Bobcat: 50 Years Of Skid-Steer Loaders

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | August 2008 Vol. 63 No. 8
Cyril Keller, co-inventor of the compact loaders, is shown using the original Melroe skid-steer loader for a marketing demonstra

Bobcat's history is a classic American success story: two blacksmith brothers in a tiny town develop a product in their blacksmith shop that evolves into an industry icon. Of all the inventions over the years, few achieve that status and not many are still around after 50 years. Bobcat's longevity is even more impressive when considering that after Melroe took over the product and developed it, ownership has changed three times.

Credit the dedication and perseverance of Bobcat employees, including those in the dealer organization who for 50 years have sustained an attitude of professionalism and dedication to putting the needs of their customers first and for maintaining Bobcat's reputation for excellence. Many companies talk about their employees being a "family" but some of these families often seem badly dysfunctional. Not so with Bobcat. Indeed, there is a feel of family throughout the Bobcat organization, including its dealerships.

At the offices and manufacturing plants in West Fargo, ND, many families have numerous members on the job: fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and grandchildren. Many employees today are third and fourth generation Bobcat employees. Bobcat dealers are moving to second and third generation management.

Paul Anderson went to work for Bobcat right after he graduated from the University of North Dakota with a degree in mechanical engineering. After 36 years, he's still at Bobcat as global loader product manager.

"I was hired because I had an engineering degree, but I've spent most of my career in marketing," says Anderson. "Not long after I went to work, the company wanted technical people in marketing, and I fit the bill at the time."

Over the years, Anderson has talked to an uncountable numbers of customers, traveling all over the country and ultimately the world.

"Having close, face to face relationships with customers has been a philosophy of Bobcat from the beginning," says Anderson. "And we have been able to maintain that as we grew, not easy as an organization gets bigger. Our field people have always liked staying in touch with customers to know what they are doing, what's important to them. Our relationship with dealers has always been good, too. They know what's going on in the field day-to-day, and we've done a pretty good job listening to what they tell us.”

Continuous change, improvement (subhed)

Reflecting on changes, Anderson recalls introduction of the first hydrostatic Bobcat 700 series in 1973, the first mid size skid steer in the industry to have hydrostatic drive.