‘Tis The Season
Don’t worry. This isn’t one of those Christmas in October posts that will raise your blood pressure by making you think about gift lists and credit card balances. The season that I’m referring to is the annual increase in R & D activity that dominates the last quarter of the year. Whether its developing brand new products or the tweaks, modifications and tinkering to existing products, this is the time of year we roll up our sleeves and put on our lab coats.
There are many reasons for this yearly flurry of product development activity. Our customers use the last three months of the year to implement product introductions and improvements. They come to us looking for the casters and wheels that will facilitate their product launch plans. Sometimes that’s based on engineering specs but very often it’s based on a description of what they need a caster to do or how they want it to look.
That’s where our fully resourced engineering team gets involved. In fact, we roll out the R & D red carpet for our customers. We can go from concept to carton including 3D modeling and testing. Equally important, after 50 years in the business, we have the know-how and experience to recommend the finishing and components that take a caster from being just functional to being a superstar. We consider every aspect of a caster – from axle sizes and bearings to washers and stems to heat treating and plating. Better yet, we know how to produce economically without compromising on safety or standards.
Lots of the last-quarter activity is driven by our own internal product development. When you eat, sleep and dream casters like I do, you’re always coming up with ideas for new or improved product. Our R & D people are used to me sending them sketches I’ve created on my iPad. At this time of the year, our weekly engineering meetings are dominated by new product discussions.
Our customers light a fire under our R & D activity. Aside from formal product development requests, much of the inspiration for new and improved product comes from my many meetings with customers. Comments that begin with, “if only there was a caster that …” or “why isn’t possible to …” have led to some of our most successful products.
Product R & D leads directly to the development of capital equipment. To do more, better and faster takes the right machinery in our fully integrated manufacturing facility. In the past three years, we initiated an unprecedented capital expansion program that has exponentially improved our capacity – both in terms of range and volume.
The truth is that R& D is an ongoing process. We are always thinking about how to produce better product that is more reliable, cost efficient and can can be delivered on time. Practically, however, our own design and development comes second to meeting the needs of customers. That means we are using the last quarter of the year to focus on what we will introduce in 2020. We have bold plans for the new year and you can look forward to some interesting developments in low profile, heavy duty and stainless steel casters.
You won’t find R & D season on a calendar or in the Farmers Almanac. But, for us at Algood, there isn’t a more important time of the year.