Construction equipment can be destructive to its surroundings. That’s why Gary Lemke and his colleagues introduced antigravity machines that, despite weighing up to 9,000 pounds, put less pressure on the ground than a child’s sneakers. One model, the Posi-Track, has been used to lay sod in historic Lambeau Field and dispose of live bombs in Panama. Industry heavyweights dig what Lemke has done: ASV has attracted a major investment from Caterpillar.
President and CEO, ASV Inc.
Grand Rapids, Minnesota
FROM GARY’S ORIGINAL ENTRY:
Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
Grand Rapids, Minnesota-based ASV faced a significant challenge when it introduced a new machine that would go head to head against one of the industry’s most entrenched products. The skid-steer (often referred to by the brand name Bobcat) had become the norm in terms of small construction with companies such as Bobcat, John Deere and Caterpillar building and selling skid-steers. And yet led by Founder and CEO Gary Lemke, along with his team of talented inventors, ASV suggested that its new RC-50 All Surface Loader was the replacement to this well-respected and long-used piece of machinery.
Lemke believed this because the RC-50 offered contractors, landscapers, the public and society a way to perform heavy-duty construction and landscape work and yet be kind to the environment at the same time. ASV’s technologically advanced rubber-tracked undercarriage allowed the weight of a machine to be transferred to the ground in a way never before realized–making a several thousand pound piece of equipment as light on the earth as a kindergartner in a pair of sneakers. In a sense, the machinery defied gravity. The technology, patented in 2001 after the ASV invention was used on its larger machinery, was used on the RC-50 introduced in the spring of 2002. With this system in place, the RC-50 has a chance not only to replace skid-steers, but for the industry to become more environmentally sensitive.
What was your moment of truth?
The skid-steer market is a multi-billion market. Because ASV’s technology could make a heavy machine light on the ground, yet with the traction, power and stability that increased performance, it became clear that ASV could compete head to head against the entrenched skid-steer–and win.
Work on the RC-50 began in the summer of 2001, and within several months (product development speed that is unheard of within the industry), ASV not only had invented the RC-50, but had tested and had launched it to the public. Not only was the machine highly productive in the field, but has been unprecedented in dependability.
The RC-50, with its sophisticated rubber-tracked undercarriage, utilized a series of wheeled contact points within the track that transfer the weight of the machine to the ground in such a manner that the 5,000 pound machine has a ground pressure of 2.7 psi (compared to the 6.0 psi of an average adult. In contrast, a typical skid-steer has a psi of 35, more than 10 times greater than the RC-50. (The exact date? 3/1/2001)
What were the results?
Over the past several months, the RC-50 has become the only true challenger to the skid-steer, and has begun to alter an entrenched industry that has trouble accepting change quickly. The technology is radical–a machine that can work more powerfully, efficiently, yet be environmentally sensitive.
The RC-50 has become ASV’s best seller. It has pushed competitors to continue in their effort to catch ASV with rubber-tracked machines. However, because of the unique design and patent of the ASV technology, there are currently no competitors who are challenging the technology directly. ASV also manufacturers the rubber-tracked undercarriage for Caterpillar (which owns 15 percent of ASV).
What’s your parting tip?
President and CEO Gary Lemke: “So many startup businesses think that the other person must be the expert, so they go around looking for advice. Really, if you have a new product, it’s hard to find advice on it. You have to realize that your people are the experts, and just rely on your own findings.”