Investments in research, development and innovations are an essential part of our company's operations and a key to ensuring its growth in the future. To make these processes run even smoother and increase productivity, we wanted to define the role of R&I more precisely. Therefore, we have strategically decided to divide the typical R&D department into separated research & innovations and development departments.
Considering the span of the nine-level TRL (Technology Readiness Level) scale, the role of R&I department mainly relates to following trends in plastic manufacturing and basic research up to about TRL 6. Further steps are then usually taken forwards by our development department.
Open innovation concept
In a world of widely distributed knowledge, research-orientated companies like Skaza can achieve much more if they don't rely exclusively on their own data, but invite other sources, especially start-up companies and education centers, to participate in the development of new ideas. That is why ensuring the open innovation concept is a vital role of R&I department at Skaza, which helps our partners participate in these processes more actively. Among the most fruitful ongoing collaborations are those with the Faculty of Polymer Technology from Slovenj Gradec, which Skaza also co-founded, and the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, part of the University of Maribor.
The open innovation concept is fully endorsed especially when it comes to the research of sustainable materials, which represents one of the key pillars in Skaza's development. The main goal of these researches is to make the production of our plastic items more sustainable. Our partners' inputs during this process are highly valued since we realize that together we have a truly unique opportunity of developing entirely new materials.
Role of R&I in developing new materials
Connecting with our partners is an integral part of developing new and more sustainable materials, but the role of R&I is even deeper than that. As you already know, sustainability has been an important part of our company's identity for many years now. Our own knowledge and creativity have proven crucial to successfully target these goals, especially when it comes to more demanding products.
An important focus of sustainable devolvement is introducing eco-friendlier materials to the production of plastic items. Recycled materials include a mixture of our internal sources, as well as post-industrial and post-consumer materials. The base for developing better and eco-friendlier substances, where the role of R&I plays an important part, is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). This methodology helps us determine all environmental impacts associated with numerous stages of our product, from raw material extraction and processing, through the product's manufacture, distribution and use, to the recycling or final disposal of its materials.
Once a product sample has been produced, our R&I team continues its work by checking the suitability of the material, both qualitatively and esthetically. Once all regulations are met, we usually need to tweak some formulation details, including additives and colorants. An important role of R&I is also to improve the production parameters, thus influencing the quality of the items and their impact on the environment.
Developing new technological processes
Parallel to developing new materials, an essential role of R&I is also to introduce new technological processes, which can significantly improve our working methods and lower the production costs. One of these innovative processes, often referred to as industry 4.0, is advanced UWB technology, which allows us to monitor numerous devices in the production line better. This doesn't not only help us optimize the production but built better B2B partnerships as well.
In the next step, these investments will further help us establish even better communication with our partners by combining UWB technology and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). This will eventually lead to initiating an effective and transparent production with traceability of recycled materials through the EcoTrails system.