Hans Larsson (TMHE): "Filtering the gold out of the sand”

30/06/2022 — minutes reading time
Hans Larsson OK

Toyota Material Handling Europe (TMHE) strongly believes in open innovation and co-creation. "We have a lot of technology and innovation power within our company, but collaborations with customers and start-ups can further accelerate the innovation process," says Hans Larsson. As Director of Strategic Innovation at TMHE in Sweden, one of his tasks is to explore and set up these collaborations.

"My job is to drive innovation, both at TMHE and at customers. This is done in three ways: through research to analyse the threats and opportunities of future technologies; secondly by looking outside the core of TMHE for partners, start-ups and build ecosystems; and thirdly by testing and experimenting by doing Proof of Concepts in order to know whether new solutions can be brought to market in the short or medium term. Sometimes a solution from a start-up can be implemented immediately but sometimes it is more for the logistics of the future. That is what I we have to investigate," Hans Larsson says. He uses a nice metaphor: "We simply have to filter the gold out of the sand".

Larsson has seen the start-up landscape evolve a lot in recent years. According to him, in the beginning, start-ups with good ideas had little money to bring these to maturity. "Today the picture is different. They are often backed by investors and have experienced and well trained people on board. They often focus more on a specific problem in which they can become extremely skilled. As a company, our scope is much broader. By working together, we can both move forward faster".

Knowledge of customers' needs is an asset

"We know a lot of customers and we know their needs. That is an asset that is beyond the reach of a start-up. It is difficult to reach the right people in huge international companies, even though it has a solution that might help those customers move forward. As a big company, we have access to the market. Start-ups need us, but the same is true the other way around. It's an interesting game," he says.

Such cooperation can lead to co-creation, which offers huge potential for customers. Large logistics companies often sit on a heap of knowledge in logistics but lack knowledge in the field of 'deep tech'. "The interaction between a start-up, a large manufacturer and a potential user can therefore result in great added value," says Hans Larsson.

Co-creation and Zero Muda

Co-creation fits well with Toyota Material Handling's 'Zero Muda' strategy. Muda is the Japanese term for waste, which appears in many forms: too many stocks, defects, transports, waiting times, etc. In every manufacturing or logistics process, there are frictions. Taking them out therefore creates added value. In logistics, for example, this can be done by avoiding excess movements or accidents. "The input of a start-up can accelerate that improvement process. Log!Ville represents a great meeting place for such contacts, and we are there connected to for us new start-ups that can bring solutions to us and our customers, e.g. by reducing accidents in warehousing. If we can avoid accidents thanks to their technology, for example, that is one step closer to our Zero Muda vision" says Hans Larsson.

Log!Ville is a ‘matchmaking arena’

That is why he finds an initiative like Log!Ville very interesting. "To stimulate open innovation and co-creation you need to find the right people, effective structures and a fertile meeting place. Log!Ville attracts the right people and provides a framework for them to meet in the right conditions. We consider it therefore as a matchmaking arena. For logistics, this is quite unique in Europe. There are other initiatives, such as the Lindholmen Science Park in Sweden for example, where we are also present. But their focus in not intralogistics," he adds. (Lindholmen Science Park was set up by Chalmers University of Technology, the city of Gothenburg and a number of companies. It focusses on mobility and has provided space for the development of innovation for over twenty years, ed.).

So TMHE believes in Log!Ville. That's why the company has chosen the demonstration and experience centre to host its international event Logiconomi in September. It brings together customers, innovators and pioneers to share ideas and identify trends and technologies that will affect the world of logistics in the short, medium and long term. "This is done in workshops, debates, presentations and so on. During these two days, knowledge is shared, insights are discussed and demonstrations of future-oriented solutions are organised. Log!Ville is therefore an excellent place to hold such an event," concludes Hans Larsson.