As would be expected of such a global and well established business as Schneider Electric, which can trace its roots back over 180 years, the company has constantly evolved its offering to meet the changing requirements of its customer base. Construction Industry News recently caught up with Mike Bancroft, Marketing Development and Offer Manager, who operates within the organisation’s retail division, to take a snapshot of its innovative approach and get some indication of the reason behind its impressive longevity.
“Schneider Electric operates via a number of different Business Units and my role is within our Retail Business Unit. I am offer manager for wiring devices, cable management and installation materials,” explains Mike. “Essentially this covers electrical wiring accessories (switches and sockets), plastic and steel cable containment, and installation materials – basically all the materials an electrician would use during an electrical installation. That could be anything from tools of the trade through to cable clips, screws and fixings. It’s an extremely comprehensive area.”
Given that Mike’s remit covers such a wide range of products, it will come as no surprise to learn that the sectors he focuses on are equally varied. “In terms of the segments of the market that we concentrate on, my focus is centred around accommodation, typically residential housing, social housing and student accommodation. In addition hotels, healthcare and general commercial buildings, including office environments, are also important.”
As befits such a progressive company, Schneider Electric not only strives to keep a close eye on changing market trends, but helps to shape them too. “Within the residential marketplace we have seen an increasing demand for more decorative items, by which I’m typically referring to products with metal front plates,” adds Mike. “This is an area that has been very much in growth, driven by a desire by homeowners to customise their properties in a less conventional manner, as they move away from more traditional wall coverings and styles of décor.
“A few years ago we also noticed that more durable finishes, traditionally only seen in commercial environments, such as offices, hospitals or schools, were becoming increasingly popular with appliances in domestic environments, particularly brushed stainless steel. As a consequence, we looked to tap into this trend by adapting our own offering accordingly. We introduced the Lisse Deco range last year, which includes some of these new styles and finishes. We now have a Mocha Bronze finish, a dark metallic copper look that has been well received with many of our consumers.”
Despite being a huge multinational company, Schneider Electric’s organisational structure allows it to identify specific market trends before developing its range to suit. “We might be a massive business but we’re very switched on and engaged with both installers and consumers to ensure that we can quickly accommodate their changing tastes. The fact that we’ve been able to develop a wide range of alternative finishes is evidence of our capabilities in this area.
“Whilst the look of a product is important, the other significant strength we bring to the table is the wealth of experience we have in terms of development and technical innovation. This is key as energy management is becoming all the more crucial and health and safety guidelines are being improved all the time, as we’ve seen recently with the release of the 18th Edition of the Wiring Regulations.
“As technology advances it’s becoming less about selling individual items and more about ensuring that the products can be seamlessly integrated into a combined solution. This allows the customer to reap the benefits in the long term, rather than having to make continual upgrades.
“What’s more, we’re not just a supplier of the products themselves, we also have the capability to provide all the necessary training and support. This is absolutely essential in an age where technology is moving so fast. It’s vital that our customers and installers fully understand our products and systems in order to get the best possible benefit from them. At the same time, we’re always working to make our products as user-friendly and as intuitive as we can.”
With the exponential rate of technological progression, the future is exciting as we investigate and develop the new products and systems we’ll be using in our offices and our homes in the future. What is more certain, however, is that Schneider Electric will continue to play a leading role in the development of those products and their installation, just as it has for so many years already.