Lean is the new black in powersports. Lean principles are a science unto themselves, so this column is a broader summary of random types of waste in our industry. With the market still somewhat floundering, it is a good time to focus on how to get more out of what we already have. Please use the comments section at the end to add your own thoughts.
There is nothing more embarrassing than a script that is intended as drama but received as comedy. Some marketing campaigns waste large amounts of money because they aim for serious branding but play customers for fools, or they appeal mainly to the unique creative tastes of the marketing people themselves. Internet activity tracking is powerful, but not perfect. Here is where the Lean concept of Gemba, and the Gemba walk, is needed. Connect directly with your customers. Get muddy on an ATV and get dusty and wind-blown on a bike. Walk a trade show as if you are a buyer. Walk into a dealership and pretend you know nothing about the products and “feel” what steers you. Go to an online store and see if your product is easy to find in searches — it’s amazing what a difference goofy little details like product names have on SEO. The bottom line is that everyone on the marketing team should live their customer’s experience as often as possible.
Dealers waste an unbelievable amount of potential sales. Reading the dealer consultant columns on these august pages, one would think that only around 10% of people walking into a dealership end up spending money, and only about 70% even have a sales person bother to talk to them. Here’s a thought--could a dealership put a display right at the exit with hats, ATV-styled kids toys, and I don’t know….sunglasses? Grocery chains long ago picked up on low-dollar impulse buys like these. OEMs waste sales too. I did a small amount of consulting for a Chinese OEM recently. They have no branded accessories. None. Not even shirts and hats. Also, nearly every powersports brand should consider having a UTV line. These products and accessories have the flattest 12 month sales cycle and the broadest applications which makes them more recession-proof. At a bare minimum, a private-label arrangement can be used to fill this void.
Engineers are an untapped sales resource within most organizations. Like everyone else, many engineers tend to focus on what is important to them instead of what is important to the customer. There are infinite customer touch points on vehicles and accessories that could be optimized at no charge for a better customer experience, and the engineers will do it as long as management frees them up to and sets solid boundaries. Another area of design waste is in weight. As emissions requirements get more demanding, and as electrics and hybrids ramp up, every component should be kept as heavy as it needs to be and no more. Electrical components often sneak under the radar when weight is considered. Remember that ounces add up to pounds very quickly.
A lot of gas goes to waste in our machines at the end of the riding season. We are a seasonal use industry so we should lead the way in providing clean ways for people to drain and dispose of their gas, oil, etc. There’s nothing worse than starting off each year with a fuel system gummed up with last year’s petrol. Then there are the many batteries that customers allow to become boat anchors each year. One battery maintainer probably saves 2, 3 batteries or many more depending on how many rides are parked in one’s garage. Every powersports customer needs one.
As you can see, efficiency improvements abound — we just need to look at the definition of waste more broadly. Whether you feel you are dealing with oranges or lemons in your corner of our industry, there is usually a lot more juice to wring out of them. Please share your own observations along these lines below.
Gary Gustafson is President of G-Force Consulting, a firm that connects world-class suppliers with Motorcycle and UTV OEMs, develops strategic market research for new product entries, and provides innovation consulting. Visit www.gforceconsulting.com to learn more.