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From January 2024, Chris Cauwenberghs has been working in his new role as General Manager Customers and Markets Benelux, a role that involves overseeing the Belgium-based subsidiary Roto Frank S.A.

This is the first phase in a three year transition that will see Chris assume new functions and ultimately become head of the Western Europe Economic area.

Regional director Francesc Gimeno, who has overall responsibility for Roto’s presence in Southern, Western Europe and Africa (EWSA), will be assisting Chris in this transition. He said, “As a result of our leadership programme, we have found the perfect match for our new growth initiative in the EWSA area. Chris will be building upon his 10 years of experience with Roto in taking on this role. His focus will be improving efficiency in sales, local marketing and customer service, as well as finding new synergies and ways to optimise processes. I’m sure our business partners will join in wishing him every success in this new phase of his career at Roto”.

A few weeks into his new role, Roto More caught up with Chris for a conversation.

Hi Chris, congratulations on your new appointment. What does it mean for you and for customers in the Benelux region?
“Thank you. Well, obviously for me it is a new step and an exciting challenge. After ten years with Roto it is an honour to be chosen for this role. Of course I’m not doing it alone because I have the entire team here, with so much experience and ideas among them. They are all positive people who work collaboratively and want the best for us all at Roto.

For our customers this is another sign that Roto is committed to Benelux and the wider Western Europe region. It is a planned out transition, which shows how the company views the market long term with a strategy. For our partners here in Benelux, continuity remains because Gerry Claassens will still be our regional head of sales. Gerry and I have been working closely together for many years. We agree on many things and we are both open communicators. We say what we do and do what we say.

In the last year, Roto Benelux moved to a new location in the Zaventem district of Brussels. How is that working out?
“We are close to the airport, which is beneficial for our customers and colleagues from Scandinavia and the UK when they visit, also our colleagues from Germany and other parts of the Roto Group. But the biggest effect is the additional dynamic it creates.

Zaventem feels more cosy. We have dedicated sitting areas and the kitchen area is also partly a meeting area. It makes people more accessible and means they are more likely to hold relaxed, collaborative meetings. This was one of the things that was planned with the new office, that it would help encourage more co-working and sharing of ideas.

We also have home working, which allows colleagues to maintain a life balance with fewer commutes, but on those days when people are in the office you see greater interaction and dynamics”.

Francesc Gimeno, Chris Cauwenberghs and Gerry Claassens at Polyclose earlier this year.

One of your personal targets is to improve the customer journey. Can you explain more?
“The phrase “customer journey” is one of those that gets overused, but of course it is very relevant because it makes us look at our processes from the customer’s viewpoint: how easy is it to get information about Roto, to approach us and to work with us? For those customers we already have, how is their experience? What do they need? Do they feel valued and are we providing the services they need? These are the questions we constantly must ask.

For me, it is mainly about the availability and accessibility of information for customers. If we make sure customers get all the information about Roto products and their benefits, this is the main factor in their decision to work with us.

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In his announcement, Francesc said you will have a focus on improving efficiencies. Can you tell us more about this?
“Roto is already a very efficient organisation, and one that does not sit still. We always aim to reassess and improve. You can see this in the way our factories are arranged according to lean production principles, and how our group logistics operations use the very latest technology including autonomous transport systems. Here in the regional sales offices, our focus is on our processes. The main aspects of our work are marketing, sales and customer service. In each of these areas we need to look for small changes we can make to improve efficiency. This is something that the whole team is involved in”.

Is the new customer portal part of this?
“Absolutely. It is also part of the Roto group’s wider digitalisation strategy. The customer portal is the application that gives customers 24/7 access to their ordering and delivery information. The portal is developing all the time. At the moment users can view their orders, invoices and delivery information. The idea is that by the middle of this year there will be a pricing module. Customers will also be able to see if specific Roto products are available from stock. Rather than being able to view precise stock figures, it will be a ‘traffic light’ system, so you can see if stocks are readily available, or whether supply is limited”.

When will the customer portal be released?
“It is a phased introduction, which we have started in Benelux and got up and running by the end of February.

The next step is to introduce it in Scandinavia during March and then to the UK & Ireland customers later in the spring”.

Are any other customer service developments in the pipeline?
“We are planning to offer standard software to customers for their window production. In the past, we provided every individual customer with their own solution, which meant every file was tailor made for them. The problem with offering bespoke support is that it limits how much you can give. With standardisation we can deliver more. From now on, if a customer uses a standard software package the data is updated by us as part of an ongoing standard service package. It also helps them reduce errors because if an issue is found in a standard piece of software, it can be corrected across the board more easily and quickly. It’s just like when Microsoft or Apple release a global software update for all users.

With my Roto product background, I am already focused on standardisation because that is a big part of how we always approach the expansion of a product group or the creation of a new one: we try to use standard parts and dimensions as much as possible, including across different product groups. Gerry and I both believe in this approach and we want to look for ways to standardise our approach in every area of work”.

Chris, you’ve been with Roto for 10 years now. In that time, how has the market changed, and how has Roto changed?
“In the markets, especially here in Benelux, we are seeing more partnerships between companies. For example, between a hardware manufacturer like us and system companies. In the past there was less communication; now there is more collaboration. That doesn’t mean exclusive tie-ins, but products that work with a number of systems.

On a technical level, we find system houses asking us to clarify a hardware specification before they launch a system. In the past, one did something and everyone had to react. Now there is more communication and working together from earlier on in a project. This makes things easier for both of us supplier companies, and the biggest benefit is to the fabricators: they have more choice and can get the specifications they need immediately.

From our viewpoint at Roto, it helps us avoid having to react to demands of many fabricators who want specifications for a new or altered window system.

Now we can make sure they get a product that from the very start is compliant with requirements such as EN, CE, SKG, energy efficiency, environmental, sustainability etc. The latter is important because in the future companies will be forced to report on sustainability, so it will be very beneficial for them to know that they are meeting standards”.

At the recent Roto International Press Day, the directors stated that, globally, Roto is no longer primarily seen as just a tilt and turn brand and is now firmly established as a supplier of door and sliding systems too. Is that true in Benelux?
“Indeed, door products and sliding are now among our best sellers and are attracting more and more interest. In particular, Patio Inowa and some of our very innovative door hinges. I ought to say that tilt and turn is still very important, not only because of the demand in the market for this type of window but because the systems have many common components with other product groups. This is really another part of the standardisation I was talking about. This standardisation also helps us with cross-selling. For example, if a customer is making sliding units with Patio Inowa and they decide to start making tilt and turn windows with our hardware, they are already using a very large percentage of the components and probably hold them in stock”.

What can we expect in the next year in terms of products?

“I can’t go into too much detail, but fabricators can expect to see new developments in thresholds – and not just for doors. The Lift&Slide programme is expanding monthly, so there will be more coming there. We are also working on new solutions in concealed hardware, something that will be of interest right across the sector. Roto is accelerating product development in every area, including in our range of glazing blocks. This is a strong signal that we still believe in the window and door industry and its future growth potential. If you are a fabricator and share this optimism, we are the perfect partner”.

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