Thermaflex Case Study

Topics: Innovation, Technology, Competition Pages: 11 (3086 words) Published: April 9, 2014


The company used in the case study is Thermaflex, a company headquartered in The Netherlands with 450 employees. Established in 1976, this SME is a renowned international company from Dutch origin which has specialized itself in special piping and foam insulation materials for cooling and heating purposes. Demand for their products comes from customers from over 40 countries. Thermaflex has 5 production facilities: Poland, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, and the Netherlands. These production facilities are needed to serve its growing set of customers. These customers are increasingly concerned with the drawbacks of having a high energy consumption; money can be saved and environmental issues can be addressed by using Thermaflex’s products (Zuidgeest, 2014). These products include ThermaInsulation, Flexalen, and Special Foam (Thermaflex, 2014). All aspects of Thermaflex’s business are geared towards making sure that a reduction of energy consumption and, consequently, CO2 emissions is realized (Zuidgeest, 2014). Moreover, Thermaflex’s production process in itself is largely environmentally friendly as well due to the use of polyolefines and polybutens which are the materials used in the fully recyclable pre-insulated pipes (Thermaflex, 2014). Consequently, Thermaflex is active in providing solutions which are helpful to not only reduce end-of-pipe waste, but production practices and products which are already green to begin with. Where Thermaflex’s direct competitors use unrecyclable plastics as their main basic material, Thermaflex is constantly looking for new ways to improve recyclability and, thus, reduce CO2 emissions by using more environmentally friendly materials (Zuidgeest, 2014). Thermaflex tries to move the industry forward by enacting in certified initiatives, like the Green Deal (Rijksoverheid, n.d.) and Cradle-to-Cradle (Cradle-to-Cradle, n.d.; Thermaflex, 2014; Zuidgeest, 2014). Moreover, REACH regulations stipulate that the use of dangerous toxins is becoming prohibited by 2022 (B-Lands Consulting REACH Compliance, 2007-2012). Thermaflex’s direct competitors, NMC and Armacell (see appendix 2), do not enact in sustainable activities to the same extent as Thermaflex does (Zuidgeest, 2014). By being the reference, they hope to be the industry leader in sustainable practices. To become the reference, a technological, breakthrough discontinuity can be used to set the industry standard and act as a reference. Moreover, Thermaflex is willing to cooperate with suppliers and even partners to pursue long-term goals (Zuidgeest, 2014). However, it is not yet clear whether the pre-insulated pipe design of Thermaflex has the potential to set industry standards. Moreover, is opting for a Cradle-to-Cradle certification the right thing to do for Thermaflex to become the reference in sustainability? In the end, the following question arises: “Is Thermaflex taking the right steps to stay ahead of competition and achieve its vision in 2016 to become the reference in sustainability and move the industry forward with them?” (case study Thermaflex, 2014).


The theoretical drivers of this particular article stem from two articles:

Technological discontinuities and dominant designs

Anderson, P. and Tushman, M.L. (1990) Technological discontinuities and dominant designs: a cyclical model of technological change.

The first article (Anderson & Tushman, 1990) is about how a technological breakthrough can redefine industry standards. As Anderson & Tushman (1990, p. 2) mention in their article “(…) a technological breakthrough, or discontinuity, initiates an era of intense technical variation and selection, culminating in a single dominant design. This era of ferment is followed by a period of incremental technical progress, which may be broken by a subsequent technological discontinuity”. Put differently, a radical innovation precedes an incremental innovation until a new radical innovation...

References: Anderson, P. and Tushman, M.L. (1990) Technological discontinuities and dominant designs: a cyclical model of technological change.
Berkhout, P., Muskens, J., & W Velthuijsen, J. (2000). Defining the rebound effect. Energy policy, 28(6), 425-432.
Braungart, M., McDonough, W. and Bollinger, A. (2007) Cradle-to-cradle design: creating healthy emissions – a strategy for eco-effective product and system design.
B-Lands Consulting REACH Compliance. (2007-2012). Reach Implementation Timeline 2006-2022. Retrieved 03 18, 2014, from B-Lands Consulting:
Cradle-to-Cradle. (n.d.) retrieved 03 15, 2014 from:
McDonough, W & Braungart, M.(2001) Reinventing the world, Green@Work
McDonough, W & Braungart, M. (2001). Reinventing the world: step two, Green@Work. 9:37e40.
McDonough, W & Braungart, M. (2001). Reinventing the world: step three, Green@Work. 10:33e5.
McDonough, W. & Braungart, M. (2001). Reinventing the world: step four, Green@Work.11:29e32.
McDonough, W & Braungart, M. (2001). Reinventing the world: step five, Green@Work.12:32e5
Schumpeter, J. (1942) Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. New York: Harper & Brothers.
Thermaflex. (2014). Company website. Retrieved from
Tushman, M., & Anderson, P
Verfaillie, H., & Bidwell, R. (2000). Measuring eco-efficiency: a guide to reporting company performance. World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Zuidgeest, M. (2014). Group CSR expert at Thermaflex, Interview case study Thermaflex.
Sources: (Thermaflex, 2014), (Armacell Enterprise GmbH & Co, 2014), (NMC, n.d.), (Orbis, 2014)
Appendix 3: Technological discontinuity
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