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Factory tour: Bobcat Dobris Campus, Czech Republic

by James Morgan on Jan 24, 2016

Bobcat Dobris Campus’s production plant occupies an area of 22,000 sqm and hosts 590 employees.
Bobcat Dobris Campus’s production plant occupies an area of 22,000 sqm and hosts 590 employees.

Situated less than an hour’s drive from Prague in the leafy countryside of the Czech Republic, Bobcat Dobříš Campus is about as far removed from the Middle East as it’s possible to get. Construction Week’s wintertime excursion to the complex was replete with grey skies, wet earth, and – although apparently mild for the time of year – what one might politely refer to as ‘sub-GCC’ temperatures.

Yet despite its unmistakably Eastern European setting, Bobcat Dobříš Campus represents the key to the manufacturer’s future success in the Middle East. Indeed, with global design responsibility for an array of lines – from the smallest skid-steer loaders (SSLs) to three-tonne mini-excavators – many of the newest Bobcat models working in the Gulf were most likely conceived and manufactured in the Czech Republic.

The site was established back in the mid-1990s by Superstav, a Czech-headquartered firm that designed and manufactured backhoe loaders for the North American market. Bobcat arrived in Dobříš following the 2001 acquisition of Superstav by its then-parent company, Ingersoll-Rand. In 2007, the plot changed hands once again when Doosan Infracore acquired Bobcat.

The site has undergone significant development since the South Korean equipment giant took control. Four main facilities comprise Bobcat Dobříš Campus: a training centre, a manufacturing plant, an innovation centre, and a distribution centre. The new factory and training centre were inaugurated in 2007 following Doosan’s acquisition of Bobcat. Last year saw the addition of both the innovation and distribution centres.

The idea, according to the brains behind Bobcat Dobříš Campus, is to have all components of the product development cycle on one site. The training and innovation centres oversee the research and development (R&D) of new products, whilst the manufacturing plant and distribution centre are responsible for bringing these models to market.

‘Campus’ might sound like a grandiose title, but it is one that Bobcat’s Dobříš site has most definitely earned. Martin Knoetgen, EMEA president of Doosan Infracore, explains: “In terms of engineering, we are committed to doing more and doing better. More in terms of taking responsibility for engineering within Doosan, starting with our lighter mini-excavators. Bobcat Dobříš Campus has expanded both production and engineering responsibility [in this segment]. We are also providing services related to mid-range excavators for our colleagues in South Korea. All of these activities are centred on engineering expertise here in Dobříš.

“The ability to [conduct these activities] in an efficient and effective manner is one of the reasons we decided to build the innovation centre,” he continues. “Everything is collocated so that we can work together as a cross-functional team.”

The product development cycle begins at Bobcat Dobříš Campus’s training centre, which is used not only to educate, but also to collect feedback from the manufacturer’s stakeholders: 215 training sessions were conducted last year, with approximately 2,500 internal personnel, dealers, and customers passing through the training centre’s doors.

Jose Cuadrado, vice president of Doosan Infracore’s Compact Business Unit, says that the training centre is one of his team’s most valuable research tools.

“This facility allows us to obtain feedback from the market,” he notes. “It is a place where we can pitch, but we can also learn from our customers and dealers about products, competition, and the areas in which we need to improve.”