Process Innovation: The way Aarhus Vand does it

Traditionally, the majority of crowdsourcing and open innovation campaigns have been launched by product/service R&D groups with the focus of identifying exceptional opportunities in their product development efforts. But in reality, crowdsourcing can do much more: Some clever companies have leveraged the capabilities of such open models to realize process innovation.

One interesting example in this regard is Aarhus Vand: This Danish company conducts activities such as rainwater management, production and distribution of drinking water, transport and treatment of waste water. To give you an idea of the size of its operations, Aarhus Water treats more than 30 million. m3 of wastewater per year in its 9 treatment plants.

Being located in Denmark, Aarhus is well aware that it can’t keep up and improve all its critical production processes on its own. That’s why, since almost a decade ago, it has taken a rather active stand in regards to organizing crowdsourcing calls and tournaments to find solutions to its challenges.

The schematic flow-diagram below is self-explanatory: It provides an overview of the cleaning process and asks public to propose solutions for improvements in this process. With a rather modest prize of $10,000 for the winning teams, the company has been able to identify new filtration technologies which are highly applicable to their existing process and can provide significant performance improvement.

The overview of Aarhus Vand cleaning process (Source: Aarhus Vand website)

The overview of Aarhus Vand cleaning process (Source: Aarhus Vand website)

A key lesson from Aarhus case in respect to obtaining meaningful results in process improvement tournaments is the importance of defining the problem the right way: Typically tournaments which are launched around specific issues without structured solutions yield the highest results.

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