From customer interview to market maturity


The Haniel digital unit Schacht One helps the divisions to develop digital ideas and bring them to market. The first joint product is now on the market: TAKKT subsidiary KAISER + KRAFT provides a digital application that simplifies the testing of business equipment – thus solving a real problem for its customers and others besides.

Ludwig Lagerhoff works at a medium-sized firm that manufactures high-tech parts for the automotive industry. As a warehouse manager, he is responsible for all processes and coordinates employees and service providers to ensure smooth operations at the warehouse. However, one thing regularly keeps him from using his time to accomplish things he considers important: He has to coordinate statutory inspections of most of the products in his inventory – load-bearing shelves, ladders, stackers, roller doors, electrical outlets... This responsibility is burdensome because the products must be subjected to different safety protocols at different intervals. Most inspections are conducted by external service providers. In order to keep an overview over these 60 or so appointments throughout the year involving approximately 30 service providers, Lagerhoff updates several Excel spreadsheets, calendars and telephone directories, and fills an entire shelf in his small office with the inspection certificates. "There has to be a better way!" he thinks, and starts to search for solutions.

On the Internet, he finds the website "prüfplaner.de" – an all-around worry-free package for all statutory requirements imposed on warehouses. Lagerhoff registers to use the cloud-based solution and can get started right away without burdening his own IT system. He begins by entering all of his products which must be inspected and the date of the most recent maintenance work – starting with a ladder. Prüfplaner.de lets him know at which intervals his ladders have to be subjected to which inspections and calculates the next deadline – in five weeks' time. Once he has recorded the complete warehouse equipment inventory on the online platform, we goes back to managing the day-to-day business.

A week later, Lagerhoff receives an e-mail on his work phone: "Your ladder no. 10092599 must be inspected by an authorised person within 30 days according to your operating safety policy." The warehouse manager makes an appointment directly with the service provider he entered into prüfplaner.de. The service provider comes the following week. Lagerhoff also enters this into the online platform, just as he does the inspection certificate once the inspection has been carried out and no faults were identified. One month before the next inspection date, he will receive another reminder. "This is great! The online solution makes sure that I don't miss any more statutory inspections. This means I can concentrate on what's important at the warehouse", Lagerhoff states.

Ludwig Lagerhoff was in exactly the same position as many customers of TAKKT subsidiary KAISER + KRAFT. The Stuttgart-based mail-order company, which sells business, warehouse and office equipment, discovered this with the assistance of Schacht One – and the solution, the test planner, is now on the market. Schacht One works according to the principle of design thinking. In plain English, this means asking the customer what their requirements are, and then developing a product, a service or even a whole business model that addresses these customer requirements. Consequently, most of Schacht One's projects begin with customer discussions. The aim is to find out what most inconveniences the customer.

Laszlo Juhasz, Digital Transformation Manager at Schacht One and the person responsible for the project with KAISER + KRAFT, describes how an idea resulted in a product.

Starting with the customer problem "statutory controls", your project team developed the initial idea into the test planner. What came after the initial idea?
Instead of starting immediately with implementation, we first created a clickable prototype and tested whether the "tangible idea" actually got through to people. For instance, we discussed it with the potential target group at a trade fair. We used the 50 or so discussions, which were overwhelmingly positive, to refine our idea.

Did the customers also assist you in the implementation phase?
Yes, we developed the test planner in conjunction with 15 pilot customers and obtained their feedback in four phases. The first round related to the basic structure and functions of the solution. What is really important for the customer? In the second round, we found out how much effort the customers themselves wanted to invest in the initial surveying of the products that had to undergo testing. Should we offer a service for having the products surveyed? But it turned out that the customers also saw this as an opportunity to gain an overview of their inventory. In the third round, the solution was made clickable: the customers could create products themselves in conjunction with us. In the fourth round, there was the alpha test: the customers received initial test access and tested key parts of the application unimpeded, and then gave us feedback.

Schacht One collaborated with KAISER + KRAFT and the digital consultancy firm etventure. What form did this collaboration take?
We worked together as a team intensively and divided up the tasks, depending on the topic: product management, customer interviews, user experience design, IT development, sales and marketing. We decided to used agile project-management methods here, and organized ourselves in two-week-sprints, to get the numerous tasks done. The collaboration went really well, and the KAISER+KRAFT Management supported us with quick decisions.

What are your conclusions from the first project?
We started with implementation in October, and now have a marketable product. This was a huge job that was only possible in such a short time with a motivated, interdisciplinary team. The involvement of the pilot customers was essential to our project. The incubation phase starts now: in the next five months, the test planner needs to prove itself on the market and gain further customers.

Further information on the test planner is available here: http://www.pruefplaner.de