Think out of the box, broaden your horizons and remove ideological blinkers. New products are not only the result of new application areas. Sometimes opportunities arise for an existing article which were previously unknown. One should then make use of the opportunity. Often you have to look for it and sometimes it simply falls into your hands – which is just what happened to my colleagues and myself with the coolant expansion tank.
My department in Speyer sells various products to customers who produce compressors. This includes, for example, oil filters, air cleaners and air/oil separators. Some but not many compressors are equipped with water cooling and therefore they need a coolant expansion tank. This provides the compressor with cooling water when this is needed due to evaporation. In addition, it has a compensation function realised through thermal expansion of the cooling water. Four years ago, MANN+HUMMEL launched the Modular Coolant Reservoir (MCR) on the market. The modular design of the coolant expansion tank makes it easy to adapt.
We took such a tank to a workshop at a customer. We did this mainly to present the wide range of our products. But immediately after an engineer at the customer noticed the tank it was clear to see that an idea had come into his head. He quickly consulted with a colleague. The product was just the right thing for their compressor. The tank previously used by the customer was made from welded steel which had a number of disadvantages, such as corrosion. Apart from that, it involved a manual production process which was associated with high costs. In addition, changes were also necessary. In order to check the liquid level, for example, a level indicator tube had to be fitted.
Our product, on the other hand, is made of transparent plastic. The filling level can therefore be checked at any time. Depending on the requirements, a filling level sensor can also be fitted which is connected to the compressor control system. The MCR series consists of a number of modules which can be flexibly put together to cover the requirements of different applications.
Normally this product is used for combustion engines produced in small series. We had no idea that the compressor products of our customer included a coolant expansion tank. MANN+HUMMEL is known for its filters. Furthermore, the company is also one of the largest producers of such tanks in the automotive industry.
In this case we were even able to use a standard part from the catalog as a wide selection was also available. It was not necessary to make any changes because the product with its modular system is already adaptable. After I had received the drawing of the original tank in metal, I looked for a product with similar dimensions where the connections would be suitable. I first of all sent a 3D model to the customer, and then a sample. The customer then tested the sample. Everything worked well and the tank has now been approved for series production.
A big surprise
Although I’m a person who sometimes also looks left or right and not always obstinately straight ahead, this result was a real surprise for me. We mostly sell series products from our catalog and seldom make changes. But the fact that the process was so simple with this customer did surprise me. This is proof for me that one always has to strive to achieve change and consider new possibilities. I came to this conclusion some time ago and that is just what it takes to achieve leadership and best performance. I always have a look to see if a product can be used somewhere else. Perhaps it will be put to an unintended use, but it works. This creates opportunities for us and the product.