Setting milestones by being ahead: interview with Jan Pieters, Rioned

September 15, 2020

Rioned in Tilburg, the Netherlands, is European market leader in sewer cleaning equipment. For more than sixty years, the company has developed and provided sytems to clean sewers and solve sewage problems. This is another type of water management that the Netherlands excel at, partially thanks to decades of attention to industrial design. For CEO Jan Pieters, it is paramount that Rioned customers can work with the equipment anywhere, in a pleasant, effective and efficient way.

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CEO Jan Pieters discusses the importance of industrial design for Rioned: “For decades, we’ve always worked with the customer’s concerns in mind. Whether the final user or an intermediary. Thorough market research and focus panels provided information from the marketplace for our product development.”

“In addition to user desires, our designs need to be in accordance with various regulations and trends. For instance, our first van-pack jetter, ProfiJet, was a milestone for the industry in terms of design, ergonomics and compactness. Many tried to follow in our footsteps, but often without success.”

“The importance of emission requirements has increased significantly. There, too, we are working on optimal technology to make our users’ jobs as easy as possible. Our close collaboration with technology partners is what makes the difference.” 

Proactive design

“Until the end of the previous century, our product design was greatly guided by customer specifications,” Jan Pieters continues. “Our motto was: You ask and we build. That seems very customer-focused, but it was also reactive. To be a market leader, you need to be proactive. You need to see opportunities and come up with solutions that surprise customers and leave competitors lagging behind. This is how we developed our first ProfiJet. It was released around 2000 as a system that excels in design, compactness and ergonomics. The competition was left in the dust.”

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The Rioned eControl: A smart, compact control unit enabling the user to operate the machine both efficient and safe.

Open innovation

Rioned, owned by an American family business, is part of a large international network with access to a wealth of knowledge and technology. In the Netherlands, Rioned has a trusted collaborative relationship with GBO Innovation makers. About that, Jan Pieters says: “Around 2015, we saw the need for a new way of working with our technology. In our private lives, we spend entire days on our smartphones; we’re used to working with screens. Our question was: how can we make a screen-based control system for our equipment?”

“GBO immediately came up with the idea to combine a rotary push button with an on-screen user interface. The user interface (UI) and user interaction (UX) of our products have been taken to the next level with GBO’s design for eControl. What is great for us as client is that GBO picked up the entire process, from first analysis to actual manufacturing. Where GBO does not have in-house capacity, they actively search for a partner in their large network. Without any secrets about who does what.”

“This open way of collaboration is a good demonstration of what ‘open innovation’ can be. As Rioned, we’ve always been able to provide our input. After all, it has to be our product and our DNA. With eControl, that has succeeded admirably.”

Added value is mandatory

“As market leader, you can never sit still or rest on your laurels,” Jan Pieters continues. “We see what’s happening around us with connectivity and data. I’m expecting that our field will take steps in that direction before long. We want to be part of that, and it definitely has our attention. But the central question remains: what’s in it for the customer? Gathering data and connecting equipment with cloud solutions can’t become a goal in itself. If we do this, what is the added value for our users? GBO is on our radar to exchange ideas about this as well.”

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