Innovation

Delve Talks: Cynthia Bachmann, Kohler Company

August 26, 2019

Delve Talks is a podcast that digs into the challenges around design, product development, leadership and innovation. Our first season focuses on what it takes to create a corporate culture that supports innovation.

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Dave Franchino: I'm your host Dave Franchino and thanks for joining us today. My guest is Cynthia Bachmann, Vice President of Engineering and Product Design at Kohler Company. Just a bit of history about Kohler. I think probably everybody recognizes Kohler, founded in 1873. So, it’s a very established family company. It produces a really broad range of products. Probably best known for plumbing fixtures, tile, furniture and cabinetry, but it extends into a broad range of consumer and commercial goods, as well. And for a company that's nearly 150 years old, one of things I really appreciate about Kohler is how well known it is as an innovator. In fact, I remember distinctly the “Bold Look of Kohler” and what a profound impact that branding message had a me.

So, it's changed over time. At CES in 2018, Kohler unveiled a new line of products called Kohler Konnect, which extended well beyond the traditional bath appliances. It connected with smart appliances, bathtubs, mirrors, shower heads, and faucets and all. Digital fixtures have Wi-Fi capabilities and in variables voice control through Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, those sorts of things and app control via a custom application.

So, joining me today on the show, Cynthia Bachmann. Thank you very much for joining us. Maybe for our listeners if you just start by telling us a little bit about your background that be a good way to get started.

Cynthia Bachmann: So, I serve in the role of Leader/ Vice President of Engineering and Product Development in our Kitchen and Bath Group, which is one of the four business groups at Kohler. I've been with Kohler for almost 24 years and really have made product development. my life's work. I came into a role that was, you know, part of the NPD community at the time and about two years into my tenure I was appointed director and then VP. And I've stayed in that role. Although the role has grown tremendously as the company has grown from a very intimate, small business 20-25 years ago to a totally globalized business, really in every sector in which we participate.

So, it's been it's been a kick to be a part of seeing that happen in a lot of ways, you know, having some influence on what it takes to do that. So, a lot of organizational capability change over the years and, as you can imagine, very relevant to this conversation is taking what was a very sort of inherent sense for Innovation and innovation in marketing and branding as well as in product and technology and teaching and training a workforce that's growing at a really quick pace. So, I think even when I came into the company there was no training about what Kohler was. You sort of absorbed it by being around people and being in conversations and you sort of got it by osmosis. But you know, you can't when you when you grow an organization at the pace we’ve grown it. You can't rely on osmosis to get you to those strong senses of brand and what we stand for. So that's been it's been an interesting road to try to figure out how to create a culture for innovation in the Kohler way, you know, so not to lose what we've done in the past and all the good, but then make it even better and grow that capability.

C Bachmann
Cynthia Bachmann, VP of Engineering & Product Development, Kohler Company

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