Wavin case study featured in “Design a Better Business”

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2017-02-07 06:25:00

07 February 2017

Nowadays, business models only have limited shelf lives. The constantly changing nature of the market makes it more difficult to predict than ever. In his book, Design a Better Business, Patrick van der Pijl describes an approach to achieve success in today's world. The approach is called "design thinking", based on the premise that to design a better business, you must start with the customer. The book has been available in bookstores since September.

Wavin Academy: An inspiring example of design thinking

The launch of the first Wavin Academy is featured in the book as an inspiring example of design thinking. The idea was born in October 2013, on a construction site in Amsterdam. Richard van Delden, Executive Director of Supply Chain and Operations at Wavin, was having a conversation with a plumber. He said that his customers, the general contractors, wanted the best-quality pipes possible. However, they were not familiar with Wavin.

After several discussions with plumbers, it became apparent that they were very interested in working with Wavin to deliver better quality to their customers. These conversations got Richard thinking. At that time, Wavin was struggling with a loss of market share in Turkey. To win back the ground they had lost, Wavin Turkey wanted to build a new factory near Istanbul, the largest area for distribution. The idea was to regain market share by ensuring cheaper production and competitive prices.
Following the plumbers' comments, Richard thought to himself: "How would that work in Turkey? Isn't there another way?"

Who are our customers?

Together with former CFO Andrés Capdepón, Richard decided not to immediately invest in a new factory but instead to examine exactly who Wavin's Turkish customers were. Did they really only want a few cheaper pipes? Richard sent a team of employees from Wavin Turkey to several constructions sites. He and Andrés joined them, with the aim of observing their customers at work.

Within a week, the team had collected a wealth of new insight. They found that equipment and materials were often being used incorrectly, and they saw who their customers really were. Not the general contractors, but the plumbers! And the plumbers were not looking for cheaper pipes — they wanted to be able to work smarter and, by doing so, deliver higher quality to their customers. They wanted to be more competitive, not by offering lower prices but by gaining more knowledge. This was the eureka moment for Wavin: To design a better business, you must start with the customer!

To design a better business, you must start with the customer!

These insights led to the company implementing a new and totally different idea. The new factory, which was set to cost 60 million euros, was out. Instead, the first Wavin Academy was opened in 2014 in Adana, Turkey, for a couple of hundred thousand euros. Since the Academy opened, plumbers have been receiving free training on how to use various materials and tools at the Academy. Wavin staff also benefit by learning from the plumbers, and relationships have been growing stronger ever since.

Design a better business

Since then, design thinking has been at the heart of the business for Wavin. It was a bold move, but it resulted in the best business model. Design thinking always follows an unconventional approach, and the book "Design a Better Business" is the new Bible for such an approach.

In his book, Patrick Van der Pijl argues that you should be prepared to think like a designer. People who think in this way have more chance of developing a better business, according to Van der Pijl, a business that puts people first and links design tools, processes and applications together. The subtitle of the book, "New tools, skills and mindset for strategy and innovation," clearly illustrates the importance of this concept.

If you focus on people and make the right connections, Van der Pijl believes that you are better positioned to harness the opportunities that arise from uncertainty and therefore you will develop a better business. With design thinking, problems are approached from a variety of perspectives – to make it easier to develop new solutions.

In short: Start with the customer, spend time with them in their own working environment, ask questions and then listen!

Design a Better Business has been available in bookstores since September and may also be purchased online.

Wavin Academy in Turkey after two years

It’s been over two years since the Wavin Academy in Adana, Turkey first opened in May 2014 and they just celebrated their 10,000th visitor! Connecting customers with innovation is what the Academy is all about and so far the Academy has accomplished its goals and exceeded all expectations. In one of next blog posts we will show you more about the success of the Wavin Academy, two years after that first idea popped up on the construction site in Amsterdam...

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