Innovation - Sustainability Report 2017/2018

“For us, sustainable products are those that are not only state-of-the-art, but also have a long service life.”

Sustainability pervades our six fields of innovation: resource efficiency, health and safety, excellence, intrinsic value, individualization and simplexity. However, technological innovations and a superior service are not enough, in themselves, to reduce the environmental footprint of our appliances. Our customers and their usage patterns have an essential role to play. For new and innovative solutions, therefore, we systematically rely on design thinking, an innovation method which places the focus squarely on our customers and enables us to generate user-friendly, sustainable ideas which come into their own in daily use. 

Simplexity: simply complex
The new generation of appliances are all about simplexity. Basically, this means striking a balance between the ease of use of our appliances and the wide range of potential applications, by making them largely automated. We also actively inform users about energy consumption and make them aware of  (more) resource-efficient programmes. For us, excellence is not just about the speed of our customer-oriented processes, but also about market leadership in resource efficiency. Rather than focusing our efforts in this area on individual appliances, we look at our entire range and the related services.  


Refrigerating with 40% less energy
“For us, innovation means engaging in experiments and allowing space for ideas which, on first sight, do not seem immediately feasible”, explains  Head of Development Stephan Keller. A good example is the idea of a refrigerator which, by using anergy, consumes 40% less energy than conventional appliances. In principle, a refrigerator works in the same way as a heat pump, but in reverse. Whereas a heat pump extracts heat from the exterior and emits it into the house as heating energy, a refrigerator extracts the heat from its interior and releases it externally. The smaller the temperature difference between the cold interior and the comparatively warm exterior, the less energy is required to extract the heat. The project is based on the idea of using anergy, i.e. previously unused low-temperature heat, for this. Low-temperature heat of around 0 to 10 °C in the household is channelled along a network of pipes and is used by the refrigerator to attain its constant ideal temperature of 4 to 5 °C. The small temperature difference drastically reduces energy consumption by around 40%. What sounds like pie in the sky today may make us  pioneer tomorrow: although anergy networks are still few and far between in Switzerland, they are likely to prove pivotal in implementing the Energy Strategy 2050. With this conviction, we are currently working with our Lausanne-based partner GEFISWISS on a pilot project to investigate both technological and financial feasibility.

New heights with Zephyr
Reflecting our long-term commitment to the Zug production site, we are investing heavily in new buildings and modern technologies in order to significantly increase our output per area unit. The key improvements will be the reduction of stocks to speed up throughput times along the entire value chain and a vertical factory structure over four floors, which enables us to reduce V-ZUG's environmental footprint. We are currently planning three new buildings within the site. The start of construction on the first sub-project “Zephyr Hangar” in 2018 was a big step towards achieving our vision. By adopting the verticalization approach and optimizing production processes, we can more than double production per square metre. The clock is ticking: we want to start operating the new sheet metal presses in the new building as early as 2019. The presses, which function according to the principle of servo transfer technology, are capable of pressing seamless sheet metal parts from strip material and boast significantly greater productivity and energy efficiency (consuming up to 40% less energy). Replacing the old machines is a complex undertaking and the timetable is in step with the introduction of new product lines, in order that we can perfectly align product design, manufacturing design and process design.

METUS decision-making tool
Our products are becoming more complex by the day. On the one hand, their operation must be increasingly intuitive, yet at the same time consumers expect the appliances to offer an ever-greater range of programmes and additional features. For a new V-ZUG product to be successfully launched on the market, achieving the greatest possible degree of standardization is now becoming a commercial imperative. We acquired METUS to enable us to fully analyse and evaluate all the cost factors. With the aid of the software package, we are optimizing the modular potential of all new projects. METUS models a product, complete with all its dependencies, identifies cost drivers such as colourways or whether an appliance has automatic door-opening and, in this way, helps us make product and portfolio decisions. At V-ZUG, the method is used during the early project phase to reliably ascertain the drivers of different options such as appliance height or facing material of the outer door, build customized units (modularization) such as the “door” with its sub-modules “door handle” or “door inner section” and, in the process, sustainably illustrate efficiencies. This approach is supplemented by software-based requirements management and the use of reference models to calculate target costs. Based on a reference range, V-ZUG will in future reduce the number of parts by 30 to 40% while more than doubling the theoretical variety of options.

Key figures Innovation

80% in energy efficiency class A or higher
Around four out of five appliances sold in the reporting year satisfy or even exceed European energy efficiency class A. Of the appliances we manufacture ourselves, 100% have the label A, A+, A++ or A+++.  The appliances in class C are hoods, usage of which is relatively low compared with other household appliances. These ratings are all the more gratifying when you consider that there is no official European energy efficiency classification for one in seven appliances sold (16.6%), for example hobs, warming drawers, CoffeeCenters, microwave appliances and range hoods. Moreover, not every appliance category can be awarded a classification higher than A (i.e. A+ to A+++). 

Graphic: Appliances supplied by energy efficiency classes

Dishwashers more economical than ever
Our drive for efficiency is exemplified by the energy and water consumption of Adora dishwashers. Compared with 30 years ago, our appliances use 72.5% less energy and 87% less water. In 2014, we became the first manufacturer to incorporate a highly efficient heat pump in the Adora SL WP dishwasher, which slashes electricity consumption by nearly half compared with conventional dishwashers. 

Graphic: Energy and water consumption of Adora dishwashers (1984 to 2017)