"Ford Heavy Duty Trucks—The Next Generation"
by Richard Stewart for MDI Creative/Ford Motor Company, ©1995
The Story of the people and process involved in developing
and bringing two all-new lines of trucks to market
CHAPTER 1 - Brainstorming & Benchmarking
"This was the first new truck we had looked at in Ford
Heavy Truck in over two decades. The first step was to
brainstorm with a small group and try to put down
everything we thought we'd want in the new product.
We did that and soon realized we needed two separate
lines — an evolutionary replacement for the L-Series
and a revolutionary, all-new, over-the-road tractor."
—Ed Proctor, Manager, Ford Worldwide Truck
Strategy and Planning
The initial brainstorming session lasted three weeks. Ten
people representing Ford product planning, vehicle engineering,
design engineering, the controller's office, sales, marketing, the
Kentucky Truck Plant, and the Design Center came together as
a team for three weeks in January 1989. Their sole assignment
was to brainstorm and come up with ideas for the perfect heavy
truck and define the parameters of the new-product program.
That included calculating cost assumptions, estimating investment
requirements, and producing an overall product development
strategy, complete with model alignment and an introduction
sequence. Plus, they were charged with identifying the most
effective methods of acquiring customer and dealer input.
No small job.
Building A Wish List
"They locked us in a room from eight in the morning 'til about
six at night," recalls Dean Lindquist, Ford Heavy Truck Central
Region Training Manager. "Our job was to come up with a
whole new line of trucks that we thought — by our own
experience and perceptions — the customers wanted," he
recounts. "Several of us were from the field and were out selling
and working with customers. We all realized it would be the
customer who had the last say in the trucks we were planning
Greg Hamel, Chief Product Analyst, represented product
planning and acted as a facilitator in the meetings. The team knew
a "big bang" program was in order to bring the market what it
needed. "At first, we brainstormed the big picture," recalls Hamel.
"How many vehicles should the platform represent? Is it bigger
than a breadbox? Then we invited in the individual engineering
supervisors to ask for their recommendations." A wish list was
drawn up and the Ford Design Center was brought in to do initial
sketches and package work.
What Do Customers Want?
In the spring and summer of 1990, research was conducted to
produce a planning matrix of customer-driven priorities. The
methodology used in that project and in subsequent customer
research for the program is known as a quality function
deployment or QFD. It's a structured way of gathering, analyzing
and comparing data on customer perceptions and opinions. QFDs
are used to answer three questions: What do customers want?
How do they want it delivered? And how much of it is needed to
satisfy them? QFDs can define customer priorities and quantify
their significance. Used by Ford Heavy Truck for the first time in
this program, the QFD process proved invaluable for gathering
customer input on truck systems and styling, as well as on
marketing and support programs.
The very first QFD research focused on the total vehicle, to
determine the customers' top priorities. A variety of topics were
addressed, ranging from safety features, maintenance, and seat
adjustments to fuel efficiency, warranty, and purchase price. The
findings were used to develop bottomline targets for the product
development effort. More than 600 customers from various parts
of the U.S. participated in the initial research. Subsequent research
focused on driver comfort, minimum downtime, and other
Examining the Competition
Careful evaluation of the competition also figured heavily in the
research. In the spring of 1991, a three-day benchmarking project
was conducted to examine Ford's heavy truck competitors. At the
Michigan Proving Ground, engineers, designers, product planners,
plant personnel, technicians, and customers pored over 14 Class 8
vehicles — measuring, photographing, undoing and adjusting.
Sixteen subsystems were identified and evaluated.
The hands-on benchmarking process helped the engineers better
understand customer ratings of competitive vehicles and how other
truck OEMs approach the design vehicle systems. While design
engineers closely inspected systems and components, development
engineers conducted performance evaluations on the body, chassis,
powertrain, and other vehicle systems. Of special interest were
plumbing and wiring, because research showed that nobody in the
heavy truck industry was doing an orderly job of routing air lines
or electrical wiring. The QFD process confirmed that neatness in
plumbing and wiring is a quality indicator.
Conventional wisdom and the experience of the team, the
customer research data, and the benchmarking results were taken
together to lay the groundwork for the product development program.
In addition, competitive vehicle evaluation data gathered from a
year-long engineering study was incorporated into the growing body
of information. Well-armed with comparative data and customer
feedback, the team of engineers and designers was ready to proceed.
Epilogue — A Truck for Tomorrow
"We looked at ways to change the L-Series by stretching the cab
and giving it a nose job. But we realized that the levels of customer
satisfaction we wanted couldn't be achieved without redesigning
the entire truck, including the cab, around our customers' wants."
— Dave Bardsley, Manager, Ford Heavy Truck
Customer Interface and Business Strategy Department
At the Heavy Truck Sales and Marketing Office in Dearborn,
they answer the phone by saying, "Truck Leadership." It's the
goal Ford set for itself with these new products. Posters and wallet
cards serve as constant reminders of the Ford Heavy Truck mission:
To establish and maintain leadership in the medium/heavy
truck business in customer satisfaction, sales, market share,
and franchise value, while providing Ford and its dealers a
reasonable return on investment. Success will be measured
by our customers.
Truck leadership. Even the pessimists are intrigued by the
possibilities. They've seen the QFD research findings on how
customers perceive the new products. A comparison of those
findings with customer satisfaction data on the L-Series shows
marked improvements in customer perceptions of the Louisville
and AeroMax models. Where L-Series was rated "competitive"
in terms of fuel economy and downtime, the new vehicles are
rated "among the leaders." In terms of vehicle weight, too,
customers judged the new Fords to be among the industry leaders.
Talk to the dealers, engineers, designers, manufacturing people,
and suppliers about their experience in the program, which spanned
several years in most cases. You'll hear glowing reports on the
benefits of co-location and dedicated teams — better teamwork
and productivity than they'd ever seen before.
Ask them to rate the new product. You'll hear them say things
like "leapfrogs the competition" and "stuns the market." But they
aren't the only ones impressed by what they've accomplished.
Customers are lining up for test drives, Ford owners and owners
of competitive trucks, alike. Dealers are more optimistic than
they've been in years. They, too, are thinking Truck Leadership
and that Ford has hit a homerun!
How Do You Feel at Day's End?
You might compare new-product programs to driving heavy
trucks. You can either feel reasonably good at the end of the day
— like you worked hard, but you're not exhausted — or you can
feel like you were just beaten to death by the hardware you were
operating. This new-product program broke ground for Ford Heavy
Truck and Ford Motor Company in terms of reduced development
cost and program timing. It produced a driver's truck, one that is
capable of taking industry leadership.
But how did the team members feel at the end of the day? One
Ford Heavy Truck dealer who participated in the program from the
beginning points to a photo of the rakish AeroMax tractor on his
office wall and says, "...like I just climbed down out of that. How
else could I feel? My customers are going to love this truck"
Copyright © 1998-2008 Stewart & Associates Communication Arts. All rights reserved.