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Why real coating innovation begins with the customer

From package delivery drones to electric cars that are unlocked with fingerprint apps, the pace of ‘innovation’ defines modern life and is the key to a competitive business advantage. But as the need for something new, something different and something better increases, it’s crucial that we keep our eyes on the real prize: the customer. Only when we are meeting an unmet customer need can we really deliver worthwhile innovation – innovation that makes a difference to real people in real life.

In today’s complex manufacturing value chains, however, keeping the end customer top of mind is not always easy – especially when there are several process steps involved and various ‘middlemen’ in the way. That’s why, more than ever, cross-value-chain collaborations are key to unlocking real value. Only when all partners across the entire value chain are aligned and engaged can we truly cultivate a customer-centric mindset and deliver great innovations.

Keeping the customer top of mind
I’m glad that at DSM, we work hard to apply customer-centric mindsets. We are unique in that we actively engage not only with our customers, but also with our customers’ customers, to use our science-based competences to drive progress and shape a better future. In our DSM Resins & Functional Materials business unit, in particular, we make a point of consulting with different players in the value chain, to both learn from and teach each other and deliver innovative solutions that are going to make a positive difference around the world.

Take, for example, our multi-year collaboration with ADLER, a coatings formulator, and DKG, a manufacturer of sustainable kitchen furniture. By working together over the past few years, we have been able to develop waterborne and waterborne UV-cured furniture coatings that perform as well – if not better – than traditional solvent-borne coatings, but offer a much higher sustainability value. Specifically, these coatings contain low to zero volatile organic compounds, enable a lower carbon footprint, and have a better overall environmental profile. These are coatings that look good and are good. 

Contributing to the greater good
‘Working together’ involved pooling knowledge of our different positions of the value chain, and – above all – focusing squarely on our end goal: to deliver furniture coatings that meet the high expectations and demands of end users. Whether in terms of durability, chemical and mechanical resistance, or beyond, we made sure that the end product would satisfy customer expectations. With each party in the collaboration being able to offer expertise in specific areas, we ensured the final results would help convince the furniture industry of the superior performance of waterborne coatings. 

This is only the start, though. Moving forward, ADLER, DKG and DSM will continue to collaborate closely with the next point on the horizon in mind: developing bio-based furniture coatings. And guess what? The end-user need will feature at the very center of our bio-based development processes, thereby ensuring our innovation efforts are focused on adding real value to our customers around the world. Stay tuned!

Customers are key to our innovations, but they also need our support to live sustainably. Check out this blog on this subject. 

Brigitte Jacobs, Marketing Manager Furniture

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