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Innovations at Harley Davidson

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Case Details:

Case Code : BSTR093
Case Length : 19 Pages
Period : 1903 - 2003
Organization : Harley Davidson Inc.
Pub Date : 2004
Teaching Note :Not Available
Countries : USA
Industry : Auto and Ancillaries

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"Several unique elements and concepts in Harley-Davidson's processes ensure the degree of innovation, speed to market, match of development resources, and financial viability of individual projects as well as the entire new product portfolio."

-, September 2003.

"Growth is a great thing. Also, it has its challenges. It requires a lot of innovation." 1

- Karl Eberle, Vice-President & General Manager (Harley-Davidson's Kansas City Plant), in December 2003.

Celebrating 100 Years of Innovations

August 2003 was marked with celebrations for the US-based global motorcycle and motorcycle accessories major Harley Davidson Inc, (H-D). The company announced the culmination of its 14-month long 100th anniversary celebrations with a three-day special event in and around Milwaukee (Wisconsin).

Thousands of H-D patrons attending the 'party' were entertained with music concerts, facility tours, demo rides and a display of various H-D motorbikes. Referred to by some as the world's largest birthday party, the event was strong proof of the power that the legend and cult of H-D motorcycles held over its customers. Brand-building and manufacturing excellence were often touted to be the two pillars on which the company's success rested. However, in late 2003, H-D received two industry awards that summarized its competitive strategies over the previous century into one word - innovation. In September 2003, the company was given the 'Outstanding Corporate Innovator (OCI) Award' by the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA).2

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In December 2003, H-D got the 'Technology Leader of the Year Award' from Industry Week.3 According to PDMA sources H-D was selected for the OCI award because of "its established brand, its strong connection with customers, and because of its continued commitment to product innovation."4

Sources at Industry Week opined that H-D's achievements were notable for two reasons. Firstly, the company's management accepted the challenge to innovate and win the global race for survival in the motorcycle business.

Secondly, the management's leadership and vision had established a legacy that led to 16 consecutive years of record revenue and earnings growth.

This was possible because the company had made innovation a 'corporate philosophy' over the years. According to industry experts, H-D's growth was at heart a story of its constant focus on innovation at the product, process, marketing and organization levels.

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1] 'Harley-Davidson's Growth Felt in St. Joseph Area,', December 30, 2003.

2] Founded in 1976, PDMA is a non-profit organization involved in improving the effectiveness of people engaged in developing and managing new products (services as well as manufactured goods). It supports several knowledge-generating activities through a host of functions/programs.

3] A weekly publication (print and online) for senior-level management from the manufacturing industry.

4] 'Harley-Davidson and the Polyolefins and Elastomers Business Group of The Dow Chemical Company Recognized as PDMA's 2003 Outstanding Corporate Innovators,', September 22, 2003.


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