Zero tolerance on quality
Published: 15 October, 2009
ESHER: “You don’t necessarily have to have all your products made in low-wage countries in order to be competitive,” states Siegfried Gänsslen, chief executive officer of bathroom specialist Hansgrohe, as he explains the reasoning behind the company’s commitment to Germany as a production location.
To mark the successful completion of the first construction phase of the new mixers fittings factory in Offenburg in 2008, Hansgrohe’s CEO and his board colleagues Richard Grohe and Karl-Heinz Hammann explained how the company’s international success could be balanced with the focus on domestic production in Germany.
Interestingly, foreign sales account for some 80% of the company’s total sales, but around 80% of its products are manufactured at the Hansgrohe facilities in Schiltach and Offenburg in the Black Forest, Germany.
“We made a deliberate decision in 2008 to build our sixth German factory in Offenburg,” explains Mr Gänsslen, “because it makes sense financially, and is good for our competitiveness. Of course, we compared several alternatives beforehand, and weighed up all the various options – compared the advantages and disadvantages. We looked at all the figures, and finally came to the conclusion that you don’t have to do manufacture in low-wage countries in order to be competitive.”
Strategic investment in modern production and logistics technology, which Hansgrohe has not reduced even during the current financial crisis, has enabled the company to produce economically.
But quality is not compromised, and it is for this reason that Hansgrohe AG does everything it possibly can to prevent copies of its mixers and showers finding their way onto the market. “It may be possible to imitate and copy design, but quality that is ‘Made in Germany’ certainly cannot be reproduced,” emphasises Richard Grohe, the company’s deputy chief executive officer. “In the worst cases, these copies can be harmful to health, because lower-quality materials and the wrong production methods can result in hazardous substances being released, and causing premature wear.”
As a general rule, the copies may meet expectations on the outside, but they certainly don’t match the quality of the original products on the inside. One example of this occurred earlier this year when 10 000 copies of Hansgrohe’s “Raindance” product were confiscated in Belgium.
Investigations carried out in Hansgrohe laboratories not only confirmed that the copies performed far less satisfactorily than the originals and offered much poorer showering comfort, but also released more metals such as copper into the drinking water.
“Reason enough – never mind the financial damage – for us to show no mercy where plagiarists are concerned,” Richard Grohe states. “Whenever necessary, we will use whatever legal means are at our disposal to fight product piracy – starting with confiscation, and ending with the destruction of illegal copies.” Hansgrohe board members Siegfried Gänsslen, Richard Grohe and Karl-Heinz Hammann were only too happy to destroy the Raindance copies themselves with rollers.