Processes and Instruments of Sustainable Product Management
Market-oriented product development within the framework of R&D
Research and Development (R&D) are among the priorities of Wienerberger’s strategic planning and at the focus of the company’s attention. The core tasks of R&D include the optimization of production processes and the continuous further development and improvement of products and system solutions in all areas of applications – from energy-efficient construction projects to environment-friendly pavings to water supply and sewage systems. Wienerberger aims to secure and further strengthen its market positions through cost and technology leadership and product innovations.
R&D is managed centrally but implemented locally
R&D at Wienerberger is managed centrally, but most of the results achieved are implemented locally. Wienerberger operates several research centers in Europe, each of them specializing in a different product group. Our product management specialists cooperate closely with the marketing and sales departments of the individual segments in order to adapt new developments to the needs of our customers. The market launch of new products across several countries is managed centrally, but the products are adjusted to local market conditions by our specialists on site. Thus, successful developments can be rolled out quickly and efficiently to the entire Group. R&D expenditure increased from € 11.4 million in 2013 to € 17.0 million in 2014, which corresponds to 0.6% of our revenues.
Process optimization makes our ceramic products sustainable
In pursuit of our sustainability goals, we are continuously improving our production processes. In the energy-intensive field of ceramic production (bricks and ceramic pipes), our engineers focus, above all, on the reduction of energy consumption in the drying and firing process and on the optimization of product properties as regards fire safety, sound and thermal insulation, and structural strength. This is essential in order to meet the continuously increasing requirements in residential and commercial construction. Other research priorities concern a sparing use of resources in production and environmentally responsible raw materials processing. As a pioneer in the use of waste products in our raw material mix, we have succeeded in using up to 60% recycled ceramic material in the production of certain vitrified clay pipes. Moreover, our vitrified clay pipes are made 100% of natural and recyclable raw materials and therefore meet the demanding criteria of Cradle to Cradle® certification.
Continuous optimization of production and surface treatments for plastic pipes and concrete pavers
Besides the optimization of production processes, R&D efforts concerning our current product range in the plastic pipe segment are focused mainly on savings in raw material consumption by reducing product weight and on increasing the percentage of recycled materials in production. In the development of new products, we take the ever-increasing technical requirements to be met by plastic pipes and fittings into account and develop solutions that permit environmentally compatible, fast and easy installation of the products at construction sites. In the case of concrete pavers, our efforts are aimed at improving the raw material mix and optimizing our processes of production and surface treatment. Another priority relates to new surface textures and innovative product solutions for high-quality design of public spaces.