Digitalization is ever-present in our daily lives – even in the shower. In the shower? ZEISS uses digital technology to enable the company Hansgrohe to meet strict product quality requirements, including those that apply to shower heads. As a result, customers get a better shower experience and help the environment by wasting less water.
Many people have thoughts running through their mind during their morning shower such as last night’s dream, preparing for the upcoming weekend, the day’s to-do list. Some even come up with dazzling ideas as the water cascades down. Cognitive Scientist Scott Barry Kaufman, for example, claims to have discovered that 72 percent of people formulate their most creative plans in the shower (Kaufman “Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind,” 2016).
For most people, showering is commonplace. They do it two or three times a week, and it takes them six to ten minutes – mostly in the evening. They usually use a riser rail shower and turn off the water while lathering up. The leading manufacturer of bathroom accessories Hansgrohe discovered all this through its Shower Atlas. However, showering is more than just about hygiene, it’s about balance: Shower and clear your mind. We would go so far as to say very few people are actively thinking about digitalization while in the shower.
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Showering and digitalization
So what does showering have to do with digitalization? “In truth, quite a lot,” laughs Philipp Alender from Hansgrohe. “Digitalization means not staying in one place – moving with the trends and the modern era in order to remain competitive. It also speeds up our general working process,” he says. This is of course to be expected because Alender is Head of Metrology at Hansgrohe’s site in Offenburg. He believes showering is anything but common. It’s much more of a calling for him.
“Showering should be seen as an experience and a way of switching off from daily life,” says Alender: “It should leave people feeling refreshed and balanced.” He views digital technology as an opportunity to make continuous improvements to this experience. “For example, less and less water is being consumed through the use of sustainable technology. The constant developments in technology can therefore also have a positive effect on the product.”
Hansgrohe is a pioneer in bathroom technology. The company invented the first hand-held shower head with variable spray types. Innovations like this have made the company famous around the world. This technology from the Black Forest innovators is installed all over the world. And when you make such a big name for yourself, you end up with an excellent reputation to defend. The bathroom pioneers therefore attach great importance to the quality of their products. “There is a huge difference between owning a Hansgrohe and owning a very cheap product,” says Alender.
So showers actually have a lot to do with digitalization. They epitomize precisely the idea of not staying in one place – of moving with the times and the modern era to remain competitive.
Quality assurance through digitalization is key at Hansgrohe
Product quality assurance is essential at Hansgrohe. “We believe quality is all about being well above the global average,” says Alender. This is not only ambitious, it also involves a unique challenge: “Achieving the high quality standards we have set for ourselves and continuously satisfying our norms,” says the Head of Metrology in Offenburg.
His colleague Claudia Belezni shares this ambition. She is a homegrown talent at Hansgrohe. She completed her training at the company and now works as a metrologist in the Quality Management department at the headquarters in Schiltach. She deals with the wide range of software solutions used for first article inspection on a daily basis. Even in her free time, her focus is on the products: “Wherever I go, I immediately wonder if this item is a Hansgrohe product”, she says. “Then I have a look to see if there is the name on it. And I check if everything is working OK.” She says she really loves this: “Because it shows the customer chose us,” says Belezni. In Quality Management, she plays a crucial role in ensuring everything works properly – that is with the help of the measurement technologies at all of the Hansgrohe sites.
A digital twin as a blueprint
These metrology solutions are a key technology here – and ZEISS is an important partner in this area. As an enabler of digitalization, ZEISS provides the experts at Hansgrohe with important tools to ensure the quality of their products, such as their shower heads. More specifically, this involves two components: optical metrology and application software. “A scanner captures the component using sensor technology and sends the data to the software,” explains Niklas Kläve, Software Development Manager at ZEISS: “Based on this data, the software ultimately creates the component's digital twin, in other words an exact digital clone of its shell. In the same way, we can use computed tomography to do the same thing for the interior.”
There are several benefits to having this digital twin: Firstly, the component can be examined very closely using the software on the computer without the component needing to be sliced open and therefore damaged. “Secondly, this digital twin can, of course, also be used as a template for all other products of this kind,” Kläve explains. This means that this digital twin can be used to draw conclusions about a potential design, which makes it a kind of “sample part”. Each part produced can be compared with this sample part to save time. “If the data match, it is clear that this component also meets these high quality standards,” says Kläve.
Enjoy showering, save water
Accurate quality assurance is however not just a matter of reputation for Hansgrohe. “We prefer optical metrology for measurements taken during production because it’s simply so much faster and we can respond to changes in the component there and then,” says Philipp Alender. Conversely, this also means faulty components can be immediately repaired or not even installed in the first place. This also leads to fewer rejects and cuts down on costs. “CT metrology also allows us to comprehensively test built-in components that we would otherwise need to destroy in order to assess them,” Belezni adds.
And, at the end of the day, the customer also benefits from the high quality of the products, such as from a pleasant shower experience. Ultimately, it is the metrology within quality control that ensures that the water only escapes from the designated openings in the shower head, because this is the only way to ensure the spray pattern ends up as it should. Moreover, water is not wasted unnecessarily, which has a positive impact on the environment.
“We are only satisfied with our work once a component has been measured, fitted, and is doing its job of ensuring the shower works properly,” says Alender. Digitalization is an important aid for him here: “It is very difficult to predict all the things it will be able to facilitate – both in daily life and in metrology,” he says. He is convinced no one would ever have guessed that we would one day be able to make cashless payments or control a shower system via an app. “This is what continues to drive development forward, both in metrology and in everyday life. This will, in turn, create new technologies and usher more and more digitalization into our professional and daily lives,” says Alender.
The Head of Metrology nevertheless believes the most important thing will always be “customers’ satisfaction with the product.” Even if they will probably never think about the digitalization behind their showering when they are in the shower.