European Business: Vorwerk has been in the market for more than 130 years and is an integral part of households with a variety of products. It all began with the production of carpets. What has changed the most about the market in the last few years?
Florian Bausch: I’ve been working for Vorwerk Teppichwerke for three years, and a lot has changed in just that time. What I find especially fascinating at Vorwerk: The carpeting market is one that is experiencing a major transition. Until two years ago, it was still in the same state as in the 1990s. In the meantime, the market has undergone a radical change. Vorwerk has experienced and mastered many a change. The company was founded as a carpet manufacturer in Wuppertal in 1883. In 1950 the factory moved to the Hannover area. Today we’re based in Hamelin. Overall, Vorwerk has launched a lot of innovations. That includes the industrial production of carpets, designer carpets, and weaving and tufting as production techniques. When you picture the techniques: The weaving technique is a Formula 1 car, and the tufting technique is a Volkswagen. We still use these techniques today, but we’ve nonetheless been preparing the company for the future for three years. The topic of digitalization is gaining more and more significance, and we want to adapt to that.
"What I find especially fascinating at Vorwerk: The carpeting market is one that is experiencing a major transition." Florian Bausch
European Business: How are you trying to incorporate digitalization into everyday life at the company?
Florian Bausch: At the moment, we’re expanding our social media because our target groups - builders, architects, contractors – are also increasingly going digital. In general, people are consuming a lot and heavily via social media. We want to be part of that too. As of 2019, we will be starting on social networks; our new website already went online in October. Digitalization is simply a monster of a project for us. At Vorwerk, we’re not digitizing the supply chain, meaning we won’t give our production a digital orientation. That will come at a later time. We’re currently digitizing the market, the sales process and all related customer communication.
European Business: You say that you’re digitizing your internal process operation. Have you also adapted your portfolio to the demands of the carpeting market?
Florian Bausch: We want to retrieve carpeting from of its nicheness. To do so, we integrated an organizing principle into the market that it didn’t have before. To this end, we conducted a representative study of 6,000 people in Germany three years ago. We discovered how people approach the topic of flooring. Based on that, we developed our Essential, Superior and Exclusive lines, as well as three styles. They are Nature, Art and Classic Design. With Nature and Classic Design, we meet 80% of European tastes. At our company, you’ll find three product lines, three styles and millions of possibilities.
"We want to retrieve carpeting from of its nicheness. To do so, we integrated an organizing principle into the market that it didn’t have before." Florian Bausch
European Business: With millions of possibilities, customers have a very large selection of products. How do they know what carpet is right for them?
Florian Bausch: For each customer, we develop the carpeting that they want. We developed our own tower of colour with an integrated robot for our production. It can create colour formulas as requested and mix them. If a customer comes to us and wants a carpet the same colour as her blouse, we can mix this colour exactly. We offer goods that don’t take a subordinate role in a room but rather dominate it. Vorwerk gives a homey feeling. Especially in this day and age, when many people are living in big cities between steel, brick and concrete, the topic of comfort plays a central role. In addition, we want to clean up preconceptions. When you hear today that carpeting isn’t clean and hard floors are better, that isn’t true. Hard flooring doesn’t bind dust, so of course you have the dust particles in the air. Vorwerk carpeting is produced in such a way that has a static charge and attracts dust. That way there is less dust in the air overall, and the carpet is suitable for allergy sufferers. And because it’s latex free and produced in an environmentally friendly way, it doesn’t smell either.
"Especially in this day and age, when many people are living in big cities between steel, brick and concrete, the topic of comfort plays a central role." Florian Bausch
European Business: You’ve already planned for digitalization as a major project. What other plans do you have for next year?
Florian Bausch: By 2021 we’ll have swapped out 100% of our products. We’ve mostly completed the product launch for the B2B sector. We will be tackling B2C next year. This year we launched nearly 50 new products. Next year we plan to launch another 30 to 35 new products. Internationalization is another topic. It is a matter of reactivating markets by dealing with the North American and Asian markets systematically. I’m looking forward to the cultural change that we’re currently striving for and am prepared to pursue it the same way we began.
Interview: Vera Gaidies / Photos: Vorwerk & Co. Teppichwerke GmbH