2020 EFMD Case Writing Competition Winners Interview Series: Bringing Technology to Market

EFMD encourages and rewards innovative and impactful cases in management development each year. This year brought an exceptional variety of winning cases across various industries. EFMD decided to interview the winners to find out more about their motivation, inspiration and significant challenges.

The next interview is with the team of winners from the category “Bringing Technology to Market”, Dominique Turpin, IMD – Institute for Management Development, Douglas Quackenbos, University of South Carolina, and Martin S. Roth, University of Charleston.

“SAM 100: Will Construction Robotics Disrupt the US Bricklaying Industry?”, written by Dominique Turpin, Douglas Quackenbos and Martin S. Roth

The “Bringing Technology to Market” category welcomes cases featuring current and future challenges of industrial companies in global B2B markets and their strategies to remain competitive.

Could you tell us what the greatest inspiration for your case was?

Our goal was to develop a case that will help participants “crack the code” of innovation diffusion in traditionally conservative industries and markets – something that many will face as technological advances and demographic shifts bring changes to the status quo.

Marketing new technologies to any business environment or industry brings special challenges. And, the world of construction and building materials is no exception. Still, it is one of the few sectors that has remained relatively insulated from disruption with the use of robotics and automation, making it particularly interesting for us.

Still, it is one of the few sectors that has remained relatively insulated from disruption with the use of robotics and automation, making it particularly interesting for us.

Understanding what has held robotics back and overcoming the barriers to innovation diffusion in this conservative industry serves as a specific illustrative learning exercise for the students and a proxy for potentially similar sectors, such as agriculture and healthcare.

There are also myriad factors to consider regarding the individual and society at large. Analyzing the construction industry – one that everyone has some familiarity with but about which few have deep knowledge – offers an ideal scenario for analysis and thought.

And what were the significant challenges in designing the case?

Making the content interesting enough to keep the participant’s attention without making it overly industry-specific was perhaps the most challenging part. Key themes, such as robotics and the fear of job loss, the impact of branding and naming of robotic machinery, and commercialization of new technologies, combine to create an ideal platform to analyze B2B customer value and benefits when marketing innovation.

We wanted to ensure that students recognize that the commercial success of capital-intensive, innovative products doesn’t depend solely on ROI (Return on Investment) but also is often predicated on the firm’s ability to share the benefits among the disparate stakeholder groups (in this case, business owners and masons).

We wanted to ensure that students recognize that the commercial success of capital-intensive, innovative products doesn’t depend solely on ROI (Return on Investment) but also is often predicated on the firm’s ability to share the benefits among the disparate stakeholder groups (in this case, business owners and masons).

An illustrative example within the case is that of SAM100 – the bricklaying robot, which to a great extent replaces a mason versus MULE (« Material Unit Lift Enhancer »), which like the beast of burden for which it was named, helps the mason – Note: both products are made and sold by Construction Robotics!

In what ways, in your opinion, could the case impact society and business in the near future?

Before we get all worked up about the « robocalypse », (i.e. robots taking everyone’s jobs and destroying the world), it’s worth considering just how few robots are currently used on construction sites. Unlike manufacturing facilities, where they’ve been ubiquitous for decades, they’re hard to find. There is a growing mismatch between the increasingly sophisticated robotic engineering capabilities and commercial success. The tech revolution is on the horizon, and we need marketers who are prepared to commercialize these amazing innovations.

The tech revolution is on the horizon, and we need marketers who are prepared to commercialize these amazing innovations.

There is an opportunity to bring the productivity and quality benefits of robotics and automation to the world of construction. As explored in the case, participants must learn that value and benefits cannot be related only to operational aspects. Health and wellness challenges, including injury and chronic pain related issues, are all too common in the world of construction – especially as one looks across the globe at the differing safety and labour standards.

Robotics provides hope for a healthier worker future, with higher-skilled jobs replacing those more common today. Furthermore, demographic trends are crystal clear. There are fewer and fewer people willing to enter the demanding world of construction, especially masonry construction. Robotics can fill the labour gap, improve health and wellness, increase productivity, and increase the speed and delivery of sustainable, more environmentally friendly buildings.

Robotics can fill the labour gap, improve health and wellness, increase productivity, and increase the speed and delivery of sustainable, more environmentally friendly buildings.

You participated in the Case Centre writing workshop. Could you please tell us more about this important experience?

In addition to being a significant learning experience for any teaching faculty using cases in class, the Case Centre case-writing workshop was fundamental in helping me understand just how much academic business cases (like everything else!) are evolving. It’s clear that the case-based teaching method is still highly effective and here to stay.

However, student expectations concerning topics, industries and practices continue to change. By learning how to write a case, one by definition, also sharpens their focus on the learning outcomes, especially when developing the teaching note.

The Sponsors Commentary

The category “Bringing Technology to Market” is kindly sponsored by Bringing Technology to Market (BTM) Center, ESMT Berlin. EFMD greatly values the sponsorship, the expertise and the effort of the sponsor to contribute to the Case Writing Competition.

The BTM Center at ESMT Berlin gives feedback and more information about sponsoring this category.

Why is case writing & teaching in the topic of “Bringing Technology to Market” important? And what are the reasons that the BTM Centre at ESMT Berlin is encouraging case writing on the topic by sponsoring the category?

The Bringing Technology to Market Center at the ESMT Berlin aims to analyze how changes and developments in global B2B markets impact industrial companies and what these companies can do to overcome the challenges. Our mission is to encourage networking and create international exchange on the game-changing topics in global B2B markets on a reliable platform.

The Category “Bringing Technology to Market” within the EFMD Writing Competition welcomes and promotes precisely written cases featuring current and future challenges of industrial companies in global B2B markets and their strategies to remain competitive. In this sense, the winning cases serve as additional international contributions to our main goal and provide industrial companies with valuable tools for their success.

If you would like to learn more about the category and the past winners, have a look at the BTM Center page.

About Sponsorship

Each year, more than 17 institutions sponsor categories in the EFMD Case Writing Competition. The choice of category, its exact definition and any specific conditions are the privileges of the sponsor. Sponsorships for the following categories are currently available – Continuous Improvement: The Journey to Excellence, Indian Management Issues and Opportunities, Supply Chain Management, and MENA Business Cases. If you are interested in sponsoring the mentioned categories or launching a new category relevant to case writing and teaching, please contact Hansol Park at hansol.park@efmdglobal.org.

More information about the 2020 EFMD Case Writing Competition can be found on the EFMD Global Case Writing Competition page.

Please visit the Case Centre’s webpage to access the collection of the winning cases.

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