Of course everyone does, particularly young kids. And as you age, you still marvel at these roaring machines and the brave firefighters who command them.
A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to be the opening keynote speaker for the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association annual conference in St. Augustine, Florida. In the room were key executives from a broad cross of section of the industry.
As with all my talks, I did a tremendous amount of research — its fascinating what you can find with some very targeted searching and analysis. That’s why I’m known for the customized insight I provide in my talks.
What I learned from this industry is the perfect allegory for what is now happening in most major industries — the acceleration of what is known as customer-focused, or better yet, customer-initiated innovation.
For as long as there have been firetrucks, the industry has operated pretty well much the same. The companies that manage these complex vehicles determine what it is they plan to build, present it to the customer (cities, towns, airports ….), who might choose to buy it, or not. Of course, through this time, there has been tremendous change to the sophistication of the offerings and the complex of the machine and support systems.
But what is also apparent is that the entire fire and safety industry is grappling with faster change, such as:
- the rapid emergence of new hazards and risk (roof photovoltaics & solar present complex new challenges for large industrial or residential fires; there have been several cases of a fire chief pulling back his team due to uncertainty in terms of assessing risk)
- faster, more complex challenges (new chemicals, nano materials, more pipeline risk with the rapid growth of shale oil, as well as increased rail transport risk)
- the rapid advancement of science (arson / forensic skills and knowledge requirements are accelerating at a furious pace
- even such things as rapidly fluctuating community size (100,000 people for tailgate parties) leads to the new emergence of new risk that must be properly managed from a safety perspective.
- and lots more!
What’s the impact of all this change? I quickly started to discover a lot more folks in the industry talking about ‘Apparatus Architects‘ – fire professionals who work for cities or towns or airports or others, who now specify what they need, given the unique risk within their community. They’ll then, to make it very simple, ask the apparatus manufacturers to build them according to spec.
In other words, the innovation pipeline has gone ‘upside down.’ The customers are driving the innovation that they need; successful apparatus manufactuers will adapt to this change, or find themselves falling behind.
I’ve been writing about this trend for well over ten years. And it’s happening in more and more industries, and the pace at which it is driving industries is speeding up. Customer-oriented or customer-initiated innovation is one of the most powerful, transformative issues in every industry today. What’s happening with firetrucks provides a good overview of just what is at stake.
Of course, that’s not just all — there’s more to come. I threw in a good sampling of future trends that will provide more change, including:
- aerial drones linked to in-truck multi-screen video system
- robotic building explorers linked to real-time, 3D location databases
- instant spectrometry air-sampling analyzers with intelligent fire suppression technology suggestions
Customer-oriented innovation and rapid technological change define the future of most industries today. Pay attention to it, and think about firetrucks!