The bathroom is slowly changing...

CDO Paul Flowers speaks about what Grohe is thinking these days…

  1. Environment
  2. Sustainability
  3. Hygine

How do you guys classify the sector of the market his company is targeting?

Until two years ago, I spent my career in architectural fittings.

I’m not sure who Grohe serves. I worked at small Canadian firms and the big European brands were a bit of mystery to me and still are. In NA, the market of most home fittings is quite diverse, with the exception of toilets. Toilets have a very long production cycle and the certification, while not being complicated, is expensive. I think because of that, only larger companies are willing to put the money into a new toilet to see revenue in 18+ months. Most small companies want to see revenue in 9~12 months.

I think it’s interesting that he talks about making light faucets (taps). There is also a cost advantage which he didn’t really mention. Brass is very expensive, so if you can build a plastic chassis and put it in a thin zinc cast, there is a huge cost savings. This is what all the big brands are doing now. For smaller brands, it’s difficult to amortize the tooling on a low production run, so brass chassis are still used there.

Another element is working with architects. As director, I was working towards this, but never got it as integrated as I would have liked. I wanted to hire a group of architects and interior decorators/designers to just meet with the design team a few times a year to give us insight into the end clients. We got as far as following a lot of decorators on instragram/Pinterest. The interesting thing here is that there are so many design trends that I’ve seen that Grohe has never responded to. Perhaps they are more focused on commercial markets or the European market is less diverse, I’m not sure.

With regards to the hygiene, I’m not sure how much I buy this as a mass trend, at least in NA. We don’t have bidets, so it’s a big social hurdle to adopt them, let alone toilets with bidets and ventilation. It’s also complicated to add this after the initial construction. Neat technology though.

Lastly, pausing / touchless faucets. The biggest hurdle to adoption here is intellectual property. The biggest selling and the best user experience faucet that I’ve seen is the Delta Touch faucet. It uses touch capacitance to activate a valve. While this technology dates back to at least the 1950s, Masco (owner of Delta) got a patent on it for use in faucets. The patent will be in force another 5 years. Other makes have tried infrared, but it’s not as user friendly in a kitchen. A lot of inadvertent activations and they require specific places on the faucet to activate. It sounds like his intereview, they have some kind of license with Masco though, or perhaps in the EU, the patent was never granted.

Thanks for the share!

I worked at Kohler for a few years, and I still learned a lot here. Great post, Mr. 914.

Kohler uses a plastic chassis for all of their home depot/lowes faucets…but usually not at the touch points. I never noticed it until I started working in fixtures. But now that I do, I’m always surprised by the number of bonnets/escutcheons that are made out of plastic that look exactly like metal.

Good points Mr. 914…

I’m always amused by the European Humanist infused approaches to Design as Mr. Flowers seems to project. Some would call it design for the 1% whereas others would call it design for well being and healing. I think Grohe goes where the money is rather than develop new markets that are inclusive.

Clearly other cultures are more advanced in the use of bidets than NA, but there is large growth potential for this category also. It is a matter of real estate developers including this in their plans I’ve observed. They are the ones who are dictating domestic behaviors of new real estate projects they are investing in.

After returning from Asia and spending some considerable time and watching season change in the USA, I’m quite appalled at the proliferated use of blow molded portable toilets in public places. Quite uncivilized! This particular social phenomena seems to be driven by the transportation industry and the use of pump trucks that carry the waste away to processing facilities. So much of NA live is centered around and inclusive of the use of private transportation trucking as a part of the product or service.

I’ve noticed the larger the corporation, the more they can afford to ad hear to public safety regulations of hygiene. Hmmmm? I wonder who is creating those regulations?

Something I’ve noticed more and more when I got back to the US is lack of restrooms or locked restrooms. It’s pretty typical for parks in Montreal to have large bathrooms that are open to all. Moreover, restaurants and shopping centres tend to leave their bathrooms open and unlocked. In the US, it feels like the bathroom has been privatized and nothing says that more than a line of portapotties with the owner’s name and number on them. As the president would say, “Sad.”

Bidets: I’ve heard more and more comedians and actors talk about bidets in interviews. Not that it comes up often, but it’s come up more times than I ever remember. Like you said that, bidets take a certain infrastructure.

I’ve noticed that as well. I only buy Moen plumbing sets, the lifetime warranty is well worth it. I had a 10 year old part break, called Moen and they sent me the part for free. (Similarly, if anyone is buying powertools I recommend Ridgid, lifetime warranty - even batteries - is well worth it).

We recently added a bathroom and went with Delta products from a bath/kitchen fixture store, rather than warehouse store. While they sold every brand under the sun there, they said plumbers tend to prefer Delta because of their parts and easy repairability. Always heard good things about Moen, too. The selection was much nicer, and the cost wasn’t too much more than HD or Lowe’s. Worth it in my opinion.