Yesterday, the Engines Division of Kawasaki Motors Corp. celebrated the grand reopening of its research and development (R&D) lab in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“This state-of-the-art facility will ensure that Kawasaki can maintain a dominate position in the marketplace,” said Dave Sugden, director of R&D, at the ribbon cutting. “It is with great pleasure that we dedicate this lab to our future success.”
Previously located next to one of Kawaskai’s engine production facilities in Maryville, Missouri, the R&D spaces have been moved to the Engines Division’s headquarters.
The 200,000-square-foot building underwent a multimillion dollar renovation from October 2015 to June 2016 with 66,500 square feet being remodeled. A large portion of the warehouse space in the building was converted into the brand-new R&D department space.
The lab includes a fabrication shop, tear down room, environmental chamber, rain cell, chassis test cells, performance cells and all the other necessary tools to run and test the engines to their limits.
“We can do the proper testing and evaluation of all of our products here,” said Troy Smith, manager of R&D testing, applications and EFI.
Above each testing cell were flat screen TVs that flashed through the various logos of the all the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) that Kawasaki partners with. Some of Kawasaki’s OEM partners include John Deere, Exmark/Toro, Ariens/Gravely, Dixie Chopper, Bad Boy, Hustler Turf and Scag Power Equipment.
One of the most interesting objects in the R&D lab was the new EFI engine currently in development labeled FT730V. According to Smith, the engine has the same foundation as the FS and FX series engines, but will use centripetal force to blow out dust and grass from the air filter, allowing it to stay cleaner longer.
Though it hasn’t been rated yet, they expect it to have a horsepower of 25.5. The rest of the specs will remain a mystery for now as this engine is expected to be ready in a year or two.
Along with wanting to broaden their R&D capabilities with a new facility, Kawasaki Motors Corp. chose to relocate its R&D engineers to help improve communication between departments. By having the engineering staff housed in the same building as the OEM sales team, the company hopes to provide increased responsiveness to its customers and drive new product innovations.
Another benefit the company cited was its proximity to Detroit and access to talented engineers in the area.
“We’re taking full advantage of our new facility capabilities and have been expanding development activities and growing our staff to be well positioned for anticipating OEM needs,” said Nelson Wilner, executive director. “In essence, we’ve supercharged our efforts as we plan for both the near and long term requirements.”
The Engines Division was established in Grand Rapids in 1992 after relocating from Shakopee, Minnesota, where it had been since 1978.
In 1992, the headquarters housed 10 employees and now it holds 130 plus. The renovation was given a contemporary design with a very open feel and a focus on providing natural light.
“The new design not only opens up the work areas, but it provides an environment conducive to individuals’ abilities to better communicate with other team member, both within and outside specific groups,” said Rodger Howe, divisional vice president.
The facility now includes a fitness room, a yoga studio, meeting spaces and a café area and kitchen.
“The real advantage is being in the same building,” said Kurt Forrest, director of OEM sales. “Teams are meshing more. We can’t overstate the benefits of those serendipitous collisions.”