GLIMPSES OF A HECTIC YEAR
For many Trimble employees and contractors, much of 2004 passed in a blur as the EZ-Steer system project ramped up from concept to design, from modification to prototype and from testing (plus more modification and more testing) to launch -- with thousands of critical related tasks in between.
"The team was diverse," says Engineering Manager Erik Wilson, PE, who represented the engineering team when interfacing with other Trimble disciplines. "An interesting aspect of Trimble is that there are three official managers on each project: one each for marketing, operations and engineering. While each of these has specific duties, there were often times during the development of EZ-Steer system when certain groups needed help from others. EZ-Steer could not have been developed in the accelerated time it was if the multiple groups had not worked together as well as they did."
Key team members offer these recollections of how EZ-Steer system touched their professional and personal lives in 2004 and early 2005:
"When it was first discussed, I thought the EZ-Steer concept sounded like a potentially simple idea which could be a breakthrough for the ag market. It eliminated a lot of complexity and cost associated with traditional hydraulic autosteering systems.
"When the first electric motor prototype was available, some of us got so excited that before the formal Trimble testing program began, we tested it in our cars on a quiet road. We just held the electric motor in our hands and forced it against the steering wheel. When we saw that it could drive down the road without crashing into parked cars we were pretty confident that we could turn it into a viable tractor steering system.
"My team and many of the engineering staff ended up working 60 to 100 hours per week for months to get EZ-Steer system working accurately, reliably and safely enough to release in March 2005."
Engineering Manager (first half of project)
Firmware Manager (second half of project)
"Due to the novelty of this design concept it was hard to convince people that it could work -- that it could be made to mount on hundreds of different tractor models. After we overcame that, time was our biggest hurdle. We had about nine months to conceive, create and manufacture the EZ-Steer.
"In the timeframe given, you really couldn't plan out what was going to happen because it went too fast. You had to be as flexible as possible and work as fast as you could.
"This product development really showed how marketing and engineering have to work together. We have dedicated people on both sides who have very good ideas. Many passionate discussions occurred, but having to defend your ideas forces you to back them up, and often a brand new, better idea emerges."
Engineering Project Manager
"I started at Trimble Aug. 30, 2004. My first big project was the EZ-Steer system, and I picked it up the first day. I also had several other projects being worked on by my group, so it was a busy time with a steep learning curve.
"A new challenge arose every day and every problem needed to be addressed immediately -- there were few issues that could be set aside to let us think through. Success depended on hitting 18 straight holes-in-one, where every hole was a par 4 or 5.
"Field testing was vital to finding problems prior to shipping. We have had astonishingly good quality on the build and test, with few support calls and hardly any service calls."
Outbound Marketing Product Manager
"There was, and still is, no other product on the market like EZ-Steer, so there were aspects of the development that simply had not been done before. You have to realize that we are steering very valuable equipment up and down fields on swaths within inches of each other. That aspect, along with having the average end-user learn to use it in 10 minutes or less, was a great challenge to take on.
"I'm proud to have been part of this successful development. It feels like my own child got voted best kid of the year. Not only am I happy to be part of the team that developed such a great product, I'm pleased to know that EZ-Steer provides so many benefits to Trimble customers and has started to revolutionize assisted steering in farm operations worldwide." AM