Innovation is key to MANN+HUMMEL’s success, not only with product development, but also our approach to the market. To better understand our customer’s requirements for the next generation of filters and, more importantly, how they want to expand and grow their business, we are prioritizing regular communication and product feedback. You can’t expect customers to develop your products for you – as they don’t know what is technically feasible and how our filters could make their job more efficient or their life easier. But if we know where our customers want to be in five- or ten-years’ time, we will be able to contribute to their success. Customers live in a world of unknown-unknown’s and it is our responsibility to uncover the possibilities and bring them to life.
Take for example a Fleet Manager; his primary concern is increasing the uptime of his machines. The dust load of a particular filter, whilst interesting, is not necessarily his overarching concern – but a prediction of the life expectancy of that filter certainly is. If we can tell him the filter in his excavator is nearing the end of its life, he can replace it before it goes onsite – reducing the possibility of the equipment breaking down in the field. Now, suddenly, our products are VERY interesting.
A new product with a new approach
We needed to develop something new within our product portfolio – a range of sensors which would boost efficiency and optimize maintenance. This part of the value chain is not novel to MANN+HUMMEL, but the approach is. Our HR department was the first to feel the effect – we needed to employ, amongst others, service designers, UX programmers, data scientists, and business modelers with experience in subscription-based services. And, in order to support subscription-based services and future digital products, this new model necessitated things like an infrastructure to support big data, rigid data protection practices, and commissioning cloud-based services.
Our approach is agile, an area which MANN+HUMMEL, like many other companies, is exploring and adopting. Agile quickly delivers a working software product, thanks to short iterations – bursts of incremental builds to achieve a given goal. This approach quickly gave us a MVP, minimum viable product, which we could take to market; Senzit.
The creation of Senzit
Senzit is aimed at Fleet Managers and Mechanics, giving them real-time updates on their fleet’s dust load, engine hours and equipment location through the Senzit app and web portal. This helps our customers to increase productivity, profitability, visibility and uptime.
Senzit was launched as a pilot in the US and Canadian markets in Spring of this year. Thanks to the short iterations, we have been able to quickly refine the product over the months, improving the quality and user experience. Product development has brought MANN+HUMMEL even closer to our customers. The key is an open, transparent approach. We show our customers first ideas, dummies, and proposals to register interest and reaction, so we can truly tailor the service to our customer’s needs.
For instance, the introduction of GPS tracking came from such an iteration. We were already monitoring the location of device and soon realized that it could be used to track the vehicle itself – something our customers were keen to use, even though it has nothing to do with the filter technology.
Senzit really has been a “banana product” – it ripens at the customer. Thanks to continuous customer feedback, we can develop a product that meets their needs. And, customers are happy as there is no inherent technological risk – remember having to choose between VHS and Beta or Blu-Ray and DVD? If you chose the wrong technology, you were stuck with a dud. That won’t happen with Senzit, the product is constantly improving and evolving due to an inherently iterative relationship.
As we begin pilots in the European, South American and Australian markets, we aim to continue the conversation with our customers and achieve a robust global customer advisory board.
Adapting to the future
This is just one example of how MANN+HUMMEL is moving forward. This type of product development and launch are very different to those of traditional products. Thanks to the Agile approach and our short iterations, we can hone products to closely serve customer needs and go-to-market faster than ever before.