Profile: Markus Armbruster

Digital Living at Hansgrohe – from Person to Person

Markus Armbruster is a source of fantastic words: you’re likely to hear terms like ambidexterity, scrum, chatbot, and shy tech. As Vice President of IT & Digital, he’s well versed in the vocabulary of the future and translates it for Hansgrohe. His team plunges into the depths of digital waters on a daily basis, fishing out the best, most sustainable and future-proof solutions for the company.

Markus Armbruster, VP of Digital, Hansgrohe Group.
“Amazon and Apple are a prime example of how important innovation is – and just how fast it’s gaining ground today. Customer desires are a top priority here at Hansgrohe, too.”

Digitization at Hansgrohe: Long-Standing Company with Start-Up Mentality

​​​​​​​“When I started at Hansgrohe during my integrated work/study degree program in 2003, I thought I’d be a programmer my whole life,” says Markus Armbruster, who studied business informatics. But that’s not what happened. In addition to working on projects connecting Hansgrohe with suppliers and architects, the Swabian technophile has also optimized processes via digital platforms and implemented mobile websites. That’s because the faucet and shower specialist found itself in the middle of an upheaval that would eventually be referred to as the “digital transformation.”

E-commerce channels were then developed, a groundbreaking change for the established company with its traditional distribution channel. And that proved to be a good decision: this restructuring resulted in an enormous surge in growth. Armbruster’s career, which barely spans 20 years, demonstrates just how fast the digital world is turning – even in the comparably conservative sanitation industry.

“Transformers” for a Progressive Mindset and Cultural Change

Markus Armbruster is now a power broker at a company that is consistently working towards a connected future. The sophisticated digital strategy already extends into the thinking and behavior of every specialized department. And it’s not only an issue of technology, but also of culture. Employees are preparing for the work of tomorrow at the internal Campus digital faculty. Around 30 talents are being trained as “digital transformers,” who will pass on their knowledge of the future freely to others, so that everyone can work more autonomously and with flatter hierarchies. The Hansgrohe Group is in the process of breaking up traditional department structures and increasingly working in fast, agile teams. The company desires and promotes a culture based on trust in which each individual is allowed to think in an unconventional, bold, and interdisciplinary way.

“Above all else, digital living is a dialogue.”

To make the future digital, the Hansgrohe Group is also streamlining its value chain processes, which makes production and logistics more efficient. Across all marketing and distribution channels, specialists are working on the digital brand presence, optimizing the customer experience, and turning it into an intuitive experience for all customers and target groups. These employees also have the right to be curious, experiment, and develop on a high level. Fail fast has become an aspect of the company culture and means that an idea or innovation needs to be thrown out as soon as possible if it’s not the optimal fit after all. This is one of the many benefits of being nearly 120 years old: at the Black Forest think tank, they know that not every technology trend is a good fit for the company. Instead, everyone tries to understand new things in detail and use them to the benefit of the growth strategy.
“The digital transformation is mainly about the people – much less about the technology. The change begins in the mind and must be applied to the company as a whole. We promote a corporate culture that views digitization as an opportunity for us, not as a trend, and certainly not as a threat to jobs.”
Frank Semling, Hansgrohe board member

Digital Living in the Bathroom and Kitchen: Smart Products That Pamper People

Short-winded technical knickknacks don’t stand a chance with Hansgrohe and its quality brands in the bathroom and kitchen either. While the product-driven company clearly focuses on digital solutions (Smart Living), they’re never an end in themselves. Not everything that claims to be “smart” on the market deserves the AXOR or hansgrohe label. Only those things that make life and living more beautiful, emotional, and relaxing are ever developed. “Smart Living focuses on people – not technology,” says Markus Armbruster. Unobtrusively integrated behind the wall as shy tech, it yields to modern design and makes operation intuitive.

Anything but Old School: Hansgrohe Has Always Thought Virtually

“Maintaining tradition, recognizing opportunities, and integrating innovation: that’s an art in itself,” says the VP of Digital. What will play a more important role in the future? “Sustainability, sensible use of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IOT), and artificial intelligence (AI). As well as coordinating more closely with our customers around the world and collaborating more intensively with start-ups and other partners.” If you want to know what the best product will be tomorrow and what will one day ensure customer satisfaction, jobs, and growth, it’s worth taking a look at the past. During his time (beginning in 1901), founder Hans Grohe didn’t get involved in every trend that came along either. The Hansgrohe Group owes its solid core business to his ability to imagine a possible future (= thinking virtually). This business primarily consists of “analog” faucets and showers – a reliable foundation on which to effectively develop the digital aspect. Incidentally, ambidexterity is exactly this tightrope act: the balance between the power of innovation and stability.
Markus Armbruster.

A Job at Hansgrohe

Digital Native with Forward-Thinking Ideas

After joining the company, Markus Armbruster switched to Digital Marketing and to Business Development and became a future strategist. “What fascinates me is the design variety. Finding the right thing for the company out of the endless digital opportunities and creating something valuable for customers and colleagues.” This includes continuous training. “I read a lot and always want to understand, soak up, and try out everything myself.” Programming continues to fascinate him to this day.
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