Loading up on innovation
By Bobcat CompanyNews Supplier stories
A new Bobcat Company and Doosan Infracore Construction Equipment
facility that can house advanced product innovation and accelerated
learning is now open in Bismarck, N.D. Company employees, elected
officials and members of the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce
celebrated the grand
opening on Aug. 5, marking the completion of a $28-million renovation project.
A new Bobcat Company and Doosan Infracore Construction Equipment facility that can house advanced product innovation and accelerated learning is now open in Bismarck, N.D. Company employees, elected officials and members of the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce celebrated the grand
opening on Aug. 5, marking the completion of a $28-million renovation project.
|“Kiva” rooms have whiteboard walls to stimulate discussion and creativity. They are just one of the innovative elements Bobcat has introduced to help engineers come up with new ideas. Here, Bobcat president Rich Goldsbury shows the room to guests at the grand opening event.
Located within the Northern Plains Commerce Centre, the 35-acre
Acceleration Center will be home to 175 individuals — primarily
engineers — focused on initial design, prototype engineering, prototype
manufacturing, computer simulation and testing of ideas and concepts.
“We spent an awful lot of time designing what we really wanted and how we wanted it to work,” said Rich Goldsbury, president of Bobcat Company and Doosan North America. “How we did that was by benchmarking world-leading companies. For example, this building has no offices, and that’s to build collaboration between our teams. We even built a round room called a ‘kiva,’ which is meant to spur innovative ideas in a room where you can draw on the walls.”
In addition to having a collaborative, open office environment, the center is equipped with modern devices and software systems that expedite leading-edge engineering and product and process development.
The company broke ground on the Acceleration Center project in May 2013. The entire project — including the original building built in 2005 — capped a total $43 million investment by Bobcat and Doosan in the Northern Plains Commerce Centre. Bobcat Company also has an attachments production facility in Bismarck, and its manufacturing, production control and logistics group has been there since 2012.
On-site product development
The two-story, 190,000-square-foot facility includes a 22-acre outside testing and product development space. Inside the facility is a 35,000-square-foot testing area with 420,000 cubic feet of Class 5 dirt that reaches 12 feet deep. Product specialists and other employees will be able to operate equipment year-round inside and show products to customers and dealers on a regular basis.
Senior engineering manager Jeret Hoesel said the indoor “sandbox” allows engineers to dig, pack and re-dig the soil and still retain consistent test results each day. As a project leader, Hoesel will no longer have to schedule projects around North Dakota’s long winters and can test the machines on-site. Engineers can build a prototype, bring a customer to the facility and flesh out any questions about the product in three days, rather than three months.
Two observation rooms provide an area where employees and visitors can watch video presentations and equipment being operated simultaneously, all from a comfortable, climate-controlled area. The glass viewing rooms have seating for 28 individuals on the ground floor and seating for 16 on the second floor.
Having on-site product development saves engineers and Bobcat customers valuable time, making it more about the individuals themselves. A people-centered focus is what the facility will thrive off of and what will ultimately make it successful, said director Matt Sagasar. “It’s about the people,” Sagasar says. “The building isn’t where we innovate; we innovate within each other. Our capability to innovate becomes easier when we introduce an environment where people interact more.”
|The Acceleration Centre features a huge indoor sand pit where engineers can try out their latest designs.
Ideas will be able to flow freely, which will ultimately “accelerate innovation,” according to Bobcat employee, Reeve Southam.
The Acceleration Center is anticipated to be a key engineering facility for all Bobcat compact equipment distributed globally and also will serve some of the research and development needs for Doosan heavy equipment. “We built the compact equipment industry, and continue to set standards and reach milestones no other manufacturer can match — and that was all accomplished right here in North Dakota,” Goldsbury said. “We are very proud to call North Dakota home, and we’re proud to continue growing our engineering and innovation foundation in Bismarck.”
The open office design of the Acceleration Center promotes collaboration among employees. The company encourages employees to move around the building and change work areas, so much so that is designed workstations to be relocated in five minutes or less. Employees receive a lockable, wheeled file cabinet to keep some work items near them; otherwise, orange-painted lockers are available for more storage capacity. It’s all done in an effort to keep employees mobile and interacting with one another.
The building also has some unique features such as two treadmill desks where employees can work while they walk, a shuffleboard table, a classic arcade game station and fireplaces surrounded by comfortable furniture for casual meetings. Employees can purchase food in the new Roughrider Café by paying with a debit or credit card, or with a thumbprint after they create an account with the vending provider.
Bobcat Company is pursuing LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for design and construction of the Acceleration Center.
Impacting the future
Both Bobcat and Doosan have a long history of producing quality products, and the opening of the Acceleration Center is anticipated to add another layer of accelerated innovation, concept development and testing of Bobcat products. Additionally, it is also designed to attract and retain talented professionals to help continue Bobcat and Doosan’s success for years to come.
Previously, young engineers going to school at North Dakota State University would leave the state for work in cities like Minneapolis, according to Goldsbury. Bobcat is hoping the new Acceleration Center will help keep new engineers in North Dakota. Goldsbury said 35 to 40 of the Acceleration Center’s employees have been out of school for one year or less. About one-third of the Acceleration Center’s staff is made up of employees filling newly created positions — as older employees retired across the state, the new ones were hired in Bismarck. “It’s a spark of an idea to enable our company to build world-leading products for the future. Not just for tomorrow, but for five, 10 and 15 years down the road,” Goldsbury said.
Including the 175 employees at the Acceleration Center, Bobcat has 240 total full-time salaried employees in Bismarck, and another 400 hourly employees at the Bismarck factory.
Building on history
Bobcat continues to be a powerful force in the industry with its history dating back to 1947 when Melroe Manufacturing Company manufactured agricultural equipment, including the Melroe Pickup, in Gwinner, North Dakota. In the 1950s, brothers Cyril and Louis Keller operated a small machinist-blacksmith shop in Minnesota, repairing machinery for local farmers. A farmer approached the Keller brothers with a need for a self-propelled loader light enough to be lifted to the second floor of a turkey barn and small enough to clean around the barn’s upright poles. In 1957, the Kellers built a three-wheeled loader with two drive wheels in front and a caster wheel in the rear — the precursor to the modern skid-steer loader. The loader came to the attention of Melroe Manufacturing Company, which invited the Kellers to demonstrate their invention at the Minnesota State Fair in 1958. At the fair, the Melroes purchased the rights to the machine and hired Cyril and Louis Keller to refine the design and put the machine into production. In order to improve on the design of the loader, a second set of drive wheels was added to the back of the loader in 1960. With this four-wheel drive, the M400 became the world’s first true skid-steer loader. “Skid steer” describes the unique steering system, which enables the machine to turn within its own length. Later, the Bobcat brand name was established because of the machine’s toughness, quickness and agility. Today, nearly one out of every two skid-steer loaders is a Bobcat machine.
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