Invention and innovation: An introduction
Invention and innovation: An introduction

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Invention and innovation: An introduction

5.12 Process innovation

Once a product innovation is well established creative energies tend to turn towards incremental improvements and process innovation, which is an improvement in the organisation and/or method of manufacture that often leads to reduced supply costs.

These two factors typically result in a better-performing product yet one that can be manufactured in less time, possibly using fewer components and possibly using machinery operated by less skilled, less costly workers. For example incremental improvements in the type of filaments used, tungsten gradually replacing carbon, led to a threefold increase in the efficiency of the electric light. And process innovations made the manufacturing more efficient – for example hand blowing of bulbs was replaced by a semi-automated machine in 1894.

All of these process innovations can lead to a dramatic fall in the production costs, and therefore the sales price, of an innovation in the early years of its use. For example, after 15 years of production, the number of steps involved in producing an electric lamp had been reduced from 200 to 20 and the labour time from nearly an hour to 20 seconds. Not surprisingly the price of a carbon filament electric lamp over this period fell to less than 20 per cent of its original price.

T307_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus