Dominique Bossan, Member of the Knauf Group Management Committee and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Knauf Insulation Europe/Middle East/Asia, discusses the challenges of the past year and why his view of the future remains optimistic.
What has been the impact of the challenges of 2022 on Knauf Insulation?
“There’s no doubt that 2022 has been a challenging year, with economic uncertainty, the war in Ukraine, rising energy costs and an internal cyber attack. While we’re in the business of energy efficiency, we’ve also been hit by rising costs ourselves and real threats surrounding the shortage of gas.
“However, once again, our people have risen to the challenge. What really makes our people unique is their commitment. The pandemic made me realise just how committed we are. Throughout every crisis, we have never stopped communicating with our customers. We do have some turbulent times ahead of us, but I have always said ‘there will be rainy days’. People truly are our mitigation; we have weathered many storms and we will continue to do so, together.
“Our people help us get through any crisis; although we invest a lot in equipment and technology, people are our most important assets. They make all the difference. That’s why we’re investing in leadership, training and development to ensure we have proper workforce and succession plans in place, as well as high levels of employee engagement.”
What other steps is Knauf Insulation taking to mitigate these challenges?
“Of course, we’re starting by going back to basics; monitoring discretionary costs and identifying areas for efficiency and improvements within the business. We will also continue to make sure we don’t have one single source of raw materials and ensure we identify alternative sources to ensure business continuity.
“We also need to remember that COVID isn’t yet over – numbers are increasing so we are looking at what safety measures need to be re-activated, to ensure our people are safe.
“Another mitigation is public affairs. We’ve always been very keen on public affairs around the energy efficiency agenda and sustainability. More than ever, we need to be pushing this. With energy prices dramatically rising, many people have seen a significant reduction in their disposable income, and we are not even yet in the heating season! We have a duty to help.”
What will help to differentiate Knauf Insulation in the long term?
“I think there are a few things that set us apart from our competitors. Firstly, we continue to really invest in our people. The fact that we are a family business is also extremely important. The Knauf family are committed to reinvesting in the business to grow it. We’re always thinking long-term, whereas sometimes publicly traded companies can’t adopt that mindset because they are short-term driven, with pension funds hungry for quick returns.
“Finally, we’re not a large matrix-driven organisation. My view is with large matrix-driven organisations, the areas of responsibility and accountability are not very clear. At Knauf Insulation, people know exactly what they need to do and what is expected from them. Our DNA is our entrepreneurial fibre; people who fight for their business and make it happen. It helps us to be more innovative, which is another major factor in differentiating ourselves from the competition.”
How is Knauf Insulation continuing to innovate?
“We are staffing ourselves further in the Innovation Department, and this team will be directly under my responsibility.
“I do find that we’re quite good at the ‘inside out’ type of innovation – we’re constantly improving our processes, opening the door for improved performances of our products. I believe we can further improve our ‘outside in’ innovation approach. We are fortunate to have many people talking to distributors, installers or architects. They’re not only talking and listening to the customer, they’re observing. The customer can tell us what they need, but does not always know what they are missing: we can help, we have a strong role to play.
“Of course, we’re continuing our fundamental research and development; breakthroughs don’t happen every day but we’re constantly identifying technology improvements. And we’re not only innovating in terms of products but services, too. Take the example of our UK business that developed what has become the reference on the market, our award-winning KinetiK® application that has been recognised in 2022 as the Product of the Year at the prestigious Housebuilder Awards in the UK.
“We’re also ahead of the game when it comes to Glass Mineral Wool. We have a strong manufacturing footprint and have recently announced a large greenfield investment in Romania, to address one of our white spots.”
In your opinion, how is the ‘For A Better World’ strategy progressing?
“Oh, I think we're progressing, it's great. Our upcoming targets are quite ambitious but what I like is that we’re not shying away from communicating these to the outside world and showing that we are accountable.
“Knauf Insulation started on this sustainability journey quite some time ago and we have been instrumental in shaping the roadmap for the wider Knauf Group. For us, it’s not about greenwashing; we need to make sure that we walk the talk, and it’s not always easy. Sometimes we would like to show more progress and go faster. But we are moving in the right direction, increasing our resources to meet our new ambitious targets.”
Picture in the header: Knauf Insulation Executive Committee members, from left – Dominique Bossan, David Ducarme, Kristin Barthel