Interview with our colleague Friedhelm van den Berg – Area Sales Manager and co-responsible for the ReFrame project
This spring we achieved a great victory with KÖMMERLING ReFrame: the world’s first window made from fully recycled material, which is also color-refined. After our unique product was in the foreground so far, we would now like to take a look behind the scenes and talk about the project and the people who made it possible.
In the interview, our colleague Friedhelm van den Berg reports on the idea for KÖMMERLING ReFrame, the project team and the challenges up to the market-ready development within one year.
Before we talk about the project and the great success, we would like to get to know you as a person. How long have you been in the company, in which area do you work?
In March of this year, almost on time for the success of the ReFrame project, I celebrated my 30th company anniversary. Originally, I learned to be a carpenter on the Lower Rhine. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, I started working as an Application Engineer at KBE in Berlin and gained a lot of experience. In the course of my career I slipped more and more into export and traveled a lot – from Great Britain, Italy and Spain to Turkey, South Africa and Nigeria. Later on, the Netherlands was one of my main fields, due to the proximity of my place of residence and the language.
When our sales department was looking for a sales manager with a lot of brand experience in 2011, I was offered the position. I have been the area sales manager for the Rhein Hessen Sieg area for 10 years now. In the meantime, some changes took place at profine, especially the introduction of the 76 and 88 mm systems were a very big challenge. There were also changes in pricing structures and a lot of growth – a very exciting time.
Wow, that has been a long time! What aspects do you like most about profine?
I would describe myself as very loyal in general. For example, I played football for the same club for 35 years. At profine or before KBE, I felt incredibly comfortable at all times. Regardless of which manager or supervisor, there was always a good relationship. Teamwork and good cooperation have always been important and valuable to me. Examining communication objectively and yet critically, is the basis for advancing in professional life and being able to grow with the company and celebrate successes.
Let’s start at the beginning. Since when do we recycle?
The “Rewindo” industry initiative has existed since the mid-1990s and we were there from the very beginning. I can still remember the discussions with our partners, they weren’t that enthusiastic at first because the blank was made with a different color in the core and frame back and not white. You can no longer imagine that in today’s times when sustainability plays such a dominant role.
How and when did the idea for 100% recycled windows come about?
The idea actually originated in another project. At the end of 2019, our CEO Dr. Peter Mrosik set up a committee with 18 premium customers and an internal project team to optimize our ProCoverTec technology. The idea of combining ProCoverTec with recycling arose quite early within this project team. Above all, the Dutch colleagues under the project manager Bart de Weger were in charge, which ultimately led to the future vision for 100% recycled windows.
The project started in March 2020. First there was a pilot project with architects from the Netherlands. The first customer order followed in June 2020, which resulted in a lot of publicity from the press. Thereupon a high demand arose quite quickly, so that we then presented the idea to the German proCoverTec customers. In March of this year, the first ReFrame windows were installed in a kindergarten in Mönchengladbach. In summary, the product was developed market-ready in just one year – we can be really proud of that!
Who was involved? What role did you play in the team?
Our core team consisted of Bart de Weger, Remco van Overdijk and Henk Sprick from the Netherlands as well as Helmut Neurohr and Sven Burmeister, who were responsible for production in Berlin, and Michael Eibel as project manager and contact person for the architects. As Area Sales Manager, I was responsible for the entire sales structure in Germany. Of course, there were other colleagues around the core team who took care of the processing and also an expanded team for organization. At this point, a big thank you – only through our intensive teamwork was this project success possible.
How did the project go? How did the team organize itself?
We held meetings about twice a week and I certainly put one and a half working days a week into the project. In general, as described in the video, several loops were made, so we kept getting customer feedback, researched, experimented and tested until we finally achieved a satisfactory result.
What was the biggest challenge during the project?
To win the trust of our customers for this new project. Many of them have already been picked up, but the process is still ongoing and not fully completed.
What is the significance of this breakthrough for profine?
A huge one, since it is actually a world first. During our research, we did not come across a comparable product that is 100% recycled and color-refined at the same time. We are thus pushing forward in terms of two trends: sustainability and energy efficiency. This also enables us to receive subsidized orders for which a very high proportion of recycling is now required, such as around 55% from the city of Düsseldorf.
So, what’s next?
The technology and the product are in place, now it is time to reap the rewards of our work. We will now enter into a dialogue with even more housing associations and architects in order to generate orders.
In general, there are also plans to expand the technology to another of our systems.
What does this success mean for you personally?
Such topics and the challenges that come with them appeal to me. I am also involved in other projects and literally jump to future topics in order to identify and test further unique selling points for profine. At Reframe, too, I was very interested in making that work. The wealth of experience I have gained is of great importance to me. Such successes naturally motivate to continue. Sure, there are sometimes flops, but you still face the challenge and pull it off.
But to be honest, we couldn’t really go wrong with 100% recycled windows!