CASE  dealers from across Australia gathered in Sydney for a national dealer conference, where they learned that CASE’s entire product line will be upgraded by the end of next year.

Visiting CASE executive, Vice President of Product and Brand Marketing, Bill Seidel, said fuel efficiency, improved reliability, simplified service and maintenance along with enhanced sound and vibration control would be key elements of future machines.

He said about 50% of the global product line is being upgraded this year, and the other 50% will be upgraded next year.

“CASE has been at the forefront of machinery manufacture for 165 years. Our aim is not to be the biggest player, but to be the best, and to that end we’ve allocated significant R&D resources to upgrading our entire portfolio of construction equipment products.”

The newly upgraded products will be driven by four imperatives for product development: reliability, fuel efficiency, serviceability, and sound and vibration control.

“We set benchmarks based on our existing products and our competitors’ products and then we set aggressive targets to beat those benchmarks. Our products are already rugged and durable, but we want to double the reliability of the line and lead the industry with lowest fuel consumption for work produced. We want service and maintenance to be easy with excellent access, and for sound and vibration levels to be as low as possible for both operators and bystanders.”

“As an example of the improvements customers will see, the new B series excavator line, with four models launched this year and the rest of the line to be launched in 2008, offers increased horsepower, improved hydraulic performance and faster cycle times - which all means you can move more material. But what’s more impressive is that the machines now use up to 20 per cent less fuel, which means even more value for the investment made.”

Seidel, on his first visit to Australia, said fuel efficiency would not only be an area of great improvement in the current round of upgrades, but would continue to be an important focus for the company over the coming years.

“Fuel economy is becoming more and more important, as is ease of operation, especially given the worldwide shortage of skilled operators. New ‘smart’ machines are able to increase the effectiveness of operators through the use of performance and productivity settings that tailor the machine for differing conditions. We’re introducing auto functions on several of our machines to improve both operator and machine capabilities.”

According to Seidel, the customer has and always will play an important part in product development at CASE. “Early customer feedback is extremely important. We dissect our markets regionally and within each region we look at a number of key applications.” Then we go and talk directly with customers about their requirements and this is fed into the definition and development of the product.

“We are employing the latest technology to assist in our product development process. For example, we have a new virtual reality studio that allows customers to take simulated reviews of products in development. We can sit the customer down and take them through, say, a new skid steer.

We can show them where we’ve located the daily service points or ask them to check if the controls are in the right place for ease of use and good ergonomics. The customer can actually operate the machine virtually, so we can see what works in different situations, how good the visibility to the jobsite is and then we can tailor the product immediately according to their feedback. It saves time and effort and ensures we get it right before we even build the first prototype.”

Seidel said the innovation of the company is backed by a strong local dealer network. “I am very impressed with the Australian dealer organisation. The dealers have a good perspective on the marketplace and their customers and they have been very open and enthusiastic to what we’ve had to say.”

In that vein, Seidel presented Rockhampton CASE dealer, Ron Milne, with an award for outstanding sales performance. The award was a happy surprise for Ron, who has been selling CASE products for 15 years.

“I didn’t know they were even giving the award, let alone that I had won it, so I was quite surprised!” said Ron, who plans to display the prize – an autographed Australian Rugby Legends jersey – at his dealership.

“The award was for sales over the past 12 months and for general commitment to the brand. I see the key to my success as excellent service support, a strong and well-accepted product name in the market place and the ongoing support of the brand.”

The presentation of the award was one of the highlights of the two day dealer meeting, which also included overall performance updates, product reviews and marketing updates.