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Chapter 8

Zell am See, Austria

A washroom Google

People settled in Zell am See in the Pinzgau region of Austria as early as the Bronze Age. The first Roman expeditions to reach the area just before the start of the Common Era found a flourishing Celtic culture that had existed in the region for half a millennium (after of course displacing another flourishing culture that had also occupied the area for 500 years). Besides Roman coins and shards that are still discovered today, Zell am See also offers a large number of ski runs and hotels, and has been home to Hagleitner Hygiene International GmbH for the last 45 years.

Hagleitner has been looking closely at the potential of the smart product economy and the role that it wishes to play in it. The traditional company certainly doesn’t lack confidence. “We want to create a Google for the washroom,” says Gernot Bernert, the company’s Technical Director. It’s based on the underlying vision of a “transparent washroom” with a platform called senseMANAGEMENT as its core element. Most Hagleitner products – soap, deodorizer, disinfectant and towel dispensers – are now fitted with electronics. Sensors and connectivity enable them to collect data on consumption, frequency and usage patterns and to send them to a central server. These then distribute the analyzed data to the “users”, who are able to access the reports on their personal devices.

The data generated make it possible to make exact decisions about when replenishment products need to be ordered, which dispensers require maintenance and how cleaning staff can best be deployed. The equipment works so precisely that each dose administered is recorded. Hagleitner keeps an eye on the entire supply chain. Being able to plan consumption accurately means that supply management can be organized efficiently and unnecessary inventory avoided. “We want to use all the data generated in a washroom for our customers and for our own processes,” Bernert explains. This means that you don’t just focus your vision on your own products and fail to see the bigger picture, as Bernert puts it. Customers actually see the washroom as a whole – including lighting systems, doors, ventilation systems and locks, in addition to dispensers. It is therefore necessary to interconnect the entire washroom and also have the ability to turn intelligent products into multipurpose tools. A soap dispenser can thus act as a motion sensor and control light sources appropriately. But that isn’t all. Hagleitner takes the idea that one’s own horizon is not the customer’s horizon and systematically translates it into reality. The company has developed technology that allows it to network almost inaccessible washrooms, for example located in the basement, and to connect them to the overall system. This technology also opens up Hagleitner for other companies.

By analyzing the washroom data that they collect, Hagleitner is now able to recognize simply on the basis of consumption patterns whether a concert or a sporting event is being held in an indoor hall and, by integrating them with event data, to forecast the volume of consumable material that will be needed for the event.

The creation of “big washroom data” has extended Hagleitner’s business model. They can try out new delivery models (“pay per use”, “pay per entry”) and address new target groups – for example, decision-makers in hospitals, with whom they now cannot just negotiate a shipment of new dispensers but discuss integrated and automated hygiene management or monitoring compliance with hygiene Standards.

Leaving Zell am See, we are delighted that there are companies like Hagleitner. Classical SMEs that dare to talk of becoming the washroom Google. The smart product economy does not belong to the likes of Google. It belongs to all those who have the courage, the creativity and the talent to shape their own visions. Companies like Hagleitner.