The field of water devices and sanitary fittings is changing. The internet of things is adding a new level of intelligence to individual components in water systems and the solutions related to energy efficiency are currently booming. Grohe, as one of the original global pioneers in sanitary fittings, regards these developments as welcome and long overdue. Grohe, operating today in more than 160 countries and employing over 6,000 professionals internationally, is known as the world’s largest manufacturer of sanitary fittings and Europe’s second largest manufacturer of toilet elements.
Towards intelligent water systems
In 1956, Grohe introduced the first thermostat mixers to the market. This was a milestone for the entire industry and earned them a reputation as a pioneer. When looking at the industry as a whole today, many of the fundamental technical solutions have changed relatively little since those days. We took the opportunity to discuss the current changes in the field with Grohe’s Country Director for Finland Tero Kemppainen and Key Account Manager Jani Hyvärinen.
”When everything else in the industry is becoming more and more advanced, it is interesting to note that the development of sanitary fittings still seems to follow about ten years behind. At the same time, everyone knows that domestic hot water is one of the key factors contributing to domestic energy consumption”, comments Tero Kemppainen.
”Indeed, today, a sanitary fitting can be a lot more than just a chrome component dispensing water. At Grohe, we have the benefit of a strong international product development organisation which enables us to bring to market new technological innovations and products at a steady pace. Currently about 75 percent of our product offering consists of products that have been around for less than three years. In addition to the more standard solutions, our selection includes also a large number of totally unique new products that our competitors do not yet have”, adds Jani Hyvärinen.
”As an example of this, in the ISH trade fair in Frankfurt last year, we launched the smart water controller Sense Guard which can be connected to Grohe’s mobile app via Wi-Fi. Sense Guard detects micro leaks in the system and can automatically shut off water in case of a pipe break. The app also enables you to monitor water consumption and control flow rate remotely”, Jani continues.
”Currently there are also many areas of society where smart systems installed in private homes can offer significant assistance, for example in elderly care. Our Sensia Arena shower toilets, for instance, which feature a smart hygienic shower operated with a handheld remote control, can provide the elderly with more independence in situations where assistance might otherwise be needed. These types of solutions are already here today. Innovation can also bring new types of luxury to homes, such as Grohe’s Blue Home tap which automatically carbonates tap water with user-selected intensity", Tero explains.
Piping designers’ decisions influence the development of the industry
Depending on the project and the type of building, there are always multiple different parties who influence which sanitary fittings and water devices are in the end installed. In order for new products and innovations to find their way to installation, detailed data on the products’ technical properties must be readily available to both interior designers and piping designers.
”It may be that the interior designer has specified for the project sanitary fittings from a particular manufacturer. However, the engineering consultancy responsible for the project’s piping design is more familiar with fittings from another manufacturer, knowing from experience how the competing products will behave when installed. A less familiar product will seem more risky for them. This type of situation often leads to a dialog between the interior designer and the piping designer which, depending on the amount of readily available product information, may mean that the fittings provider is switched to the more familiar one just to avoid perceived risk. Previous experience and established ways of working influence people’s decision making, which means there will be less willingness to take risks with products that are not as well known”, explains Jani Hyvärinen.
”In order for the manufacturer’s products to be specified for a project in the first place, the architect or the interior designer must have enough information available on the manufacturer’s products and their properties. In large apartment building projects, the decisions regarding the fittings are usually not made by the architect, but the interior designer or the piping designer, which makes them key decision makers regarding the large fitting quantities involved in these projects”, says Tero Kemppainen.
”As the piping designer today carries out his work using BIM software, it is only logical that we provide them with the technical information that they need in the form of 3D product information models or BIM objects, modelled in detail based on our products. These support the designers’ daily work and contain product dimensions and detailed technical data for engineering calculations. One could say that having our products available as BIM objects provides us with a channel into closer cooperation with piping designers”, Jani says.
BIM objects make the project’s information flow more efficient
Product modelling has had an important part in Grohe’s strategy already for years, with Progman modelling the first set of Grohe's products for the MEP design software MagiCAD already in 2007.
“The first set of our products were modelled to MagiCAD to ensure that the selection would include the most typical products needed in large apartment building projects. Grohe's offering of modelled products has since grown, and today, the designers can browse our products with their dimensions and technical data also online using Progman's BIM object library MagiCloud free of charge. Nowadays, the need for modelling new products comes up quite often in our discussions with piping design companies”, explains Tero Kemppainen.
”We want to get our new products modelled as BIM objects as fast as possible. We have noticed that when new products have been modelled into MagiCAD and MagiCloud, the demand for the products has virtually skyrocketed”, Jani Hyvärinen says.
”It is important that the information flows in projects from one party to another as efficiently as possible. BIM objects make this possible. Out of all the parties in the building project the designer is the furthest away from our physical products, but at the same time they are the ones who have the most significant role in creating water systems that work. If the system does not work on the designer's screen, it rarely works in practice either. This is why we want to listen to the piping designers with a close ear and meet their needs with our products in the best possible way. We want to be a good partner for the designer”, Tero concludes.
In 2017, Grohe was awarded with the 34th position on Fortune Magazine’s Change the World list. Grohe was globally the only company from the field of building services engineering to be included on the list. The evaluation criteria included the solutions that the company offers to societal problems, the company’s profitability and the degree of innovation compared to other companies in the same industry.