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Six Tips That Help Transcend the Innovation/Safety Gap

While people generally accept risk in everyday activities, it doesn’t mean they will be ok when a product’s quality doesn’t live up to expectations. Insights from UL's Innovation Safety Research Study reveal a path forward.

Drone attempts to deliver package in city landscape.

December 11, 2019

Every weekend, hundreds of thousands of cyclists take to the roads even though accident rates per kilometer are 26 to 48 times higher for bikes than for automobiles. We continue to buy leafy greens and other fruits and vegetables even though the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne pathogens every year. And, let’s don’t forget that while nearly 1.25 million people die in road crashes each year, around 6.5% of the population is afraid of flying even though the risk – a 1 in 9,821 chance of dying – is quite small.

Risk is everywhere, and it can come from anywhere at any time. And, as the above examples show, most people are comfortable with some elements of risk in their lives. However, while people generally accept risk in everyday activities, it doesn’t mean they will be ok when a product’s quality doesn’t live up to expectations or even worse if it fails and is recalled.

Most companies plan to manufacture and deliver high-quality products to market but when it comes to innovation over 95,000 products fail each year. Some common reasons for failure include not meeting the customers’ needs or poor planning which can result in not enough resources or costly delays. However, recent history is rife with examples of product failures due to safety, function or performance issues – batteries catching on fire, drones dropping from the sky and cyber hacks through unsecured portals.

So, what’s the solution for companies?

In UL’s Innovation Safety Research Study, researchers uncovered six insights that help transcend the innovation/safety gap. Here is a summary of their conclusions:

Start talking … with stakeholders, that is. For many companies, innovation starts with one or two people. By confining the ideation and design process, you put the future of your product at risk. Bring other departments into the discussion from the start to help identify any gaps that exist.

Digitize to organize … and consolidate data across all functions of the business. The resulting visibility can help flag potential safety problems before they arise, point to trends and help streamline operational processes.

Anticipate change … with new technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI) has proven beneficial in anticipating changes in safety and functionality. AI can also help ensure product quality, monitor testing and help verify safety.

Rely on the expertise … of others, i.e. third-party organizations. From keeping up with regulations to performing a desk review of drawings, whether build materials, electrical schematics and so forth, invest in their external expertise for gap analysis, technical information, product testing and other quality assurance resources.

Consider safety … from all angles. In an increasingly complex world, safety has come to incorporate much more than fire, shock and physical harm. You need to include cybersecurity concerns, chemical transparency, privacy laws and sustainability. The impact of a product on consumers, the environment and workers up and down the supply chain are all included in the definition of safety.

Pursue new business models   and frameworks, value propositions and product paths. Innovation is changing the way products and services are delivered with a shift towards a circular business model. Disruption is rampant, putting pressure on companies to innovate even faster. New business models are critical to resolving innovation and safety issues. 

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