“When I started using fablabs (contraction of English manufacturing laboratory, “Manufacturing laboratory”), I immediately loved the spirit of these places. At the time, I was on work-study and had to prototype a drone. All employees of a company can use this space to materialize their ideas. Software, tools and machines (3D printer, laser cutting, virtual reality headset, etc.) are available there. The projects are mock-up as a team in order to study their practical feasibility and anticipate any difficulties, which saves considerable time and cost during industrial production. In the end, products of the future can be born in fablabs.
I wondered why innovations emerged more easily from these places than from the design offices in which I had been. In 2016, I had a professional thesis to write to validate my specialized master's degree in technological innovation management at Toulouse Business School. My subject was all found! It was the beginning of corporate fablabs, there was very little information and research around this subject. I found a dozen or so companies that used this type of laboratory to innovate and got to know Cédric Balty and Dominique Cachenaut, in the innovation department at Thales Alenia Space, who had plans to set up this type. of place.
Break down business silos
The company's first fablab was opened in July 2017 in Toulouse. I joined Thales Alenia Space as a fablab manager coordinator that year, after doing an internship there. In 2019, I was appointed fablab network manager. Today, these manufacturing laboratories exist at our sites in Toulouse, Cannes and Rome.
Within fablabs, employees can learn about intrapreneurship (entrepreneurship in the company) and be their own manager. They take full charge of the management and development of their project. For example, they learn to use software to design an object or a new computer language to build a small system. Finally, the skills they develop within this space can be useful to them in their work.
A radiofrequency doctoral student, a machining operator, an accountant, a project manager… These laboratories bring together different profiles and disciplines. There is a sort of system of bartering knowledge there: I will help you on this point, you are teaching me another. It is effective in breaking down the silos of the company!
The moment that struck me the most in my activities was when the part designed and designed by one of the Thales employees, a CAD (computer-aided design) draftsman from the design office, took place on board. a geostationary telecommunications satellite intended for a major operator. It was an innovative part for antennas that could adapt to other satellites.
The road traveled has been long because the project had been rejected four times before being mock-up with the help of the fablab. The visualization of the project made it possible to better understand its operation. When the person presented their project a fifth time, the meeting lasted five minutes. The teams exclaimed: “Ah but that's what you offer us!” It's awesome ! “. The fablab played the role of communication facilitator.
Develop new fablabs
On a daily basis, I take care of the management of the premises, the teams of fablab managers, animation, communication and mediation with employees. My main mission is to encourage the intrapreneurship of motivated employees who would like to develop this type of space within their establishment. I support Thales Alenia Space sites that so wish in the creation of their fablab, from idea to opening. All these fablabs operate in a network and represent a community able to exchange its know-how and work on common projects.
The main difficulty of this job lies in the transformation of the corporate culture. As soon as we implement new concepts and methods, we must accept that they do not happen overnight. Time to adapt employees and organizations is necessary, we do a lot of teaching! It requires a full understanding of how the business works, not easy when you are a young woman who arrives with her new ideas in an already well-established organization. But it's also an advantage for me, free from any pattern of thought and operation, I don't stop when others think it's impossible. The other difficulty, given the operational priorities, is to make this approach work on participatory and voluntary work.
Our activity also had to adapt to health rules. This crisis also allows us to develop differently, it has also been a source of innovation and new ideas for our makers. It is in the constraint that one becomes innovative! During the first confinement, as part of a personal approach, I decided to put my skills acquired through my activities at the service of the crisis, with the help of my network, Visière Solidaire and Fab & Co , to make visors for caregivers! I will remember this wonderful outpouring of solidarity, a great opportunity that opened my eyes to other possibilities for using the fabLab.
Overall, I am very proud to make innovation accessible to all employees. When I entered the world of innovation, I found it very scientific, elitist and not very accessible, which made me want to popularize it. I particularly like the support in this job. Anyone can get creative with a little stimulation! “
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