Interview with Werner Berens, CEO of Vecoplan AG about the shredders of the future. Vecoplan recently introduced a completely redesigned shredder. Werner Berens explains why the topic of machine design is increasing in importance for Vecoplan, and how this benefits customers.
Why does a shredder have to look good?
Werner Berens: Look at today’s forklifts, tractors and lift trucks. They are high-tech devices. They’re not only robust, you can tell that they’re high-tech from their design. Of course, the operators are primarily concerned with operating data, reliability, quality, costs and ease of maintenance, but the optics also have a role to play.
Our machines are in the middle of the customers’ production halls, nevertheless the customers would like to have attractive machines there. We human beings all tick very similarly in this respect. I’m also convinced that we associate a modern appearance with high-performance technology. A modern design is simply more believable. We differentiate ourselves from the competition, in terms of colour and of geometry. Our new machine comes from a one-piece cast.
Why did you redesign the machine, and who supported you?
Werner Berens: We are a future-oriented company, and the contemporary design should reflect that. The customer doesn’t buy our products for emotional reasons alone. That might be the case with a car, a tablet or even a coffee machine.
It’s important that we differentiate ourselves from our competitors in terms of performance features. The new machine design must also convey this concept to potential buyers. They should be able to feel the power behind the new plant. However, design is much more than just colour and design per se, it’s an advantage for the user. That’s why we decided to create a small group to work on the topic of design. We also took a leading international company for goal-oriented machine design on board as a partner, the Design Tech company.
How did that cooperation come about?
Werner Berens: After we defined our goal, we looked at various designers and talked to their customers. For us it was important to find out whether the designers had managed to work out the “I” of the client. When choosing the right designer, it was crucial for us to know if they understood us, if they recognised the “I” implied in the Vecoplan company? And Design Tech totally convinced us with one sales pitch.
What criteria were used to design the new machine?
Werner Berens: We focused on added value for the customer and making it visible, and of course, we also played with the emotional factor. But at the end of the day, the design reflects the company’s image. It’s not just about appearance, it’s also about ergonomics, so the new design impacts on the machine construction, meaning that the new shredder is easier for the operator to handle.
Add to that significantly-improved accessibility for service and maintenance, and of course the topic of Industry 4.0. We don’t only talk about Industry 4.0, we are pioneers where it’s concerned.
In the future, our machines will be able to recognise when a wearing part needs to be replaced, and order it themselves. Our machines will communicate with the operator and inform him in good time when maintenance is due, for instance, so they will provide even better support for our customers’ processes. Factory operators will not only find this aspect more satisfactory, they will also save on operating costs, they will know exactly what they’re getting for their money and can rely on it.
Will this make the shredder more expensive than competitive products?
Werner Berens: “Expensive” and “cheap” are words that are relative. We can now exploit modular thinking more intensively. The customer receives a machine that’s designed to exactly meet his demands. This is a very convincing cost advantage. One thing is clear: factory operators benefit from greater efficiency and this is also reflected in the throughput quantities, in the robustness and in the operating costs.
What were the stages of the design process?
Werner Berens: We first created a small core team. It consisted of marketing and product management, the technical manager and of course myself, because the implementation of a new machine design means impacting on many processes... and that’s of course a job for the CEO.
We started in late autumn 2017 and from then on everything went according to our tight schedule. When we brought Design Tech on board, we briefed their team intensively on our markets and the characters of our customers. Of course, we also spoke to the people who work on or with the machines on a daily basis, like the machine operators, customers, service technicians, commissioning engineers, fitters and production staff. All this must be done to ensure that the result is right in the end.
When the design was finalised, we involved all the relevant specialist departments to incorporate their experience. The result is impressive. We’ve managed to combine the needs of our customers with our brand core, and at the same time we’ve differentiated ourselves greatly from our competitors. At the end of April, we demonstrated the new machine to our employees in the production hall, explained to them the importance of industrial design and celebrated the occasion with them in the factory.
Did you ever change direction during the process?
Werner Berens: No, never. Of course, we had some controversial discussions within our small core team, but at a very early stage we decided on a common line and regulated our further procedures in detail. Once a decision has been made, I stand by it and carry it through consistently. We also further developed our corporate design with the new design – it has become fresher and more modern – just like the machine design.
How exactly will the new design affect the other series in your range?
Werner Berens: When we design our machines, it has a strong impact on their construction. We launched a development offensive in 2013 that resulted in the marketing of new and optimised products in recent years. We will continue on this course and at this speed. This is our declared goal – because we can only support our customers by supplying them with future-oriented products that offer significant added value. The new shredder we demonstrated at the IFAT is just the beginning. In the next three years we intend to rework all our machine assemblies and integrate the new design into our company as an overall concept.
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