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Manufacturing giant Hansgrohe fixes its own plumbing with GTT to operate as a global, digital whole

Gary Flood Profile picture for user gflood May 30, 2024
GTT Communications is helping one of the world’s favorite bathroom and kitchen equipment suppliers - Hansgrohe - to become digitally connected

Concept of industry 4.0 technology, automation system with cloud computing © Jackie Niam - Shutterstock
(© Jackie Niam - Shutterstock)

German manufacturer Hansgrohe says its evolution over the past few years from older networking technology to a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN), operated as a managed service, is allowing it to act as a fully globalized enterprise.

The company’s global Head of Infrastructure and Operations, Matthias Goetz, says adopting this approach allows it to more easily analyze data to monitor consumer trends, optimize its supply chain, and speed up administration.

He adds:

We are better in three ways: in terms of better availability of the network, faster communication speeds, and faster connection to the cloud.

And of course, the price is a lot less than the previous solution.

The company - which recorded turnover of €1.41bn ($1.53bn) in 2023 - also says the move has meant an overall 187% increase in bandwidth and a 10% cut in the cost of transmission per megabyte across the company.

Even better, Goetz says, securely embracing the cloud, while also expanding network capacity to better support B2C communication, along with B2B activities, has also been achieved.

Thriving together

With a claim of allying the art of German engineering and an eye for detail since 1901, and its founding in the small Black Forest town of Schiltach, Germany, Hansgrohe was set up to capitalize on the then-new trend of taking a quick shower as an alternative to the cost and time of a full bath. 

The privately-held company - still headquartered in Schiltach - now employs over 5,000 staff at 41 locations worldwide, supplied by seven production facilities in Germany, France, the U.S. and China.

A market leader in the provision of premium shower, bathroom, and kitchen plumbing items, from shower pipes and shower systems, to kitchen sinks and sink and tap combi-units.

One of its innovations was the wall bar, which allows the user to set the height of the shower head where it suits them. Today, the company markets under two brand identities - Hansgrohe itself, and at the luxury end, AXOR, where it works with designers like Philippe Starck, featuring in boutique hotels such as Paris’s Les Bains.

But in 2016, says Goetz, it had started to become clear that its then 20-year-old MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) networking solution, though still adequate, could not keep pace with the ongoing growth of the business.

He also saw the need, he says, to start getting serious about cloud computing.

However, this could only deliver via a different approach to networking:

A traditional network provider is just selling you wires, but with something like SW-WAN as a managed service, if the wire is down, then it's clear whose fault it is, but from the customers’ perspective, if the software is not working, they don’t care if it’s you or the provider - they just see a broken service.

So, and especially in the first couple of years of this, we had to learn together that this is a solution which needs to fit and thrive together.

Goetz decided to move to SD-WAN using GTT - a provider of secure cloud networking solutions for multinational organizations.

He says:

We said, okay, let's check what's on the market. SD-WAN was a new technology back then, so we wanted to work with someone who could really help us. That meant that of the five or six people who wanted our business, not many of them really did have a fully SD-WAN cloud answer for us at the scale we needed.

Eventually, we connected with GTT. And after two days of checking the solution and what they thought they could do for us in its London headquarters, we were completely convinced that this is the company we wanted to try this with.

Goetz points out that the vendor has remained his organization’s chosen managed SD-WAN and security supplier and are currently negotiating a new three-year contract extension. 

A base for four digital transformation pillars

What’s underpinning the extension conversations is how the cloud networking solutions can support Hansgrohe in its ongoing digital transformation.

Goetz says:

They say in architecture, this is a case of less is more. Here, there’s less cost for the network - but that ‘lesser’ network is still driving and optimizing our performance more and more upwards.

We have a digitalization strategy centered on digital business transformation, digital business optimization, operational excellence, and of course also we are looking at our people and skills and work operations.

Each of those four pillars have different programs behind them, with cloud and the network supporting all of them in turn.

Next steps

Goetz says SD-WAN is now core to what Hansgrohe is doing - including allowing a move towards hybrid working for some employees.

However, that doesn’t mean he’s not interested in exploring what SD-WAN could provide the organization with next. 

For one, he is excited by his networking managed service partners expanding their set of security services:

We learned a few weeks ago that GTT has engaged in a strategic partnership with Fortinet.

Now, Fortinet is our global firewall provider. So, we are really looking forward to getting benefits out of this, like being able to get rid of one of the boxes on all our sites and combining the solutions, but also getting the possibility to interact in locations like our small rep offices directly with the cloud, not always back to Schiltach or the nearest internet outbreak.

I can see lots of potential there to increase performance and things that could help our engineers. This is the kind of thing we’re talking with GTT about in terms of what we can achieve in the next phase together.

Summing up, for Goetz this isn’t a networking story at all.

Instead, it’s a data one:

Because it's about the volume and velocity of data that's generated now, it’s so much easier for Hansgrohe teams around the world to work together on everything from design to sales and marketing and everything else - making sure everyone's on the same page in your central offices and remote offices.

And that only works if you have the right level of latency - and therefore it's absolutely necessary to have a network in the background, which is responsive and very fast.

As we now have.

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