‘Software is going to play a leading role in developing a bicycle.’
The Corona crisis led to unusual challenges. In addition, a profound transition is underway: the integration of the Internet with physical product development, the Internet of Things (IoT).
Gazelle is an old and strong Dutch brand with a modern factory in Dieren, beautiful products and a motivated innovation department. What are you most proud of?
‘What we are especially proud of is what we have achieved together in these difficult circumstances,’ said Maarten Pelgrim (Innovation Manager). ‘Corona affects not only us but also our suppliers in Asia. Because of Corona, we all started working from home. And everyone started cycling. That created strong market demand, but also a lot of tension in the supply chain. The question was always: can we get the right amount of components in? Despite these challenges, we were able to complete all projects, including new ones, according to plan. That we managed to do that together I think is an amazing achievement.’
What does that mean for your role as a manager?
‘There is an incredible commitment, a drive to stay on the ball when things are going well. But certainly to keep putting our shoulders to the wheel and making sure that things work out in the end. That attitude characterizes our company. As a manager, your first job is to build a good team. Attitude I think is one of the most important criteria. Those team members are not there overnight. Sometimes you have to keep looking patiently until you find people who fit into the team. It’s also important to make sure that when things are tough, you keep supporting each other. That you express and acknowledge it to the team, but that we still have to go through it together.’
What are your big innovation challenges over the next five years?
‘We are mining IoT in abundance. We have launched a number of successful connected bikes with an anti-theft proposition. This proposition is definitely appreciated by our consumers. The beauty of an e-bike is that you can use energy to enable other functions. The possibilities are constantly growing. I am convinced that in five or ten years every bike will be connected. Gazelle was founded in 1892 by a blacksmith and a letter carrier. Mechanical engineering is our core. We don’t have an internal software company for the IoT, even though we are part of Pon. So we looked for partners, both on the hardware and software side, with whom we can make those steps. Richard Müller, who is responsible for digital innovation at Gazelle, will talk more about IoT.’
What role does BEACON play for you?
‘Jan Willem Dik of BEACON is helping us with these developments. We have continuously had one or two BEACON project leaders on the innovation team for about three years now. Not only for capacity but also for the knowledge and expertise they bring. This does not feel like an external party, but an integral part of our team. BEACON’s project managers see so many different companies and know and recognize so many things that make effective innovation possible. It’s a good cross-pollination that works very enjoyably and efficiently for us.
What is the role of IoT in bicycle development?
‘We put the customer first,’ states Richard Müller (Program Manager of Digital Innovation). ‘And then we look at themes such as safety, security, maintenance, and unburdening. Our translation of IoT into the proposition of the bicycle is a combo of a bicycle with a built-in phone. IoT is about everything to do with the cloud. In fact, it puts the entire Internet at your feet; the possibilities are unprecedented. The “box” in your bicycle can talk to the cloud and is an extension for the user for the pleasant and safe use of the bicycle. It can send out messages about the status of the battery, or where your bike is. And it can receive all kinds of messages, such as a free voucher for a cup of coffee. Things that car apps already take for granted. I think connectivity will be able to bring perhaps 80 percent of the added value to the convenience of the end user. It will no longer be a nice to have, but a must-have, because it will become a standard assumed need.
What does this mean for the process of product innovation?
‘I think these developments should no longer be called innovation; I would call it digital transformation. This is the first time in the bicycle industry that we are really moving from electrification to software development. Software is going to play a leading role in developing a bicycle. Our team is not only developing technology but also instituting the culture needed to make digital innovation a success. Mechanical processes become software processes, mechanical validation becomes software validation, and so on. We set up the whole organization so that mechanical development goes hand in hand with the software we develop. Our digital innovation team reports to the MT to ensure that this transformation is optimal. IoT is a long-term development plan at Gazelle.’ www.gazelle.nl
Want to know more about innovation and IoT? Contact Jan Willem Dik, 06-14823792.Back to overview