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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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The Smart Kitchen Pioneer

The Smart Kitchen Pioneer | Jan Heck

Jan Heck

President & CEO Miele USA

Today, technology has influenced our lives immensely, and everything seems to get smarter from our phones, cars, cams, and new kitchen appliances. Connectivity plays a major role in various kitchen devices that are coming out now. When you learn about smart homes, smart devices, and smart kitchens, it normally refers to something connected via IoT (Internet of Things) technology, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth. Because smart devices are connected, you can manage them remotely via a mobile app or a voice assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Home assistant. When it comes to a kitchen, smart products can make things more effective, precise, and safer.

Miele’s appliances are designed with a harmonious look. Each appliance can pair with the next Miele appliance so that the kitchen has a uniform design. Miele offers products to its customers that set the standards for durability, 

performance, ease of use, energy efficiency, design, and service. This corresponds to the guiding principle “Immer Besser,” which the founders’ Carl Miele and Reinhard Zinkann printed on their first machines, characterizing Miele. The strategic vision is to be the world’s most trusted and desirable premium appliance brand.

Jan Heck, President & CEO Miele USA, is a steadfast leader. He has an eye on the bigger business picture to maintain Miele’s status as a leading premium appliance brand. His aptitude at building a resilient leadership team has allowed the company to empower each to develop a strong and intelligent workforce with the same vision for the company. Jan is opinionated but comes at no fault and with good judgment on pushing the company to live up to the brand’s motto of “Immer Besser,” or “Forever Better.”Jan has always been a mentor and incorporated numerous future leaders, advising them to have a vision where they want the company to be in 10-15 years. “Stick to that focus. Get your team on board and living that vision. But know that bumps in the road will happen – be ready to pivot but never let go of the end goal.”

Jan has been leading Miele’s business in North America for 21 years, first in Canada and now in the United States. Throughout this time, he has worked very closely with Miele’s engineers and product designers, in Germany, to develop products important for the North American market. Two unique product lines that Jan played an important role in developing are the industry leading MasterCool refrigeration line and ranges.

Miele products possess a sustaining design and a purposeful technology to ensure the look and functionality will last equivalent to 20 years or more. “Technology is entrenched in our daily lives. And while some industry categories, such as smartphones, seem to operate on an “innovate or die” mentality, meaning more frequent technology upgrades are require in order to keep the pace of the consumer’s need, Miele’s appliances innovate with purpose and durability,” adds Jan.

It would be unbearable in today’s kitchen if the homeowners needed to replace or conduct software updates on appliances frequently. Therefore, the Miele strategy is to create products that rest on the laurels that built the company, ensuring the appliance helps the end-user life forever better. Miele’s technology advancements start years before the product is available to the public and includes researching and producing designs that will outlast “trends” (color and style) and incorporating technology that will improve the appliance and the user’s function experience.

For kitchen appliances, where the user is generally more hands on, Miele believes innovations are developed around the user’s needs and not innovating for innovation’s sake. This is why a customer will see consistency in the brand’s design and function because it simplifies the transition between appliances. Nevertheless, incorporating a varying level of features and function allows for any user, from novice to expert, to achieve perfect cooking or cleaning results.

Miele is proud of the brand’s evolution – in the particular two products that were birthed from the first invention, which was the butter churner. The engineering behind this product led to the development of the Miele laundry system and dishwasher. Miele’s laundry has become a solution for clients in homes or high-rise condominiums. “First, its size allows the washer and dryer to fit almost anywhere. Whether side-by-side or stacked, these units together take up less room but do not lose out on the washing capacity,” adds Jan. “Plus, both units run on 110V (standard outlet) and the dryer is a ventless heat pump unit – meaning you do not have to vent to the exterior of your home. So, you can essentially convert a closet in the middle of your space into a laundry room and not have to worry about venting to the outside.” Additionally, with the new home trend of having an open layout, their dishwashers have become a must-have due to not only the powerful cleaning but the near-silent operation.

However, with the advent of COVID-19—not only a global pandemic and public health crisis; but a global economy disrupter—Miele USA reacted in a swift and proactive manner. As a leader, Jan viewed managed the situation as an opportunity to succeed through adversity rather than simply surviving the challenging days ahead.  But in order to have a business, you need the people. With the foresight that business would recover – Jan could not lose his workforce. Opting not to impose layoffs or furloughs, he asked for his employees’ trust and commitment to get through a short-lived salary reduction. After a few months into the pandemic, the appliance business saw a return to business as normal and employees returned to their full wages. However, during this time, Miele USA had to think about its business partners and customers. “During this time at home, the consumer journey has changed with COVID and we are seeing fewer touchpoints and a radical shift to e-commerce. That said, many of our Miele customers have been ordering online and over the phone with picking up at one of our ten Miele Experience Centers, located in major US cities,” explains Jan.

For the days to come, Jan wants to continue to retain Miele’s standing as a leading premium appliance brand; consumers will become more surrounded by the brand—on both a national and local sales level; in print and online; on a majority of social platforms; and local and online events. “We want to grow with the user. A consumer may have their first brand interaction with a Miele vacuum; then they may need a replacement item like laundry, dishwasher or freestanding refrigerator; then move up to a kitchen remodel where they will install a full suite of appliances,” says Jan.

“The Miele strategy is to create products that rest on the laurels that built the company, ensuring the appliance helps the end-user life forever better.”

Jan Heck

President & CEO Miele USA

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