Strategy with design: Haulotte's new product development strategy

16 August 2011

Haulotte’s CEO, Alexandre Saubot.

Haulotte’s CEO, Alexandre Saubot.

Ongoing customer research is the key to Haulotte's new product development aimed at serving the new order of the powered access market, Maria Hadlow reports.

Almost every access equipment manufacturer will admit that during the bountiful years the pressure of manufacturing enough machines for the market overrode some other considerations.

During 2009 and 2010 the quiet time has given them time to take stock and modify their companies to reflect a market, which is constantly changing and challenging product development, production, quality, service and support.

"There is only really ever one boss - the customer" said Alexandre Saubot CEO of Haulotte. "That never changed but we were focused on fast growth over the last ten years - well not the last two," he added with a wry smile.

"To create a full line the company did make a few mistakes - things we would not do again."

"The big change is the new market environment, Haulotte is a worldwide company. There is market stabilisation and there are fewer new areas to target globally."

Haulotte manufactures in France, in a factory in Romania, in the US and in China. These facilities serve their local markets - part of Haulotte's policy of staying close to its customers.

To this end, as well, Haulotte prefers not to sell and service through distributors and has its own subsidiaries in most of its markets - throughout Western Europe, Poland, Russia - serving Eastern Europe, Dubai - serving the Middle East, China, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

The challenge, according to Mr Saubot, is to provide machines, which are market appropriate and conform to local regulations.

"In the mature markets they expect second generation machines which may need to add 10% more productivity - that's difficult to achieve.

"In the emerging markets we need to go back to basics - it's more about growing the market and there are two drivers for this.

"There are the international standards of construction, where western companies are working in the emerging markets and implementing western methods of productivity and safety.

"And, increasingly, safety, as human life becomes more valuable because the eyes of the world are on developing regions.

"I believe there's some really nice growth to come," said Mr Saubot.

Thibault Mouillefarine, is Haulotte's marketing and customer services director, he said, "We are one of the big three "full-line" manufacturers, we don't need to increase the range we need to improve it.

"We don't want it to be a commodity business with me-too machines. Perhaps we have too many machines in the range and we are not entirely satisfied with every machine"

During the last two years Haulotte has been carrying out a huge satisfaction survey, gathering detailed information from customers and end users about they really want from their access equipment.

Mr Saubot said, "If we replace product have to be able to say why it's better, what the benefits are. If we have good product already why pay for further R&D.

"If we have to slow down releasing new product it's a reasonable trade off. The current range is good, not perfect - the next generation will be perfect."

In the last two years there's been lots of time to consult customers, Haulotte has always listened to feed back from customers but has been formalising the process, collecting information from on-line surveys, direct interviews and feedback from the field.

The company is now putting together a database of what customers really want and is using that information to prioritise product development.

During the development process, Mr Mouillefarine says Haulotte continues to meet with customers, "From listening to launch. That's how we will develop our USP (unique selling point)."

"The result will possibly be fewer launches than in the past but they will be the best in the category, we want to offer the "Wow factor.""

"When we launch a new machine they'll be more modifications, for example more compact, faster, more robust easier to maintain and repair."

"There will still be a place for brainstorming and innovation in-house, research and innovation has been brought closer to marketing and we will be listening to ideas for products in all of industry - enlarging the funnel of innovation."

Haulotte also recognises that it has to be able to respond to the different sophistication of markets. For example in manufacturing for the Asia Pacific market there are hugely mature markets, such as Japan, plus emerging markets, such as China.

The principal is to start with a machine of the same quality for all markets and tailor it to the user by, for example, having more simple or more sophisticated controls.

Mr Mouillefarine said, "I can foresee making substantial changes to the range as a continual process."

He explains the three processes of machine modifications that will be employed.

There will be the small. simple modifications which are easy to carry out - perhaps just a slight change in the production method, or a different component.

There will machines to which Haulotte might want to make several changes, most of which will again be relatively easy to achieve. These will be full modifications of existing models, for example we will see a modified Compact 10 scissor next year.

Then, when it is decided too many modifications need to be made, a new machine will be designed to serve that section of the market.

"It could be that we find we have too many machines and may cull some from range - If your machine is number 4 in the market dump it," says Mr Mouillefarine.

Early next year, using some of the new product development techniques Haulotte plans to launch a new telescopic boom in the 21- 23m range. The first machine completely embedded in the new style of development will be an articulated boom planned to be ready for 2013.

Mr Saubot believes that by really listening to what customers want from their equipment and realising the different challenges experienced in every market Haulotte will be better positioned to handle the inevitable cyclical nature of the powered access market.

"We can't erase the cycle because 60 -70% of business is rental construction and it will remain that way, but Haulotte can manage the cycle - an 80% collapse no! - but that's unusual normally the market falls between 30 - 40%"

"Cycles will get shorter and with globalisation the will move around the world faster, but this could mean the cycles will reduce in size.

"Right now I think we're mid-cycle with some good years to come. Over next two to three years there should be sustainable recovery, hopefully supported by a better macro economy."

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