Bobcat’s new Acceleration Center will bring the company’s best minds under one roof to speed up the process of innovation, while at the same time bringing more high-paying jobs to Bismarck.
The company will break ground Monday on an addition to its facility at the Northern Plains Commerce Centre, transforming it from a warehouse to a research and development site.
Bobcat’s president for North America and Oceania Rich Goldsbury said new ideas are being developed by employees across the company in all of its different locations, but getting those people into one room is not something the company has done well up until now.
He is hoping Bobcat will continue to come up with new ideas for Skidsteer design but at a faster pace. He said the collaborative nature of the new facility represents a shift in the company’s operating philosophy.
“Because we’re an international company, speed to market is very important,” he said.
An example of recent innovation by the company that has made it to market is its M Series machines. Goldsbury said it was a long design process to come up with ways to make attachments work better with the machines, as well as adding operator comforts like heating and air conditioning.
Bobcat has hired 30 new engineers, one year to six months out of college, to work at the new facility. A total of 135 people at the facility will work in various positions including research and development, prototype engineering,
prototype manufacturing, design engineering, manufacturing engineering and as technicians. A total of 225 salaried employees and 400 hourly employees now work for Bobcat in Bismarck.
Additions to the building will include a second story, a 35,000-square-foot indoor testing arena and more office space. The company also purchased an additional 25 acres, 22 of which will be used for an outdoor driving and work area, bringing the site’s total to 35 acres. Total new investment in the facility will be $20 million.
Goldsbury said the company toured similar facilities built by other companies to come up with some of the features of the new building. The former building’s warehouse space will be converted to an area for testing equipment. Engineers will be able to test their designs to see that they will withstand heavy loads and wear and tear over time.
New types of office space will include a round conference room with whiteboard walls and a conference room that a Skidsteer can be driven into for meetings.
“In the past, there have been times the meeting stops because we can’t see inside the machine,” Bobcat spokesman Laura Ness-Owens said.
The design of the new facility is meant to give engineers hands-on access to Bobcat products. The location was chosen because of its proximity to the company’s attachments manufacturing facility, Goldsbury said. The company had considered sites in Minnesota and Georgia, too. Had the company not settled on Bismarck, Goldsbury said, it probably would have sold its building at the commerce center.
The facility also will be used to train dealers and get customer feedback. They will be able to drive the machines year round. Goldsbury said the company also will start using cardboard or foam mock-ups of machines to test control placement.
Goldsbury said the Acceleration Center brings the type of “high quality, professional” positions cities are anxious for. It adds diversity to the local economy and brings the technology that cities want to add to the workforce’s skill set.
“It lends to a community’s viability long term,” he said.