Innovations from within

Idea2net, DACHSER’s strategic innovation program, makes the company’s employees the focal point for development and gives them the opportunity to actively shape DACHSER’s future. The sky’s the limit when it comes to inventiveness and creativity.

Idea2net: A network of people and their ideas.

Impossible! New ideas on their way to becoming potentially groundbreaking innovations are always accompanied by a degree of skepticism. This was certainly the case for Thomas Simon, company founder Thomas DACHSER’s son-in-law, who later became managing director of technology. At the end of the 1960s, he came up with the idea for a standard transport container for groupage logistics modeled on a shipping container: the swap body. Initially met with skepticism, this groundbreaking and flexible road transport innovation went on to revolutionize the entire industry. Today, it’s impossible to imagine life in the logistics industry without this DACHSER invention.          

Not every idea is automatically an innovation, however—much less an innovation as significant as the swap body. But it can become one—often in combination with many other ideas. That’s precisely why DACHSER launched Idea2net. Led by CEO Burkhard Eling and CDO Stefan Hohm, Idea2net Program Management coordinates this strategic focus program. “Idea2net is about fostering a culture of innovation in line with DACHSER’s values. By establishing a company-wide Idea2net community, it paves the way for a collaborative innovation process,” Hohm says. This strategic focus program is specifically aligned with new technologies and megatrends, which form the basis for specific fields of exploration. That way, the innovation process has defined guiding principles and a clear focus. Idea2net has already helped advance numerous innovation topics. DACHSER’s new telematics solutions, for example, are based on a wealth of constructive employee ideas. Such ideas were also instrumental in developing and enhancing the City Distribution concept as well as DACHSER’s systems for short-distance transport.

Philipp Wörner and Lukas Behrens are among those who know that Idea2net helps turn a large number of good ideas into innovations—at the branch level or for the entire network. As project managers at the DACHSER branch in Karlsruhe, Germany, they coordinate local Idea2net activities and act as ambassadors of innovation on-site. In the Idea2net Space, a collaborative digital platform, employ-ees can add suggestions and comments, ranging from minor improvements in on-site processes to innovative ideas for developing new business models. “No idea goes unnoticed,” Wörner says. “On the contrary, the Idea2net Space even allows employees to follow the progress in real time. At the same time, everyone is invited to participate in the process of generating ideas and to join the discussion. In this way, the platform gradually gathers the most important information about the different innovation activities going on at DACHSER.”                                      

Step by step to success

First, the local ideas committee at each branch considers its submissions and, in the best case, rolls them out directly. If ideas have the potential to work not only for the branch but for the network as a whole, they are forwarded to the central Idea2net Program Management. Promising ideas are then “fed” into the innovation process, where they are bundled with other ideas according to topic and enhanced with expert knowledge. In turn, this leads to preliminary projects and, if all goes well, to concrete innovation projects with a clear timetable and budget plan.           

Idea2net connects employees not just within their own branch but throughout the DACHSER world. Today, there is an international Idea2net community comprising 149 local contacts in at least 23 countries, bringing together dispatchers, human resources managers, billing experts, sales managers, and more—each with their own skill set and experiences. In their branches, their responsibilities include leading their local ideas committee, informing their colleagues about ongoing innovation projects, and conducting idea workshops.

Just how much creative potential Idea2net can unleash became apparent when employees from 38 countries participated in a global Idea2net campaign—DACHSER Climate Protection—between March and June 2022. In ten weeks, the campaign generated 2,100 ideas, 1,035 comments, and 8,534 likes. Most of the submissions concerned commuting, digitalization, electric vehicles, renewables, or energy-saving lighting.

In October last year, the Idea2net Space was rolled out at DACHSER Iberia as well. Isabel Padilla, Project Manager DACHSER Spain at the Regional Head Office in Madrid, is responsible for its implementation. For years, she has devoted a great deal of her time and energy to transformation and integration projects aimed at further integrating DACHSER Iberia into DACHSER’s European network. “Idea2net is a really exciting program that makes it very easy for everyone to share their ideas for innovations without having to first run it by their superior or jump through a lot of hoops,” Padilla says. Employees have really embraced the concept: “We launched in October, and in the first three months alone we received some 300 ideas. Especially those employees who at one time perhaps wouldn’t have considered sharing their ideas now find it much easier to get involved.”

Padilla reports that most of the ideas arise from everyday practice with a view to benefiting everyday practice. “For example, summers are often really hot here and it can get really stuffy inside the branches. It was employees who sug-gested using big fans as an efficient way of improving the flow of air. Initial tests are already underway and the situation looks promising.”                                   

“That the program is a top priority at DACHSER is a source of extra motivation for us all,” Padilla says. “Spain had the third-highest number of participants in last year’s Idea2net campaign—DACHSER Climate Protection—despite the fact that Idea2net hadn’t yet been rolled out on the Iberian Peninsula. Our employees are simply bursting with ideas and are eager to share their creativity,” Padilla says.

Whether Idea2net will lead to an innovation as gamechanging as the swap body remains to be seen. “But I don’t think that’s the key issue here,” Behrens says. “Many small steps can also take you far.” He adds that, at the Karlsruhe branch, they have set up a mobile Idea2net exhibition for those logistics operatives who don’t have access to a computer at work. “Pinboards in the warehouse show employees which ideas are currently making the rounds at DACHSER and allow them to add their own thoughts. This extraordinary bridge between the digital and the analog worlds is proving really popular, which shows that everyone can get involved in generating ideas,” Wörner says. The innovation ambassador is especially pleased that this physical participation platform can be used in different places throughout the branch. After all, the Idea2net exhibition can be moved from place to place—in its own special swap body: the perfect way to highlight DACHSER’s core values, such as entrepreneurship and having the courage to innovate.                                               

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