The Feedback Loop:
To kick off MTS in Motion, I wanted to start by discussing something that is important to our readers; feedback.
How do customers & others in the value chain of MTS improve our product from their feedback?
Feedback is a keystone of our business, and the feedback loop is how we best visualize it. Take the different forms of feedback experienced at the output and efficiently get it in the hands of the teams controlling the input. In business, whoever can do this best, WINS.
Keys to a Successful Feedback Loop:
Recognize the Multiple Levels of Feedback
What starts off simple can quickly get complicated. Who is the customer? What is the feedback we should obtain? What feedback should be more important than others? To be successful, feedback comes from all levels. Everyone involved in the product life cycle is a customer in some way. Here’s just a few of the areas we look to harvest feedback from:
· Equipment operators
· Equipment Managers
· Jobsite supervisors
· Factory Employees
· Dealer Employees
The challenge is balancing the different avenues of feedback. (More to come on this subject in a later blog!)
Actively shorten the feedback loop
The faster we get quality feedback into the hands of those that can make improvements; the faster we get to where our customers want us to be. Putting that statement into action is where the hard work begins. Below are just a couple areas that MTS focuses on to strategically shorten the feedback loop.
· Get the data from the front lines to the engineers in a pure form: MTS Product Specialists are on our front lines every day and they receive the purest form of feedback (whether they want to hear it or not). One of the most critical areas being product demonstrations on customer’s jobsites. Everyone is actively giving feedback throughout this process. After the demo, the Product Specialist completes a written demo report. These demo reports do not get “watered down” from middle management, but rather get sent directly to our engineering team and other key stakeholders. This allows everyone to hear directly from the field where we’re winning, and where we’re losing at. If needed, action can take place immediately.
· Reap the data out of warranty claims: To me, there is no better feedback than warranty claims. While no manufacturer wants to talk openly about warranty, it’s where the battle is won & lost, and I can tell you the details count in this category.
Just one example of small details is our picture requirement from the dealers. When MTS first
started our tractor line in 2014, we enacted a requirement of (2) pictures per warranty claim. This was originally met with more than a little pushback from dealers, but thanks to those smart phones and everyone’s persistence, we get quality pictures with our claims. These pictures and reports are shared with our engineering team, and others within the service side to make them aware of past experiences. These pictures are also used to build cases with our vendors to improve the product in a factual way, along with improving our own quality in-house. Some dealers have implemented the picture requirement across the board for other OEM warranty work as well, which is a testament to how beneficial it can be!
Also want to take a moment, and give a shout out to our Ziegler & Butler field techs. Some of the highest quality feedback comes from your teams! Thank you.
· Get the vendors playing on your team: In early 2016, we did something that we’ve never done before. We organized a one week trip to visit early adaptors of our Generation II 3630 tractors with key vendors of the tractor. We travelled in a wonderful COVID-free world (how I miss those days) where we spent hours in vehicles talking with key decision makers of the engine, transmission, assembly, and overall engineering. When we arrived at our destinations, we shared lunch and conversations with operators of the machines. There is where we learned our areas of short comings and success. The beauty was our venders that had never seen the tractor’s natural habitat got to experience it firsthand. At the end of these trips our vendors walk away with a renewed passion for MTS and our mission, and our customers appreciated the time that we took to listen to them. To this day, we continue to do such trips after a new model release in the same fashion.
Improved Oil Fill Cap Old Style Oil Fill Cap
During one such trip, we were hearing of a short-coming where an oil fill cap on the engine was not user friendly and proved problematic. This feedback continued throughout the trip, and became the primary subject of the meeting. Today, our vendor; CAT Industrial Engines manufacturers our C18 engines with an improved cap style. It’s my personal opinion that if these key people where not on this trip to witness the caps’ inconvenience firsthand, this improvement would have never happened. It’s one thing to hear a complaint over the phone, but when you can witness the people it affects in person, the message resonates much stronger.
· Do more than send designers to jobsites: A unique benefit to our manufacturing business is our sister company; C.J. Moyna & Sons. They’re a mid-western contracting business primarily working in the state of Iowa. This has allowed many opportunities to MTS. One such example is where our engineering manager was able to work several weekends at a nearby jobsite operating a 3630T & 23-28 scraper. He was surrounded by seasoned operators that gave him feedback on operation. It’s easy to guess what happens next… Our engineering manager is that much more understanding of what happens in the day to day of an operator, and because of those experiences, the quality of thoughtfulness for the operator is better represented on the front side of the design. That is only one such example, but there are many more MTS employees that jump on the opportunity to help as “weekend warriors” for CJ Moyna & Sons. Keep finding that weekend work guys!
If you’re still reading this blog: Thank You, as it’s a first for me. This is just a quick snapshot of our day to day passion that drives what we do. If you’re in the value chain of MTS whether it’s as a dealer employee, customer, or even an MTS employee; thank you for any past feedback, and please keep the feedback coming for us to improve. It’s leading to our success every day!
Justin Augustyn, Vice President
Mobile Track Solutions