Crown Equipment Corp. is a long-established forklift truck company that has made its name in the industry. From a small niche company, it has grown into a full-range global company. After three decades of operations, the company seeks to re-evaluate its design services strategy. This case study looks into the competitive strategy of the company. It also tackles the long-term relationship of the company with Richardson Smith (RS), its design consultant.
Karen J. Freeze
Harvard Business Review (991031-PDF-ENG)
January 01, 1991
Case questions answered:
- What has been Crown Equipment Corp.’s competitive strategy? What role has design played in supporting this strategy? What role have operations played in supporting this strategy?
- Why has Crown’s 30-year relationship with Richardson Smith (RS) been so successful? How might this relationship change under the new ownership of RS?
- How would you characterize Crown’s distinctive competence?
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Crown Equipment Corp.: Design Services Strategy Case Answers
1. What has been Crown Equipment Corp.’s competitive strategy? What role has design played in supporting this strategy? What role have operations played in supporting this strategy?
Crown Equipment Corp.’s competitive strategy includes a high focus on design. The company is flexible and willing to accept alterations in the design, even the slightest changes.
Crown Equipment Corp. (Crown) also has a different marketing strategy. It focuses on entering segments where the dominant designs were creating a gap or filling a niche market need.
The company’s workforce came from rural backgrounds. It lends stability and strong work ethics, which, in turn, enhances the overall culture of the company.
Crown offers a variety of product categories and models. These products could be customized upon ordering. The company provides a number of customization options.
The company employs strategies to assess users’ and customers’ needs. Competitors’ products are also assessed from different points of view.
Role of Design
In supporting this strategy, the design team has a great role. The team allows a high level of attention to detail, right from the color and shape, focusing on improving operator safety for which customers readily paid a 10% premium.
The involvement of design consultants for product styling as opposed to other companies, as well as multiple iterations of prototypes, helped the company in better-assessing user requirements and going through alternative designs.
Richardson Smith participated in the designing of parts rather than having available controls. This is beneficial for Crown Equipment Corp. as it promotes cost-cutting, saving it some financial resources. At the same time, this participation helps address the company’s customer requirements better.
Role of Operations
The operations team also contributed to supporting the company’s competitive strategy. Nearly 80% of the components were manufactured internally, which gave the company the flexibility to make anything as per customer needs.
There is flexibility in the production process, which…
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