For our final article in the Case IH Customer Driven Product Development (CDPD) series, I’ve invited Rob Zemenchik, Case IH marketing manager for tillage products, to be our guest blogger. We’ve already discussed how the CDPD process has guided many new Case IH planting and seeding equipment product developments, and Rob tells us how the CDPD process influenced the evolution of Case IH tillage equipment, as well.
Farmers often say that they do their best thinking about farming when they’re actually farming, which is why Case IH developed the Customer Driven Product Development (CDPD) process around the one-on-one, on-farm interview. During the interview, we let the farmers guide the conversation so they can express their thoughts and opinions, and we can identify unmet needs.
Tillage customer interviews increasingly revealed the need for machines to handle greater volumes and toughness of crop residue. The interviews also uncovered the need for machines that can accommodate earlier planting dates and tillage when the ground is wetter and colder than in the past.
These findings are consistent with data from Iowa State University, which shows the average corn planting date is now three to four weeks earlier than just a generation ago. The implication is that fertile fields in the Midwest, which have significant amounts of clay content and therefore water content, must be managed differently than in the past. The equipment used to prepare the seedbed to accommodate earlier planting dates and higher residue levels also needed to evolve.
A great example of the CDPD process at work is the Case IH Ecolo-Tiger 870® disk ripper. Prior combination disk-rippers effectively managed compaction, but with the higher residue levels and earlier planting dates, they had reached their limit in some conditions. According to farmers we spoke with, older rippers left field conditions too rough to manage in wet spring soils. They wanted equipment to:
- Leave the field smooth and without huge clods, reducing spring tillage when soils are recharged with water
- Operate at high speeds in the fall in 200-250 bushel (or more) corn without plugging or bunching up.
Those key customer requirements set the criteria for Case IH engineers when creating concepts for the Ecolo-Tiger 870.
After organizing the interview findings into a list of unmet customer needs, the next step for Case IH was to get farmer input about the relative importance of each need. Farmers’ prioritization of needs, as well as frequency throughout the farmer sample, helped Case IH identify what requirements to tackle first. This ranking represented how much time, testing and investment Case IH needed to commit to in order to have a breakthrough product. If technology wasn’t already available to meet the customer requirements, then the ranking determined how much time and money was appropriate to develop something new.
When it came to the True-Tandem™ 330 Turbo, for example, farmers said, through CDPD, that they needed a machine that would level soil and run shallow and fast over cool, wet fields in the spring. It also had to do double-duty, running behind the combine in the fall over tough stalks. Case IH engineers quickly ruled out traditional tines, drag spikes, or spider wheels. As a result, Case IH engineers developed an entirely new solution – an all-rotary vertical tillage design.
Customer Requirements Drive Case IH Product Concepts
When Case IH engineers begin, they independently produce a group of preliminary concepts whose performance criteria originated during CDPD. Each engineer creates a different design, and each design naturally has trade-offs, since there might not be one way to satisfy all the unmet needs. Then, the engineers reconvene and each concept is evaluated against farmers’ top criteria until a consensus is achieved. In this process, the chosen concept may borrow from another concept, but it is not selected by its “cool” factor or how cheap it might be to build. Instead, it is chosen with the customer in mind as the key driver to the end-product. Each new product raises the bar, and Case IH customers partner with us in that.
Once our engineers create an amazing product that meets all of the customer priorities, we invite farmers to test the concept in virtual reality. If the design that delivers the best combination of customer requirements passes the virtual reality session with farmers, it becomes a working prototype. Prototypes are taken out in the field and subject to a battery of strict durability and reliability testing. If equipment is going to break, it’s going to break for Case IH before production. Adjustments are made to ensure it’s market-ready.
From one-on-one customer interviews, right down the line to a finished product launch, the Case IH CDPD process works to develop equipment and technology that lets farmers do their job the way they want to do it.