What’s the difference between a bathroom and a spa? The difference is Hansgrohe fittings. To Hansgrohe, Inc., a shower is not just part of a busy day. It is an experience to be savored and enjoyed in an elegant sanctuary.
“A few years ago, people would give you a tour of their brand new house, and what did they show you? The living room, the master bedroom or the garden. But when it came to the restroom or the powder room, they would just open the door and say, ‘There’s our bathroom,’” says Chris Marshall, Hansgrohe’s president. “In the last few years, that’s changed. The trend is to get some nice things for the bath and kitchen. People have found a new place to create an oasis for themselves in their nice homes, and that’s where we come in because we bring design and functionality into those areas.”
With designs inspired by the European tradition, the Hansgrohe name is synonymous worldwide with beauty and excellence in the shower, kitchen and bath. Hansgrohe engineers combine art and technology to create products that offer superior features and versatility. Their efforts have resulted in award-winning and stylish faucets, showerheads and shower units.
Opening the Tap
First established in the United States in the mid-1980s, Hansgrohe, Inc., is the American subsidiary of Hansgrohe AG, a century-old German company. In 1995, the U.S. operation moved from California to Atlanta, which now houses Hansgrohe’s U.S. headquarters, manufacturing facility, managerial, administrative and customer service offices, and its comprehensive warehousing and fulfillment center. In this location, Hansgrohe manufactures a portion of its products sold domestically and assembles all the showerheads for its world market — more than 4 million a year. The facility integrates parts made here with those imported from Germany.
“We import a lot of finished goods for our wholesale market in the plumbing industry, and we make a portion of those items, too,” explains Steffen Trautwein, logistics manager. “When it comes to providing our knowledge and experience in the making of showerheads, what we make is so large in quantity that it serves our global needs as well as our OEM customers who want our spray technology, plating and finishing.” Hansgrohe’s U.S. customer base includes wholesale distribution, mostly to showrooms and distributors, and retailers — including a line it produces for Home Depot. The U.S. operation’s sales growth has been phenomenal, with double-digit increases eight years running.
All Hansgrohe products integrate traditional materials, like solid brass, with state-of-the-art engineered synthetics. The company’s ingenious manufacturing techniques afford maximum versatility in shapes and configurations. It uses advanced finishing methods, including its aerospace-derived plating process, to create products of unsurpassed appeal and durability. Both the metallic and solid finishes Hansgrohe produces are virtually indestructible in normal use, and are resistant to hard water, approved cleaners and ultraviolet light.
The Finish Line
The Hansgrohe plant specializes in injection molding and runs two types of plating. The first, physical vapor deposition (PVD), takes place in a chamber with a pure vacuum similar to outer space. There, gases are infused, such as argon, nitrogen or xenon depending on the desired color. A gold or silver bar releases metals onto the negatively charged product, binding with its molecular structure. “It’s not just a finish applied to the top. It becomes part of the outermost layer of the product,” explains Leo Shannon, production manager. “It can’t be scratched or marred, and it doesn’t flake off.”
The other type of plating, used with plastics, is an electrogalvanic durable chromium process. Freshly molded products are dipped into specially formulated baths, and the chromium plating material floats through the solutions to coat the target product. Hansgrohe has recently tripled its chromium plating capacity and can plate different finishes, such as chrome or solid brass, simultaneously.
Hansgrohe’s manufacturing is highly automated but also includes meticulous assembly work. Plating is labor intensive because each piece must be dusted off and racked by hand, sometimes several times. “We are very proud of our quality, and we ensure that by doing whatever is necessary manually and also by controlling our quality all the time,” says Bob Zawada, quality assurance manager.
Hansgrohe’s old-world craftsmanship is supported by cutting-edge information management technologies. The company’s SAP operational software allows the monitoring of every detail of its warehousing, importing, exporting, manufacturing, procurement, marketing, sales order entry and fulfillment. Hansgrohe has invested tremendously in new technology and people, and the company is now positioned exceptionally well to move to the next level in terms of size and sales in the United States.
Art in the Bath
Although its production lines focus on showerheads and hoses, Hansgrohe also imports, warehouses, sells, markets and distributes a full line of the company’s products for kitchen and bath, including faucets and shower units. Its three brand names are Axor®, Pharo® and Hansgrohe®. The Axor® line of faucets is designed by luminaries such as Philippe Starck, whose art makes the fixtures more like sculptures for the bath.
The Pharo® line includes all-in-one, preplumbed shower units that are impossible to look at without wanting to remodel your bathroom into a more luxurious ambiance. Alex Bieri, marketing manager, says of the Pharo® units, “They’re really good for renovation jobs because all the shower components are already in them. You don’t have to rip out the whole wall, vintage tile or expensive marble that may be there.”
The product line named for the company, Hansgrohe®, includes superbly crafted kitchen and bath faucets, hand showers and system components. The brand’s signature showerheads feature patented, self-cleaning systems for easy maintenance and clog-free operation. “If you ask anyone in the plumbing showroom world, they would tell you that if you want the best showerhead ever, it’s a Hansgrohe® showerhead,” Bieri says.
Hansgrohe also has a unique educational facility called the Aquademie, an on-site training center for professionals. “We run our classes and we invite our customers, architects and plumbers to Atlanta to treat them and train them on all things Hansgrohe,” says Dale Archer, the Aquademie’s coordinator. The Aquademie is, literally, an immersion course into understanding the highest-quality water products for the home and spa through hands-on product demonstrations. After all, until people try Hansgrohe products, they may not appreciate the difference they make in transforming a quotidian shower into a quintessential pleasure.