What does your role entail?
The key areas are understanding customer and end-user needs, and helping to develop new products and services. We spend a considerable amount of time with customers around the globe understanding trends, talking to operators and staff, observing and interviewing exercisers and looking for new ways Precor can continue to improve the fitness experience and its effectiveness.
How does the R&D process differ for commercial strength equipment compared to CV equipment?
The fundamentals are largely the same. Strength training and strength equipment is, however, subject to more diversity of training methods and techniques. There is a lot more input from trainers and biomechanics specialists involved. Popular training methods often conflict with each other and strength equipment is subject to more personal preferences and opinion. This makes it even more critical to have a deep understanding of your customer and their needs so Precor is able to have a clear vision and goals for any new products. Cardio equipment by contrast has far more engineering complexity. The products involve more moving parts and electro-mechanical systems requiring extensive life testing and planning. Cardio also requires considerable software development. The user experience delivered through Precor consoles is one of the key advantages we enjoy in the market. We spend considerable time designing the user interface to deliver an intuitive and personalised experience.
What importance do you place on social media and entertainment functionality when it comes to designing and developing a new piece of cardio equipment?
Social media can be an important tool to understand some of the macro trends in the market. We look across a number of mediums including fitness centres, health care and education markets for insights and market needs. Ultimately our most effective tools are the simplest ones – observing equipment in use, talking to staff, talking to service technicians and so on. Many of our most innovative products have come from the most grassroots methods. We will continue to look at any and all ways to reach our customers and understand how we can improve their lives. Social media will certainly play a key role in this.
There seems to be a never-ending pursuit for the perfect piece of equipment that engages gym goers and provides the ultimate workout experience. Where do you begin with each new project?
It is important to understand the underlying driver for exercisers seeking out new types of equipment. Of course exercisers are looking for an effective product to use. Beyond that exercisers are looking for variety and personalisation. They are looking for the equipment to adapt to their bodies and grow with them as their fitness level improves. Exercisers look for products that provide workout variation to help remain mentally engaged and physically challenged. These are two of the key drivers that influence our product development process. We believe this is the right approach based on the overwhelming success of products like our AMT which adapts to the user’s natural stride length, and even allows users to control their stride height using our new Open Stride feature.
Are there any tips you would give ‘buyers’ when deciding on a new installation of equipment for their gym or studio?
I would advise buyers to do the same things that we do when designing equipment and that is to understand your customer and listen to their feedback. If you are a fitness expert, avoid letting your own opinions and preferences cloud your opinion of the products and services you select. I am often surprised when I sometimes see large facilities and chains purchase equipment based primarily on what they personally like to use. Trial equipment, take surveys and listen: the customer is always right.
For more information about the range of products available from Precor Australia click here.
Interview by Craig Mac for What’s New In Fitness Magazine – Autumn 2013 edition.