printing can allow personalized products. Thryve Probiotics taught us that because of the decreasing costs of genomic sequencing, big data analytics, and small batch manufacturing, the ability to create personalized vitamin and supplement mixes is becoming more and more real. The Institute for the Future has a “joke” sign from 2027 in the restroom that reads “By using this toilet, you agree that all human waste can be analyzed by the State of California and third-party providers.” We saw the very near future of an efficiently-closed loop circuit whereby whenever you used a bathroom, your waste would be analyzed and the next day you would receive a shipment of customized vitamins, supplements, probiotics, and dietary recommendations based specifically on what would be most helpful for you at the moment.
4) If you’re not using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, you should be
Artificial Intelligence fully integrated in Amazon Web Services
A regular recurring trend learned by practically every speaker is that if you’re not currently using AI, you should be. Many speakers emphasized that even though AI is a buzzword, the science behind it is real. AI is a combination of computer algorithms that present similar scenarios enough times to know which inputs will result in desirable outputs within a statistically significant portion of the time. Oracle said that they think of AI as the “cloud.” A few years ago, there was ambiguity around the cloud, but now it is common knowledge that it is a cheaper and more efficient way of storing data. They are now putting AI inside everything they do. Their engineers are building AI into all their products; Amazon is following suit. It will result in much greater efficiencies as computer systems will always be seeking areas for improvement even while you sleep.
5) 3D printing of medicine can make “supplements as a service” a reality
HP showing their 3D printing technology
An overarching theme of the trip was innovation in supply chains. A radical breakthrough in supply chain efficiency is 3D printing. Currently, supply chain planning takes weeks to order injection-molded plastic parts. With 3D printing, you can have the parts ready to use in 24 hours. HP is already using 3D printers to make customized medicine. So, in the scenario above with the smart toilet, imagine you go to the restroom and your data is sent to a pill manufacturing facility in your city. The facility assesses the data and creates a custom tablet for you with all the vitamins, minerals, and probiotics your gut says it needs. These custom pills can be delivered to you in less than 24 hours.
After only three days in Silicon Valley IVC had specific plans for how they could begin a culture of internal innovation. First they saw that many technologies exist in supply chain management that can dramatically help their existing business run better. This is a low hanging fruit as it’s an area everyone agreed must be worked on.
This plan to upgrade the technology powering their supply chain is one example of digital transformation. Here at Silicon Valley Innovation Center we see many companies from around the world looking for digital transformation strategies like this. The reason being that the more digitized your company becomes the more data is being collected. And with the increased amount of data you can start using data analytics tools and artificial intelligence to make your company run smoother and add more value to customers.
As a more revolutionary step, the team will be following up with several startups that participated in the program to explore partnership opportunities that can leverage the IVC’s their manufacturing capabilities and channel partnerships. This is an exciting opportunity that we may all start seeing in the next 2-3 years.