Design thinking as a driver of innovation – how simatec is shaping the future


Innovation is part of simatec’s DNA: Headquartered in Wangen an der Aare, the company has been developing impressive products and solutions for assembling, dismantling and maintaining roller bearings for almost 40 years. Innovation and customer focus are two of the success factors – but there’s more…!

Three months of thinking and working differently – with its Design Thinking method, simatec uses an approach that places customer needs at the centre of all considerations. By deploying agile and iterative creative processes as well as numerous interviews, the ideas and preferences of future customers can be amalgamated. “We want to tailor new, intelligent solutions and products to the precise needs of our customers and thus develop new business areas,” says owner Mischa Wyssmann.

Two teams of three persons have been assigned the task of finding new fields of application for the technology of the simatec gas producing dry cell – the heart of the leading product “simalube.” The two teams, “Da Vinci” and “Einstein,” carry out research in the field of MedTech and pest control, crop protection and building services, and work under the supervision of an external moderator. Mischa Wyssmann: “For the interdisciplinary teams, we completely freed up four members of staff from their day-to-day work and provided them with the ideal infrastructure to work autonomously. In addition, one person was appointed in each team to introduce the external perspective of simatec to the teams.” The office cubes “Da Vinci” and “Einstein” have been equipped with collaboration technology and prototyping material for creative methods of thinking. Another factor for success is methodological coaching by the moderator and the Innovation Board, who plan and supervise the process. The MedTech team is also supported by external specialists in medically complex topics such as applications, markets, regulatory issues and compliance.

(Peter Aebi, Marc Beutler, Matthias Meier)

Why was the gas producing dry cell the focus of the Design Thinking method? The gas producing dry cell the size of a hearing aid battery uses electro-chemical principles to generate hydrogen gas. It is an autonomous energy source that also functions as a motor, a clock and a pulse generator – an absolutely potent, agile mini-power plant whose potential benefits are far from exhausted. And this is exactly where design thinking comes in.

So how do you find the ultimate solution and how is progress measured? First of all, innovation is not a coincidence, but the result of a consistent strategy, the attainment of which is continuously monitored – the teams plan and work in fortnightly sprints. They share the results in a review meeting with the Innovation Board, which is made up of members of the Executive Board and the Board of Directors. This success monitoring forms the basis of the next sprint. “We place particular importance on communication throughout the company,” says Mischa Wyssmann. “The innovation teams regularly share their experiences with their colleagues as part of an information event – over a Fürobebe beer. This innovation project, steered by the Design Thinking method, is not focusing on our business goals, but rather on serving as a driver of innovation for motivated and enthusiastic employees.”

“With the Design Thinking method, we have created the mindset for visions of the future,” Mischa Wyssmann, owner.

simatec learned about the Design Thinking method back in autumn 2021 as part of a three-day workshop at the Furniture Forum (Mobiliar Forum) in Thun. Establishing innovation technology in companies was the right decision and an exemplary role model for industrial companies who want to redesign their future in the context of digitalisation.

(Mike Weber, Tamara Rebmann, Jörg Ammann)