Every manufacturer talks about “customer focus,” but at Case IH we believe we can really back up that claim. Why?
One example is our Customer Driven Product Development process, or CDPD. This week I’ve invited another Case IH expert, Bill Preller, to introduce you to CDPD. Bill has spent more than 10 years in various leadership roles in Case IH North America, and has been involved with the development and implementation of the CDPD process.
Case IH first employed the Customer Driven Product Development (CDPD) process in 2001. We had some ideas on how to improve our current crop production products, but we knew we needed to get to the root of producers’ needs, and who better to speak on the challenges producers face than the producers themselves?
CDPD isn’t your typical focus group employed for decades in product development. Case IH isn’t just filling a meeting room with producers and asking them to react to product ideas and prototypes. Instead, we go to the producer where they work to find out what they need. I often compare the CDPD process to an archaeological dig; in most cases we’re digging for insights producers don’t even realize they need or have never been given the opportunity to ask for.
In some cases we’ll enlist the CDPD process to gain insight on new trends or up and coming equipment needs. In other cases, we have a specific product in mind that we’re working to improve and we want to know what producers need to make it better.
But, in all cases, our discoveries are guided by five crucial steps outlined by the CDPD process:
- One-On-One Customer Interviews
This first step sets the tone for the entire process. Our teams work to uncover producers’ unmet and sometimes even unspoken needs for their operation, their farming practices, and their equipment.Case IH sends a team of two representatives out to the producer’s operation for the interview. The teams go where the producer goes that day—whether it’s in the combine during harvest, in the machine shed, or over the hood of a pick-up truck in the middle of a field.Case IH interviewers are trained to ask open-ended questions that allow producers to lead the conversation. The interviewers have deep product knowledge, but they ask questions as if they were new to the agriculture industry. This style creates new opportunities for discovery and minimizes assumptions.Sometimes these interviews will take Case IH teams across North America, or even around the world. At other times, interviewers might just target a specific region, such as the Corn Belt or the Mississippi Delta. The location and number of interviews conducted depends on the range of product and what Case IH is trying to discover.
- Prioritization of Producer Requirements
The one-on-one customer interviews produce hours and hours of recorded conversations, as well as multiple binders filled with transcribed interviews and notes. The Case IH interview teams must pull out common themes, insights, and needs expressed by producers during the interviews. The Case IH teams come together to identify the “aha!” statements and create a common list of needs.The CDPD needs and requirements are formatted into a producer survey to rank these customer requirements. Based on the results of this survey, Case IH is able to drill down a prioritized list of requirements that guide Case IH engineers.
- Concept Development
In this step, Case IH engineers go to work creating concepts and designing product prototypes based on the list of customer needs and requirements established during steps one and two. They may consist of pen and paper sketches, computer drawings, and even 3-D models. Keep in mind, these are merely ideas and needs of the producer, given some dimension and shape…they are not yet true product designs.
- Validate Concepts with Producers
Next, Case IH brings the customers back into the process, sharing sketches, computer drawings, or 3-D models of product concepts with producers for their feedback and reactions. Sometimes we’ll take this a step a bit further and create a virtual reality experience, which allows producers to experience and interact with a computer-simulated equipment concept.Here we learn if we’ve accurately captured producers’ requirements, and if we’re on our way toward building a product that will better answer their needs.
- Product Design
If we did the first four steps right, we can move on to transform the needs and ideas into the iron you’ll be using in the field! This is where competitors often start talking about their development process. Here we need to build for serviceability, durability, and reliability for the life of the product. The product design and engineering is tested and validated for its practical usage and durability. But, as we work to perfect the design, we continue to ask, “Are we still achieving the customers’ needs?”CDPD is an ongoing process, even after a new product is launched. Because Case IH receives so much valuable feedback from customers during this process, Case IH product management teams and engineers continue to study and refine these suggestions so that Case IH is always offering you the latest equipment and technology to help improve your bottom line.
The CDPD process is responsible for countless Case IH product features and innovation. Stay tuned for future articles from Case IH experts discussing how CDPD influenced the Case IH products and technology you’re using in your fields today!