Turning out a market-changing — and award-winning — product is no mean task. It takes copious amounts of dedication and most of all, a vision of the change you're about to create.
In 2016, Vaisala, having already established themselves in measurements related to energy and sustainability, started to look for a way to solve the biggest problem in the production of biogas: inefficiency. Because there's little chance of widespread adoption of renewable energy if it isn't profitable. And that's exactly what Vaisala's Biogas team is focusing on.
The aim was always to change biogas production for the better, eliminate its principal inefficiencies and thus help turn it genuinely profitable.
"How would you like an instrument small enough to fit in your hand instead of a huge wall mounted cabinet? That's what we asked our customer. The answer is obvious, yes of course, but creating a compact product was just one of the goals," Antti Heikkilä, the product manager for Vaisala MGP2621 tells us.
"Compactness brings with it easier installation into tight spaces, lower power consumption and many other benefits — but we wanted to revolutionize the gas analysis method entirely. Rather than using a complex and cumbersome conditioning cabinet and drift prone sensors requiring frequent calibration checks with reference gases, we wanted to go fully in situ," continues Otto Tierto, Vaisala's R&D project manager for the MGP261.
Vaisala had earlier developed the technological know-how to measure various gases using infrared light. Moving to methane, the key component in biogas was a logical way to proceed. In fact, proofs-of-concept were prototyped and commissioned already during product concepting in late 2016.
All in all, developing the Vaisala MGP261 showed that an agile team, with just 25 people can work wonders in a quick schedule. In addition to a dedicated R&D team of scientists & engineers, the project included three post-graduate students working on their master's thesis as well as one working on their bachelor’s thesis.
Successful development can't happen in a vacuum, and thus the team always aimed for deep cooperation with clients. In fact, a lot of the development work was about learning through experimentation together with customers. Additionally, the team held dozens of customer interviews all over the world to speed up learning.
To this, Antti Heikkilä comments, “It’s the entrepreneurial mindset. The first pilots were installed at customer locations, in actual biogas production environments only 24 months after the first proofs-of-concept.”
Jutta Hakkarainen, the Business Development Director for Biogas concludes, “If there’s one word to describe what drove the project, it would be learning. That's Team Vaisala. We were constantly looking to break into the field with a completely new solution. From figuring out the opportunities on the market and the growth potential of biogas itself, to taking the proof of concept to production, and piloting our instrument, it was always learning. Every day, for everybody on the team."
The MGP261 was launched to the public in January 2019 just a bit over two years after kickoff. Judging from customer take-up, the solution has more than proven its worth and continues to win foothold, and even awards, across the Globe.
After its launch in early 2019, the MGP261 has won not only the hearts of customers, but also wider recognition for its role in enabling a more sustainable future. The latest being winning the Finnish Quality Innovation Award in November 2020, and going on...