With gas prices creeping toward $4 a gallon, reducing fuel consumption continues to be a high priority for Miller Electric Mfg. Co.'s industrial and construction customers.
That and other customer needs were top of mind for Miller Electric when the company revamped its Trailblazer welder/generator system, which is smaller, lighter, quieter and more fuel-efficient than its predecessor, product manager Chris Wieschke explains in an interview with New Equipment Digest.
NED: Why did Miller Electric decide to market this product?
CW: End users across our primary market segments (construction, fabrication, MRO) have consistently highlighted reduced sound, better fuel efficiency and longer run times between refueling as items that are important or essential to their purchase decisions. We have taken that voice of our customer and updated both the Bobcat and Trailblazer lines with innovations built around their needs—bringing to market new efficiencies previously unseen in this class of equipment.
NED: How are these welder/generators different from similar products?
CW: The Trailblazer product has been completely revamped. Starting with the generator, one important feature that Trailblazer customers have always valued is its independent welder and generator system to ensure no interaction between the welding arc and loads applied to the generator. Our engineering staff came up with a way to not only provide a generator with independent weld and generator power, but also were able to reduce its size and weight at the same time.
We also enhanced the fuel efficiency and reduced the sound output. And finally, we incorporated a new package design that results in greater cooling and increased horsepower rating.
NED: What problems did you encounter during the development process?
CW: With product development, the biggest problem is always the time factor. You have all kinds of great ideas that we want to implement today, and that’s not always possible. I think if you ask any product developer, they would say the same thing: Innovation is fun without the constraints of time and budgets.
NED: How long did it take from conception to final production?
CW: Innovation doesn’t happen overnight. Some of the new features on the Trailblazer were invented many years ago. At the time, those invention were fantastic, but were further ahead of other driving technology to implement into a product. You have to integrate these inventions intelligently rather than throwing them in the mix just for the sake of doing it.
Also, technology sometimes costs more than the market is willing to bear. With gas prices approaching $4 per gallon, reducing fuel consumption is becoming more important than ever. Now was the perfect storm of customer demand, technology advances and the logical next steps in product development.
NED: Did cost factors play a role in changing the final design of the product? And, if so, in what way?
CW: Costs are always a consideration. However, they did not impact the final design of the new Trailblazer.
NED: Who do you consider your target audience to be and what benefits will they realize from using this product?
CW: The primary segments served are construction, fabrication, and maintenance and repair operations. Each will experience benefits in different ways, but the core benefits are the same: fuel savings, extended run times, quieter operation, space savings, and less weight.
Put in practical terms, that means cost savings associated with fuel savings, less time dealing with refueling machines (more time working), ability to work in populated areas without creating much noise, improved working environment, saves space on work trucks and on site, and is easier to move around.
NED: Please add any other interesting sidelights that you think our readers would enjoy knowing.
CW: One key test site was at the Lambeau Field expansion in Green Bay, WI. The machine was used there extensively in reinforcing large structural steel columns. It was also tested with a mobile fabricator in the Southwest who performs extensive equipment repairs, as well as in other sites throughout North America. Their feedback was in line with what we expected, with quieter operation and the extended run times receiving the most positive comments amongst test sites.
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