Extra Innings

Jan. 8, 2013

I never thought the construction industry was anything like baseball until I helped Walt Moore with a Field Test on the Bobcat T590 CTL.

You see, it’s been said about baseball that you can go out to the ballpark every day and see something you’ve never seen before. (They’d best not say that about a job site or OSHA might come calling.) But a couple of things struck me about this particular Field Test experience and our industry as a whole—things I’d never heard and never seen.

If I had a dime for every machine walk-around I’ve listened to or every sales training session I’ve attended, I’d be retired and living with Natalie Gulbis on a golf course I owned in Arizona. Yet never in my career have I heard any presenters say the following while pointing to a myriad of hydraulic hoses snaking inside iron:

“You’ll find very few 90-degree fittings in the hydraulic plumbing of an M-Series machine, because when you force oil to make right-angle bends, you waste horsepower and generate heat.” That’s what Bobcat’s Jeret Hoesel said to us.

He was a lead engineer on the M-Series project that spawned the T590. And looking at the hoses throughout the machine, darned if he wasn’t right (see above). Now I’ve spent years hearing about thousands of features and their corresponding how’s and why’s, but I’ve never actually heard anyone say what Jeret said.

Stunningly simple and logical.

Is it too elementary to be an innovation? Does everyone make it a point to route hydraulic hoses to avoid “elbows” and I just haven’t noticed? Or, is it that no one talks about it? Maybe it’s something so simple that it gets eclipsed by the complex issues—and cost considerations—in upgrading a piece of equipment. Well, not in Fargo.

Then there was Mike Fitzgerald, Bobcat’s loader product specialist. After a day of testing in the hot sun, Mike took us to a job site about 30 miles away in Barnesville, Minn. Should have been the end of the day. But he asked us to visit another place: Sabin, Minn., for a tour of the tiny town where he grew up.

He took us even further, maybe 50 miles or more out of Fargo, into Minnesota to his lake house, which had belonged to his parents. Showed us the family photos on the wall, the upgrades he’d made to the place, and his workshop. Finally, he took us out for an hour-plus sunset cruise on his pontoon boat.

Gliding over a Minnesota lake on a pristine night, we were hours past the end of our work day. He showed us everything; fishing spots, the local party sandbar, and a multimillionaire’s mansion on an adjacent lake.

All of this for people he doesn’t know that well, including one he’d never met (me).

Mike had started work early in the morning and wouldn’t get home until long after dark on a summer night when light lingered late. There would still be dinner and a drive back, all that distance. And none of his hospitality was going to get another page put into the article. Maybe he’d never even see us again.

Who does all that? Would a banker do that? A politician? I’ve never seen anyone do that, and I know no one’s done anything like that for me.

Only in this industry—still a comfortable home for innovation, and, well…genuineness.

About the Author

Frank Raczon

Raczon’s writing career spans nearly 25 years, including magazine publishing and public relations work with some of the industry’s major equipment manufacturers. He has won numerous awards in his career, including nods from the Construction Writers Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and BtoB magazine. He is responsible for the magazine's Buying Files.