Ludmila Šmerdová is not someone who answers immediately when you ask her something. The engineer takes her time. "I want to change things for the better," she says when questioned why she is involved in innovation management. For the better, because it's not good enough that things just work".
Ludmila is an engineer at heart. "I'm happy to work for Xella, which has prioritized environmental responsibility in recent years, because I've identified with environmental issues since my school days and here, I have the opportunity to contribute directly to innovations for environmental projects.
Keeping track of things
Today, her work is characterized by large and small, but always innovative projects. "Some projects I manage completely, some more, some less and some only marginally. But I monitor, record, and evaluate them," she says. About 30 per cent of her time is spent on innovation issues, and 70 per cent on product and technical administration. She has the core skills of an innovation manager: Identifying and supporting ideas, bringing people together, motivating them and, of course, keeping them on track.
Another one is to co-operate with other departments at Xella. As a rule, a team of at least two people is in charge of an innovation project. These colleagues usually come from different departments, such as engineering, production, sales, purchasing or marketing. Ludmila Šmerdová leads these teams. "It motivates me to see how committed each team member is to the realization of a good idea. I'm proud of every project that is completed and delivers the expected results". You can see the joy in her eyes. For example, when she talks about the new concrete-AAC window lintels. "There was no technical solution on the market, but we found it. “
Innovation is almost unthinkable without digitalization. But it is important for Xella Czech Republic and Slovakia not only on the product side. Ludmila Šmerdová is pleased: „Our virtual film studio, which we also use for training, is one of the proofs that Xella is the market leader and trendsetter in digitalization in these two countries. During the COVID pandemic, we also became a pioneer in online conferencing.“
This project was also shortlisted for the internal Xella Innovation Award. Since 2007, this competition has honored the most promising innovations. Every two years, fresh, creative and novel solutions from employees are awarded. An internal jury gives the prize to the most convincing ideas in various categories.
The pandemic was also a difficult time professionally for Ludmila Šmerdová. One of the most important tasks of the innovation manager is time management and planning. "Each sub-activity has to be carried out and reviewed by several people, so no matter what the situation, I have to keep track of the time frame for each project." At its best, these steps work in tandem. "It's quite a challenge and I'm constantly learning with each new project." Ludmila Šmerdová adds: "If one day it's the handling of prefabricated concrete lintels in AAC U profiles, tomorrow it's the recycling of plastic foil, and the next day it's the digitalization of the procurement system. Or all at the same time.”
BIM, Building Information Modelling, has also become indispensable for many working steps. "This also applies to our sales team," says Ludmila Šmerdová. "Today, we can't imagine working with customers, usually large construction companies, without mapping the project in BIM. Our BIM department consists of six people, a very dynamic team. As well as attending international conferences, we are hosting the Xella Group's international BIM meeting in Prague this June.