Can You Hear Me Now?
Hess, who has a background in equipment maintenance, says one of the first changes he suggested was the nylon sock casing for hydraulic hoses. All of the hoses were put together in one protective nylon sock. Having the hoses all clumped together in one nylon sock makes it difficult and time consuming to just pull out a single hose and work on it or switch it out, Hess says. “I suggested they put each hose in its own individual sock, otherwise you end up pulling out all of the socks,” he says. “In a small business, it’s really important to eliminate this kind of downtime.” The very next time Hess tested the machine, each of the hoses had been placed in its own sock. “I hope when a random person goes to buy a machine, they will be able to tell an actual operator helped to design it,” he says. “Sometimes when I’ve worked on a machine, it just doesn’t make sense the way certain parts of it are put together. It’s great that issues are able to be corrected before they go on the market instead of trying to catch up with what people want.”
To get an even better understanding of what operators want, Hess was asked to wear a hat with special video cameras that tracked his retinas and watched how he used his hands to operate controls while in the machine cab. The footage from the video cameras identified where Hess’ blind spots were and his visibility from where he was sitting in the cab. “It is really neat to know I am making a difference in the future of the backhoe,” he says.
A convenience or inconvenience?
Arden Lemke, owner of Lemke Digging and Geothermal Drilling in Mitchell, S.D., played a role in providing input for Bobcat’s E32/E35 extendable arm. Like Hess, Lemke says having input on the design of the very machine he operates regularly made him feel like he really could influence the manufacturer with his needs. “I was pretty impressed [Bobcat] wanted my opinion, especially because I’m a really small contractor,” Lemke says. “It was pretty outstanding to have them think I had an opinion.”
Lemke began testing Bobcat’s extendable arm for the E32/E35 in September/October 2010, before it went to market. He then bought the mini excavator with the extendable arm in March 2011.
When Bobcat asked Lemke about his opinion on the “extendahoe,” as he refers to it, he was quick to point out that the extendable arm needs to work in very tight quarters and that it needs to have a minimal amount of maintenance. “After they [Bobcat] brought the demonstrator (prototype) on the jobsite and asked my opinion, they followed through on all of my suggestions,” Lemke says. With Lemke’s critiques, the extendable arm can now reach in tight spots where tractor backhoes can’t. “It now has more capability to reach in spots where bigger machines can’t,” he says, adding that it also makes the work area not so tight for employees.
Lemke also provided input on the quick-change attachments, which in his opinion, were anything but that. “It wasn’t really a quick change,” he says. “It was more of an inconvenience change.” Instead of having to exit the cab and take time to change the attachments — which were designed to be easily switched out — now the operator can sit inside of the machine and push a button to change out attachments. “Now, they have it where we can just pull some keys so the pins move,” he says. “There are locking pins to make sure you don’t accidentally activate the X-Change.”
Now, Lemke says, even his newer employees are able to switch out attachments, a job that was reserved for more experienced operators. In Lemke’s three-person operation, this is crucial to his productivity, because downtime means money isn’t being made. “Bobcat understood this and really put a lot of thought into the mini excavators,” Lemke says. This, Lemke says, has just added to what he thinks of the manufacturer: “I am pretty impressed with them.”
To read about how companies are leveraging customer feedback, enter http://www.gettag.mobi into your smart phone browser and download the free app. Then scan this tag for insights from Bobcat, John Deere, Case Construction Equipment, and Terex Minerals Processing Systems.
Case: Customer driven designs
When Case Construction Equipment was designing its Alpha Series, the manufacturer wanted to make sure it was developed not just for the customer, but by the customer.
Michael J. Unrein, senior director of product marketing for Case-New Holland Construction Equipment, says the company interviewed operators to compile at least 1,500 customer inputs through its Customer Driven Product Development (CDPD) program.
Engineering, marketing, and sales all took part in interviewing the operators, Unrein says. Involving all of these different teams was important, he says, because each segment hears it differently. When all of the input is compiled, it is then used to write a product definition.