Interview 22 May 2018

The path from demand to a new product

Renovate, improve, innovate; that’s what we do every day at Altrex. And we put our utmost efforts into this, because smart and safe products do not spring out of nowhere. So, how do we manage to come up with new products? And how do we know whether our products have really helped our customer? Product managers Wouter and Robert offer us a peek into their world.

Do you have questions about the access equipment of Altrex? Our product managers have the answers. Obviously, you can visit our website or peruse our catalogue – the latest one is just out! – but for the latest ins and outs, you’ll have to ask Wouter Pol or Robert Dingerink. As Altrex product managers, they are real experts, in the widest sense of the word.


Informed about everything

“As product manager, you are responsible for the product range”, Wouter begins to tell us. “Obviously, we know nearly everything about our products. After all, we have to know what we are talking about. However, our aim in the first place is to have our product range as complete as possible. Everything that the end-user needs, we want to have available or to construct it. We make sure that the product range grows according to the market demand, Furthermore, we work on improving and developing products, because we want to stay ahead of the market demand.”

“We are always busy figuring out how we can make our products even safer, more effective and more efficient.”
Robert Dingerink

“As a top brand, we deliver quality and safety at the highest level”, adds Robert. “People can trust us on this and that’s what we want to maintain. That is why we are always busy figuring out how we can make our products as safe, effective and efficient as possible. That naturally demands in-depth knowledge of all products; and we certainly have lots of products. We have an enormous assortment of access equipment.”


Together for the best equipment

Being familiar with the ins and outs of the entire product range is a hefty assignment for one person. Nearly impossible for one individual, which is why Altrex works with four product managers, each one responsible for his own product category. Wouter is responsible for ladders and stepladders/stairs, Robert for scaffolds and two other colleagues are experts in the area of scaffolds and suspended platforms for export. “This division is truly needed”, Wouter tells us. “Each product group requires specific knowledge and attention. Moreover, this way we have room for cross-pollination: we all exchange knowledge with each other. That way, we combine this knowledge in a new product and jointly we elevate the entire assortment to a higher level.”

How do improvements and innovations come about? That is possible in many ways and via various tracks. “We keep a keen eye on what is happening around us, both in the market and in the area of norms, legislation and regulations. And above all we listen very closely to our customers. They know what they encounter at work and what they need in order to work smarter, faster and safer.”

“And lets not forget that innovating is a joint effort”, Wouter tells us. “We work with all our Altrex colleagues on achieving even better and smarter access equipment. Each person within his expertise: engineers, dealer advisers, technical service department and the office staff. Each colleague hears about other issues and has his own knowledge and expertise, which contributes to solid innovations. It is really a question of combining each other’s knowledge and above all, keeping your eyes and ears open. It starts mainly by listening to the needs of the end-user.”


Yara and Sierra: lightweight powerhouses

Over the years, we have already translated many requests and requirements into striking Altrex products. Sometimes the requests come from very specific corners of the economy. “An example is Yara, our latest stepladder for professional use – just recently launched. We developed this stepladder as a result of needs in the healthcare and cleaning sectors, just to name a few. In these sectors, a sturdy and reliable product is utmost important. Yet, we still see that staff works with a lighter household stepladder. These are superb products, but for professional use, the legal standards and norm are set higher. With the new Yara, you meet the Dutch NEN 2484 norm while you can still use a lightweight and easy to use stepladder.”

In any case, we have not stood still in recent years, because simultaneously with Yara, we have also launched Sierra. This is an equally professional stepladder in a single or double sided version. “The new Sierra, together with the by now well-known Taurus and Falco constitute a complete series”, relates Wouter. “Sierra is the lightest of these three professional industrial stepladders. That is due – among other factors – to the open profiles of the steps. A super-strong stepladder. Because less aluminium is used, Sierra is utmost light in weight and therefore easy to handle. This is an expansion in our range of stepladders that makes me super proud as a company product manager.”

“Good equipment must be easily available, for the DIY person and certainly for the professional.”
Wouter Pol

Practical questions – suitable answers

Legislation and norms play a role when companies develop products. Sometimes a product has to be adapted or designed differently because new rules are imposed. “We go hand in hand with legislation and regulations”, Robert explains. “Legislation and norms are certainly sources for inspiration, but first of all we want to think smartly about the use of the product. How can we design something cleverly to make the product even easier to use. To that end, we listen to requests/demands that come from the market.”

For example, it emerged that there was a need for additional manoeuvring space when constructing a scaffold. “The narrower variants of our RS TOWER 41 and 51 rolling towers are standard 75 centimetres wide. We now introduced a 90 centimetre frame. This wider version offers more room and freedom, making it easier to install platforms and props.”


Listen to the customer's demand

“Another requirement that had us listening well concerned the weight and material of the MiTOWER platforms. In certain sectors, you are not allowed to work with wood. In addition, there was a request to work with lighter platforms. We combined both requests into a single solution: the Fiber-Deck® platforms. The lightweight material makes these platform 30% lighter than the traditional wooden platforms. This means that they are less heavy to lift, easier to move and easier to assemble and disassemble.”

Strong, stronger, strongest

Considering the total range of the Altrex assortment, it sometimes appears to be quite challenging to decide on the right choice. Which product is best suited for your task, project and wishes? “Obviously, we also reflected on this issue. We have reclassified our products into four well-arranged groups: Altrex, Altrex Pro, Altrex Pro+ and Altrex Specials. It is now even easier to choose products that completely meet your wishes and needs. Are you a DIY person and are facing an easy chore, then select a product from the Altrex category: it has all the safety and options that you need. Suppose you have higher requirements, then go for Altrex Pro. The equipment for toughest jobs and professional building projects fall under Altrex Pro+. This product group is available specifically via our professional dealers. And if you are looking for a customised access solution, then Altrex Specials is the right address.”

“Our goal? As complete assortment as possible in order to meet every request and requirement.”
Wouter Pol

Altogether, a well-arranged and moreover, a practical grouping of our entire product range. This allows you to make swift and safe decisions about the products and safety that you need for your work. “That is also precisely what our job as product managers is all about. To offer the most complete assortment, which meets every request and requirement – and which preferably puts us ahead in the market. Yet, above all, it is naturally about safety. Always. That is the starting point for everything we jointly design, produce and add to our increasingly larger and wider assortment.”