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Why Didn't I Think of That?

Do you ever see a new product or invention and think to yourself, “That's so obvious, why didn't I think of that first?” That happens to me all the time. For instance, putting peanut butter inside of M&M's … Brilliant! I can't believe I didn't think of that. I could be a millionaire candy maker right now. But I'm not complaining. As the editor responsible for RER's annual Innovative Product Awards competition I get to see the latest new product innovations soon after the first new models roll of the production line. And while many of the latest innovations are far more complex feats of engineering than my basic physics class covered, there are sometimes some very clever “why didn't I think of that?” ideas that inspire me to follow through when I have my next million-dollar idea.

The Gold award this year went to Terex Construction Americas for its PT-100G and PT-100G Forestry compact track loader models. These new CTLs offer class-leading specifications in several areas and also improvements in countless areas over their own predecessor models, resulting in machines that are bursting with innovation. What I like about them is their new efficiency, which is the kind of detail that rental companies especially appreciate in this economy. The new CTLs' key innovation are automatically adjusting cooling fan blades engineered to provide optimum airflow while minimizing engine horsepower consumption — that's innovation that benefits the rental company, the end user and Mother Nature — a triple.

Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power took home the Silver award with its why-didn't-I-think-of-that Transport Guard feature on its new Vanguard single-cylinder engines. This small red lever makes it super simple to stop the flow of fuel while transporting equipment from site to site, ensuring that the fuel stays where it belongs and helping to eliminate fouled plugs, hydraulic lock, cylinder wash down and crankcase oil dilution that can be caused by transportation. Genius! Now rental companies no longer have to worry about receiving calls from frustrated users who arrived at the jobsite with a flooded engine that won't start on the first pull. I really do wish I could have thought of that.

Another product that caught my attention with its environmental friendliness was the Phoenix Air Tamper from Higher Innovative Solutions, based in Phoenix. This product converts old tampers with worn-out engines to an air motor, making them like new again. This is a great alternative for rental businesses to update older tampers rather than disposing of them, plus it offers another handful or two of benefits. With the new air motor there are no more gasoline, oil, or exhaust fumes to harm the environment. Plus, eliminating these fluids cuts maintenance costs since there is no longer gasoline or oil to contend with or dispose of, and no more engine-related problems either. Bonus.

Point-of-Rental Systems took the Computer Software category with its Wireless Alerts, which notify the user via text message or email whenever certain pre-determined events occur. This is one of those wonderful conveniences that make life easier, and if you're like me you'll take as many of those as you can get. I suspect the rental industry will benefit immensely from real-time alerts like this for a long time to come.

If you've ever tried to mix and pour small batches of concrete on your own you know that two hands are not enough. CS Unitec's Portamix Hippo PMH 70 Mixing Station's innovative design allows one person to mix, accurately place and spread up to 20 gallons of material with just the two hands they have. Its balanced easy-tilt cradle is the key to its manageability. And the Portamix Hippo can be used to mix dozens of other compounds and construction materials as well.

The Blue Island Scraper from a company called Daniel Manufacturing makes incredibly quick work of removing all kinds of flooring materials. It is designed to scrape product up and then allows the user to switch to the bucket to quickly scoop the product up for faster loading and less hours on the job. The Blue Island Scraper was built specifically with rental companies in mind as an alternative to the high cost of a one-dimensional ride-on scraper. I think we all appreciate innovation inspired by saving money.

The aerial industry is always looking for ways to develop safer, more operator-mistake-proof lifts for the industry. Genie created dual-capacity booms that provide load capacities to 1,250 pounds within a restricted outreach, allowing the operator the ability to select the desired maximum load capacity that automatically restricts the operating envelope. This allows the users to increase productivity by having up to three occupants safely on the platform, and automatically restricting the outreach to maintain the safety of the workers. Genie's innovation thoughtfully increases productivity and maintains operator safety without requiring the users to think about the booms' outreach limitations based on its load. Aerial work platforms with built-in safety features are welcome innovations indeed.

Learning about the latest product innovations is always exciting for me, but telling the story of what inspired that innovation is the real thrill. Whether it's ensuring operator safety, offering convenience, improving efficiency and productivity, or making products that are more considerate of the environment, real innovations in new product development deserve recognition. So here's to the most innovative products of 2010! I can't wait to see what's in store for us next year.

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