‘Top 100’ distinction honours the country’s most innovative enterprises. This year, Ewald Dörken AG received the award for the second time.Inventive employees, the courage to innovate, and creativity in marketing new products have elevated this medium-sized enterprise to the top – the group of Germany’s 100 top innovators. On July 1, 2010, Lothar Späth presented representatives of the Dörken Group with the ‘Top 100’ quality seal in Rostock-Warnemünde.
The target appears ambitious: by 2017, Ewald Dörken AG of Herdecke hopes to generate 20% of its sales with products that have not even reached the drawing-board stage yet. At the same time, the company, which employs a workforce of 700 to develop and manufacture building sheets, house paints, tinting-paste systems, and micro-layer anti-corrosion systems, is actively working towards that goal, as the ‘Top 100’ analysis showed.
The first milestone on the way to this ambitious target was set as early as 2009: since that date, a specially-appointed innovation manager has been pooling and coordinating all innovation-related activities. Moreover, he supports diverse innovation processes and circles. For this, the company was ranked fourth in the ‘innovative processes and organisation’ category in the analysis. All these numerous innovation units are led by a cross-departmental ‘Innoclub’ composed of the development managers of all operative units, the innovation manager, and the technology director. At four-week intervals, the club meets to examine employee’s ideas which are gathered in an idea database in the interim. The club expressly welcomes abstract ideas which, although they are not really related to the current product portfolio of the Dörken companies, might harbour the kernel of a new field of business. The innovation climate is good, and it pays: last year, nearly all employees demonstrated their creativity by submitting at least one proposal each, of which 60% were implemented.
A system solution for green roofs
Early in 2010, for example, Dörken GmbH & Co. KG presented its new special dimpled sheet, Delta-Floraxx Top, a highly efficient, long-lived, and economical foundation for herbaceous roofs. This new system solution was specifically developed to provide drainage as well as water storage and filtration under the herbaceous covers of flat roofs. Special octagonal dimples additionally reinforced by ribs give the material its extreme compressive strength, enabling it to bear heavy loads. Thanks to its high drainage capacity, the sheet can replace a mineral seepage layer although its weight and covering height are markedly lower. At the same time, its dimples serve as a water reservoir which helps herbaceous covers to survive times of drought. The fused-on drainage and filtration cloth saves an entire laying operation, enabling the sheet to be covered with soil immediately after laying.
The acid test
For several months, the Vienna University of Economics examined the innovative performance of a total of 248 SMEs in Germany. The top 100 among them, including Ewald Dörken AG, were distinguished with a seal of quality for one year. “Good ideas which are well received on the market don’t just happen. They call for hard work every day. Of course, we are happy to see our commitment rewarded because it shows us that we are on the right path. And it gives us the comfortable feeling that there will be no dearth of good ideas in the future,” said Karl E. Dörken, a member of the Dörken Board.
All across the country, Germany’s top innovators employ a total workforce of 32,500. Tinkerers and experimenters, they are not afraid of things that are entirely new. For their employers’ consistent innovation management creates optimum conditions for creativity and gets the best out of the workforce. This is also what makes these companies a major motive force in Germany’s economy. In 2009, they generated sales totalling 11.1 billion Euros. 42 of the 100 SMEs that were awarded the quality seal for 2010 are at the top of their national industries, and 10 are world-market leaders. The fact that there are 60 family-owned enterprises in this year’s ‘Top 100’ demonstrates that pride in tradition and the will to innovate are not mutually exclusive. In the last three years, 86 of the 100 companies have been growing faster than the industrial average.