Apple was in the news again this week with the introduction of new iPhones and Apple watches. The fact is that I’m an Apple addict. I use a Mac, I have an iPad, iPhone and an Apple watch. This isn’t some mindless infatuation. I use Apple products because they are brilliantly designed, incredibly functional and increase my productivity, helping me be more successful. Apple is also an inspiration for me. I admire the way they lead, innovate and design. The truth is that my ultimate goal is for Algood to be the Apple of the caster industry. Here’s how I think we might be able to do that.
Innovation is so important to us that we changed our name two years ago to Algood Caster Innovations. That kind of sets expectations and takes being a “me-too” company off the table. Rather, we are constantly pushing the boundaries on new product development. Last week, we introduced our new iLock mechanism for our smaller light duty series casters. We could have just miniaturized the existing design but rather we chose to re-think and consider what would make the product more useful for our customers. As a result, we extended the brake pedal to make it more accessible, added a lip for easier engagement and improved the teeth so that it will lock both hard and soft wheels. We also recognized that design without performance is superficial. We extensively tested the new mechanism subjecting it to 5,000 cycles of engagement and re-engagement. The result is not just a new product but new thinking.
Really, there are two aspects to design in the caster industry. First, you have to develop products that satisfy customer’s needs and specifications, while meeting the highest standards of performance. Our internal design and engineering team is relentless in pursuit of perfection. There’s no limit to the number of prototypes we will create to make sure we get it right. But here’s what’s most interesting. We have all the most up to date technology like 3D printers but that’s not what gives us our edge. Instead, it’s the fact that every team member feels a personal commitment to creating the very best products possible.
The other aspect to design is aesthetics and we understand that casters can and should look good. That’s why we were the first manufacturer to put hub caps on casters. We understand that casters add to overall visual appeal of any unit or fixture and reflect on the company whose name is attached to it. Design inspiration can come from all kinds of sources which is why I frequently go to trade shows for other industries and read (on my iPad of course) a wide range of magazines and journals.
One of the keys to Apple’s success is what they call unboxing – the experience of unpacking your new iPhone or Mac. We know that in the caster business, the joy of unboxing is opening a carton to find exactly what you ordered in perfect condition. That may sound simple but over the past few months I have heard countless stories of shipments from caster suppliers that contain substituted or defective products. What makes matters worse is that these suppliers are totally inflexible and refuse to take product back or issue refunds. Stories like that tick me off because they reflect badly on the industry but at the same time I understand that we differentiate ourselves by delivering the right products on time and on budget.
Customer experience is also determined by the quality of the contact with our customer service reps– and we make sure that every one of them are keenly aware of the impact they can have and that they are prepared for every call. Time and time again, when I travel to visit with our customers, I am thrilled to hear about their positive experiences with our CSRs.
Being the Apple of the caster industry may ultimately be an impossible dream. But by constantly focusing on those elements that have made Apple so successful, we will continue to do an unbelievable job of meeting our customers’ needs and be a caster manufacturer that is constantly improving. And there’s nothing wrong with that.