Cycle Country: A renewed emphasis on new products – January 22, 2007
January 22, 2007
Filed under Features
Cycle Country Accessories Corp. provided a glimpse of some of its new products that it will be bringing to this year’s Dealer Expo.
What those new accessories are probably isn’t as initially interesting as the sheer number of new products the Iowa manufacturer will display.
Cycle Country CEO Randy Kempf, new himself, said company officials told him the manufacturer had not introduced new product since 2003 or 2004. That’s all changing this year as Cycle Country will be displaying at least nine new items.
“One of the reasons they brought me onboard to run the ship is to take the history I have of developing new products and apply it here,” said Kempf, who was hired to run the company last fall. “I think we got a pretty good start on that.”
The start of the barrage of new products actually began shortly before Kempf was hired away from his former firm, Wessels Co., a maker of pressure vessels for fluid control applications.
Before Kempf’s arrival, interim CEO John Gault held a brainstorming session with the company’s sales, marketing and engineering teams. Upon his hiring, Kempf started with that brainstorming list and, along with his managers, identified top new product ideas. Then, Kempf and Brad Danbom, the company’s national sales manager, visited a number of dealerships and met with distributors. From that, the two “came out with a bunch of new ideas just in talking with them about what kind of things their customers were asking for and what was the hot item.”
To increase focus on new product production, Kempf also made some internal personnel changes and put together a development schedule that put a priority on getting certain projects completed. The company also has invested more in research and development.
“In essence, I’ve doubled the design resources that we have since I’ve started and look to be increasing that based on the continued flow of new product ideas from customers,” Kempf said.
Some of those new product ideas have been for UTVs, which continue to post double-digit sales growth according to some manufacturers. Because Cycle Country wants to put an emphasis on UTV products, Kempf said the company is likely to have a “blinged out” Rhino at its Indy booth, decked out with an array of accessories.
“Some of the (company’s) new products, in some cases, are looking at products that are already out there and saying, ‘Geez, that’s not a good solution.’ And coming up with a better solution. Not a me-too, but a better solution,” Kempf said. “And others were, ‘Gee, nobody has done or thought of that. But man, that’s a great idea. So let’s go do it.’ So we are.”
The speed in which the company can produce new products has surprised Kempf, a former executive of two Indiana manufacturing companies.
“We can come up with a new product idea on Monday,” he said, “have a design done by Tuesday, a prototype by Wednesday and a sample out by Friday. It takes us a day to paint it. And then we take it out and mount it on the front of the ATVs and UTVs that we have here and abuse it to make sure it will last. Our ability to turnaround a new product is staggering.”
Besides producing new products, the company recently finished a three-year business plan that outlines short-term and long-term goals. Some of those include increasing international sales, becoming ISO-certified as well as developing products for existing markets and developing new markets for existing products.
What the outlook boils down to, Kempf said, is “getting back to the fundamentals of listening to our customers and our markets and responding with competitively priced, high-quality products that meet those needs.”