Mr. Schroeder, how is innovation organized at V-ZUG?
We take a holistic approach to innovation at V-ZUG. We’re known for innovative products and place high value on user-friendliness, a long service life, reliability, and performance. But innovation isn’t just about technical advancement – it means creating a tangible change for the customer. This is why we don’t just pursue innovation in development. We also focus on it in marketing and in the area of digital transformation. Being proactive is the key to innovation. Here at V-ZUG, we believe that we have the power to change things ourselves. That means trying out new things and not being afraid that it might not work out sometimes. Innovation isn’t a project that you can manage with a schedule and a budget. For us as a company that’s 110 years old, outside input is essential. On the one hand, we focus on being close to our customers. This helps us develop the right programs and features. On the other hand, external specialists like ti&m are always pushing us to take a broader perspective. They motivate us to introduce new technologies in the kitchen.
It has to be said that the principle behind a dishwasher, oven, or stove hasn’t changed in a long time. How do you manage to stay innovative as a manufacturer of kitchen hardware?
It’s true that the basic principles behind most household appliances have remained the same for several decades. But at the same time, aspects such as energy efficiency have improved dramatically. Likewise, modern appliances offer much greater possibilities than before. These days, we have automatic cooking programs in our ovens and steamers. Fabrics now come out of the washing machine steam-smoothed. Moreover, digital assistants make operating these appliances much more intuitive. But technologies like these aren’t genuinely innovative unless they meet real customer needs. That’s why at V-ZUG, we develop appliances that really are useful to people – our products make everyday household chores easier. To do that, we have to understand trends. Digital technologies enable us to offer many different features. This can start with very simple things: for instance, a push notification when a washing program has finished. But they can be as complex as monitoring an oven’s energy consumption. Many things are already possible.
“We get our inspiration for innovative ideas from our customers first and foremost – not from our competitors”
– Wolfgang Schroeder
Can you tell us a little about the pace of innovation in the industry? Who or what sparks innovations?
Innovation in the household appliances sector tends to progress quite slowly. One reason for this is the products’ long life span. After all, if a cooker lasts for twenty years, a customer isn’t going to buy a new one often. However, digital technologies have accelerated innovation significantly in recent years. Consumers can now update the software in many household appliances over the air via a wireless connection. To give one specific example, we launched our V-ZUG Excellence Line in spring 2021. Since then, we have been offering a free yearly update of the product features. All our customers can easily implement it via an app. We will see a lot more of this kind of progress in the coming years. This is only logical: household appliances still have a great deal of potential for digital enhancements. We don’t really look to our competitors for direction here. As I said earlier, we focus first and foremost on what our customers say.
What further developments is V-ZUG planning as regards the IoT? And what lies ahead in general?
The majority of our range is IoT-ready now. That means that our products can be connected to the Internet. We want to use this as the basis for offering our customers even more customization in the future. Users will be able to unlock even more of the potential in our products. They’ll have the option to purchase additional programs via software upgrades. This will give them special benefits. One thing is clear: household appliances will come with more and more software in the future. And this opens up completely new potential.